Michael A. Perelman, PhD, clinical associate professor of psychiatry, reproductive medicine and urology, Weill Medical College of Cornell University.
Erectile dysfunction (ED) is more common than you may realize… and more often than many realize, the problem is caused by stress. A recent survey in the UK found that one in five men has experienced a loss of libido as a result of work-related stress — and one in 10 experience erectile dysfunction (ED) from it.
This survey was sponsored by Bayer Schering Pharma, the pharmaceutical company that makes Levitra, but that doesn’t mean the only cure for ED is their pill. The finding that stress invades the bedroom is one worth taking note of, since it is also a cause that can readily be fixed without drugs. Michael A. Perelman, PhD, clinical associate professor of psychiatry, reproductive medicine and urology at Weill Cornell Medical College, and a psychologist specializing in sex and marital therapy, affirmed that worry and anxiety play a big role in sexual function and performance.
“Anything that takes your mind away from erotic thinking during the act itself is going to limit your capacity to function,” he said, noting that this finding on the effect of stress is not surprising to him — not given the speed at which people are living and the stress that comes from a struggling job market and all the other economy-related worries we face today. Mechanically, what it takes for a man to get and sustain an erection is closely tied to the autonomic nervous system. Not only is that system affected by stress in the short term, but also by the cumulative effect of chronic stress.
Though many health experts and practitioners tout the benefits of pharmaceutical drugs in treating erectile dysfunction, it isn’t necessary to rush out the door in search of a pill to solve the problem. The first line of defense should be stress reduction. Eat well, get regular exercise and learn to leave your work worries at the office. Also, notes Daily Health News contributing medical editor Andrew L. Rubman, ND, a naturopathic physician, there are natural solutions that he has found effective such as bioidentical hormone treatment (these hormones are identical to those manufactured by the body) including DHEA, progesterone, estrogens (estrone, estradiol and estriol) and testosterone. He also sometimes prescribes supplementation of calcium, magnesium or B vitamins and sometimes botanical extracts, including maca or yohimbine, and amino acids (though these must be individualized). Relaxation techniques, including meditation, breathing exercises and acupuncture can make a difference as well.
It is important to communicate openly with your partner about what you are experiencing. Otherwise, warns Dr. Perelman, stress-related ED can become “a vicious cycle — you don’t want to do what you don’t do well, so it becomes a pattern of avoidance, not only of sex, but, perhaps more importantly, any type of affection and intimacy within the relationship,” he explains. “That can create anger and additional tension.”
Those who have problems with ED more than occasionally should make a point of discussing it with a doctor, sooner rather than later. “I’ve seen patients wait two or three years before seeking medical help,” said Dr. Perelman. “Men need to understand that, though physicians may not bring the subject up themselves, they’re very eager to assist.” In addition to placing more stress on your relationship, ED can be an early sign of other chronic diseases, and a side effect of many medications. Solving the ED problem can not only make life better, it may actually help you get healthier.