It’s hard being soft
Erectile dysfunction affects millions of men and their partners worldwide each year and puts enormous stresses on relationships.
What causes erectile dysfunction?
In the past, people said that ED was caused by stress and psychological factors like depression, but it’s not as simple as that,” says Prof Haffejee. “A penis has blood vessels, and if they get blocked or are affected by things like high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol, smoking or obesity, then there is significant chance that ED problems can occur.
“Additionally, ED can be seen as an early warning sign of heart disease.”
Dr Eve believes that the ED problems experienced by men under the age of 45 are most likely psychogenic, i.e. caused by performance anxiety. “These are men who, if there are none of the above medical conditions, have had a few incidence of erectile failures due to too much alcohol, stress, tiredness or expectation to perform, and their anxiety kicks in.
“Before being sexual they begin to anticipate failure, which triggers the release of adrenaline and this will ensure an ED occurrence.
As it occurs, they slink away in shame and either withdraw from sex or try it out with another partner.”
“Women usually take their partners’ ED problems very badly and very personally,” says Dr Levinson. “She usually turns it in on herself. She wonders if it is her fault: does he still love me? What’s wrong with me? Does he love someone else?”
“A woman will probably experience rejection and self blame,” adds Dr Eve. “You know what women are like! She probably believes she’s gained weight, he no longer loves her or he is cheating, so she may withdraw in her suspicions or else she gets angry with him about other things, as she’s afraid to talk about the real problem. Tension and sexual avoidance occurs. With every accusation, his performance anxiety increases and so his ED becomes entrenched.”
“ED affects a relationship badly, especially if no one speaks about it,” says Dr Eve. “He may withdraw sexually from her, she will not know why, become suspicious of him and tension and distrust sets into the relationship. She may not be aware of how she contributes to his performance pressure – she may be expecting things from him which are not possible and if they do not talk about it constructively, breakdown occurs.”
Treating the problem
Yet despite the powerful negative effects that ED can have on an individual and a partnership, there is definite hope out there that ED can be cured and treated.
“Lifestyle changes are vital,” says Professor Haffejee. “Stop smoking, get active, begin exercising, and lose weight if obesity is a problem.
Changing basic things greatly increases the chances of improving erectile problems. Hypertension manifesting in high blood pressure is very common in the black male population today. It’s much easier to tell a man he is suffering from erection problems because of high blood pressure, rather than just saying he can’t get an erection and insulting his manhood.”
There are also many medical options for a man with a ‘soft touch’. “There have been incredible developments in the medical field to treat erectile dysfunction effectively,” says Professor Haffejee. “Oral medication like Viagra and Levitra are very successful. There have been perceptions that these tablets may be dangerous and make men behave like sex monsters, but this is far from the truth.
According to Professor Haffejee, injectable agents can also be injected into the penis and vacuum pumps can also be effective. “Of course, in very severe cases a man may resort to penile implants,” says Professor Haffejee, “but this, of course, is an extreme solution. The upside about using tablets is that they are discreet and very effective.”