It is so important for me to give people honest and accurate information about their own bodies and their sexuality because the media so often promotes unrealistic expectations and distorted views.  But these lead to anxiety, frustration, unhappiness, and anger – all of which are unhealthy.  One of the biggest targets of the media, especially now in the age of Viagra, is a man’s erection.  We are bombarded with the idea that men should be able to attain a rock-hard erection at will, regardless of the situation.  An erection can even be a defining factor for a man’s sexuality.   A man’s erection can be affected by physical health, cigarette smoking, diabetes, medications, and vascular disease. But even when men are emotionally and psychologically aroused without the presence of any other biological factors, they may have difficulty with physical arousal.  This article addresses those particular times.

It is important to understand that erections are not all-or-nothing entities.  A man’s ability to get an erection and keep an erection is affected by physical factors, emotional factors, environmental factors, and relationship factors.  Even when everything is seemingly “ok”, a man may have difficulty getting an erection.  Actually, most men have difficulty getting an erection at some point in their lives.  It could be a one time occurrence, it could be in a certain situation, or it could be sporadic.  Stress, anger, fatigue, and distraction could all lead to a difficulty getting an erection.

How a person responds to the situation may be just as important, if not more important, than not being able to get an erection in the first place.   This is true for both a man and his partner.   If a person responds with anger, anxiety, tearfulness, depression, or panic, these will make it more difficult for a man to get an erection at that moment because his sympathetic nervous system gets activated (fight or flight).  But it doesn’t only cause increased difficulty at the moment, it can be detrimental to future erections as well.  Any anxiety or negative thoughts and feelings get logged into a man’s memory, and whether he likes it or not, the brain remembers it.  Even if it’s a split second, any anxiety and negativity can start a cascade of negative thoughts that interfere with an erection.  So we can see how the response that a person has carries a lot of weight.

Since there are so many different sexual activities that a couple can do that are pleasurable, they should focus on these rather than heighten any anxiety about an erection.  Oftentimes, focusing on some different arousing activity takes off the pressure and then he will be able to get an erection.  Otherwise, a couple should be able to have some enjoyment that is not dependent on an erection.

If a man finds that he is having a certain situation in which he has difficulty getting an erection, he can start to evaluate which factors can be interfering with his physical arousal.  If he develops a pattern of erectile difficulties, he should speak to a qualified therapist.  Usually, the sooner that a difficulty is identified, the sooner that it can be resolved.  Obviously, the physical factors mentioned initially that interfere with erections should be brought to the attention of a physician as soon as possible, since these also have the greatest success the sooner they are addressed.

Vaginismus: My Body Won’t Let Me Have Sex
Healthy Communication