Couple at odds with their relationship about ED and intimacy

As many as 30 million men in the United States and up to 150 million men around the world report experiencing erectile dysfunction. [1]

Erectile dysfunction is the most commonly diagnosed sexual disorder and the prevalence of this issue rises as men age. Because of this, erectile dysfunction causes problems sexually, physically, emotionally and psychologically in the men who experience it. Sadly, it also affects their sexual partners.

This can be very difficult and have an effect of the relationship as a whole. Studies have shown that women in particular tend to internalize problems that arise [2] and with this issue they blame themselves. They believe they are somehow at fault for their partner experiencing erectile dysfunction.

Female partners of men with erectile dysfunction report that once their partner is diagnosed with impotence, they feel *less desire, arousal and no longer experience orgasm as often. They also report that they are no longer satisfied with their sexual relationship. The worse the incidence of erectile dysfunction is, the *less likely it is that a woman will be sexually satisfied. [3]

In most cases, however, erectile dysfunction has nothing to do with the man’s sexual partner and everything to do with things going on within the man’s own body and mind.

Causes of Erectile Dysfunction

When a man is often unable to get an erection or unable to maintain the erection long enough to engage in sexual intercourse, it’s highly likely that he is suffering from erectile dysfunction. This happens to almost all men throughout their sexual lives but when it happens chronically, there is cause for concern.

Impotence is usually seen as a sexual issue – and it is – but there are actually dozens of other problems that can lead to men experiencing this problem and usually none of them have anything to do with his sexual partner. [4]

There are physical ailments that can lead to impotence as well as psychological issues that can contribute to this. In addition, certain habits can also influence a man’s ability to get or sustain an erection.

To get an erection, a man needs to become aroused so that certain processes can do their jobs. His brain must signal the rest of his body – including his sexual organ – to do their jobs in turn. The muscles in the penis need to relax so that blood can fill the arteries and allow an erection to form. [5] If there are any problems with blood flow, a man will be unable to achieve an erection.

High blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, hormonal disruptions and other health problems can be physical triggers of impotence.

Anything that affects the man’s cardiovascular system can have a negative impact on his ability to get an erection. In the case of high blood pressure or atherosclerosis the blood vessels can narrow and harden, preventing blood flow from reaching the sexual organ. [6] When a man has diabetes, the disease has a negative effect on many systems including the endothelial system. This results in poor blood flow to the penis preventing erections. [7]

Psychological causes like anxiety or depression can also affect a man’s sexual function in several ways. First, having depression can result in low libido which in turn can cause impotence. Secondly, experiencing erectile dysfunction repeatedly can lead to anxiety and having anxiety about his sexual performance can lead to even *more issues with getting an erection. And just to compound it further, the medications used to treat anxiety and depression are known to cause impotence. [8]

A man’s habits or vices can also result in his inability to get an erection. Things like smoking can hurt his sexual function because nicotine is a vasoconstrictor that prevents the blood from flowing properly. Imbibing too much alcohol can impair a man’s ability to get an erection. The use of illicit drugs can negatively affect testosterone levels in a man, and certain drugs have also been shown to *increase the incidence of erectile dysfunction in men. [9]

A man is also far *more likely to experience erectile dysfunction if he is older. This can make it seem like impotence is just a natural part of aging but this is not the case. In actuality, erectile dysfunction has increasingly been diagnosed as a symptom of an underlying problem rather than being seen as the main problem.

How to Handle ED

If you or your partner is suffering from erectile dysfunction, there are a few things you need to know.

First, it is likely not your fault. Try not to blame yourself or feel inadequate in any way for this issue. Sexual function is tricky business in both genders and in males it can be caused by a myriad of things.

Try to remain calm. Remember that anxiety can worsen the issue so it is best to avoid that.

Discuss the issue, and don’t make the other person feel alone in their handling of this subject. Both partners are involved and their feelings need validated.

Learn as much as you can about erectile dysfunction and its causes. You might be able to pinpoint the issue that is leading to the impotence.

Go to the doctor and talk openly about what is going on. There are many treatments for erectile dysfunction and, since there are so many men that experience this problem, it is nothing at all to be embarrassed about.

The best thing you can do is just be there for one another.


To wrap this up, just remember that impotence affects 1 in 5 men. You are not alone.

It is highly unlikely that the cause is the sexual partner.

Get to the doctor and get checked out as soon as possible.

The sooner you have answers, the sooner you can get treatment, and the sooner you get treatment the sooner you can get back between the sheets.


[1] Nehra A (2009) Erectile Dysfunction and Cardiovascular Disease: Efficacy and Safety of Phosphodiesterase Type 5 Inhibitors in Men with Both Conditions. Mayo Clin Proc 84(2): 139-148

[2] Dawson D, Goldstein R, Moss H, Li TK, Grant B (2010) Gender Differences in the Relationship of Internalizing and Externalizing Psychopathology to Alcohol Dependence: Likelihood, Expression and Course. Drug Alcohol Depend 112(1-2): 9-17

[3] Fisher WA, Rosen RC, Eardley I, Sand M, Goldstein I (2005) Sexual Experience of Female Partners of men with Erectile Dysfunction: The Female Experience of Men’s Attitudes to Life Events and Sexuality (FEMALES) Study. J Sex Med 2(5): 675-84

[4] Wessells H, Joyce GF, Wise M, Wilt TJ (2007) Erectile Dysfunction. J Urol 177(5): 1675-81

[5] Creed KE, Carati CJ, Keough EJ (1991) The Physiology of Penile Erection. Oxf Rev Reprod Biol 13:73-95

[6] Kloner RA, Speakman M (2002) Erectile Dysfunction and Atherosclerosis. Curr Atheroscler Rep 4(5): 397-401

[7] Maiorino M, Bellastella G, Esposito K (2014) Diabetes and Sexual Dysfunction: Current Perspectives. Diabetes Metab Syndr Obes 7:95-105

[8] Higgins A, Nash M, Lynch A (2010) Antidepressant-Associated Sexual Dysfunction: Impact, effects and Treatment. Drug Healthc Patient Saf 2:141-150

[9] Grover S, Mattoo S, Pandharkar S, Kandappan V (2014) Sexual Dysfunction in Patients with Alcohol and Opioid Dependence. Indian J Psychol Med 36(4): 355-365

Related Articles