"I like to recommend that couples think outside the box," Dr. Hartzell said. "Intercourse doesn't always have to be the goal; look at sex as pleasure oriented vs. goal oriented." She suggested couples incorporating oral sex and manual stimulation into their bedroom routine. She also advised couples to "have fun" with their sex lives by not adhering to a specific schedule or routine: One woman she works with, for instance, leaves her partner's injection on her pillow as a subtle signal that she's in the mood to have sex.
While physical anatomy and chemical reaction are both important for getting and keeping an erection, the brain is one of the most vital parts of this puzzle. "An erection is controlled by multiple areas of your brain, including the hypothalamus, limbic system and cerebral cortex," notes Axe. "Stimulatory messages are sent to your spinal erection centers and this facilitates an erection. When there's an issue with your brain's ability to send these important messages, it can increase the smooth muscle tone in your penis and prevent the relaxation that is necessary to get an erection."
Something James, 26, knows for sure about his penis is that it won’t get hard when he’s sleeping with a woman for the first time. No, it has nothing to do with how attracted he is to her. It’s just a classic case of performance anxiety, caused by his personal fears about how awkward and uncomfortable the experience could be—which, of course, turns into a self-fulfilling prophecy.
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"Smoking is a short- and long-term cause of erectile dysfunction," warns Feloney. "In the short-term nicotine constricts the blood vessels that you need to get an erection, and in the long-term nicotine contributes to hardening of the arteries that can cause erectile dysfunction." Some approaches for quitting include making a clean break, avoiding the triggers of smoking, trying a nicotine patch or gum, and joining a smoke cessation program.
In an article on Men’s Health about things that wreck your erection, some examples of threats to an erection are sugar, lack of sleep, sleeping near a newborn baby, and lack of vitamin D. The common theme in the article is that reduced testosterone impacts your erection. Not all scientists agree with that. But there are definitely links between testosterone and erectile problems.
Some of the most reliable ED stats have emerged from a large data collection effort called the Massachusetts Male Aging Study. According to that data, rates of ED among men tend to correlate with their age bracket, says Tobias Köhler, M.D., chief of the Division of Male Infertility at Southern Illinois University. “Roughly 40 percent of men in their 40s suffer from ED, 50 percent in their 50s, etc.,” he says.
“With the success of Viagra-type drugs, there has been a tendency to start all patients with ED on one of these drugs and not look much further for a medical cause. But we now know that ED may be an early warning for heart and blood vessel disease, so it is important to look for common risk factors. These include high blood pressure, diabetes, medications, smoking, drinking, and drugs,” said Dr. Wang.
Obesity. Obesity itself is not a risk factor for ED — but there is a connection. “The bigger concern is that obesity can lead to type 2 diabetes or vascular diseases, which are risk factors for ED,” says Montague. Morbid obesity, a term used to classify individuals who are significantly overweight, can cause hormonal changes that are triggered by excess body fat. In addition, obesity can put physical limitations on sexual intercourse.
Is there a topical cream for erectile dysfunction?
Regardless of the reason, men spend a lot more time on their butts than they ever have before, shows data from the CDC. And all that sitting hurts your heart and your waistline, which saps your vigor below your belt, Dr. Köhler explains. You need a good 30 to 45 minutes of vigorous exercise at least 5 days a week to counteract all your chair time, experts say.
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While the end product is the same, the journeys take three very different routes. The most common erection is your reflexogenic erection, caused by physical contact. The second is your psychogenic erection, caused by audiovisual arousal or imagination (but no contact). The third and final is your nocturnal erection that comes when you are in the deep REM stage of sleep – and which, in fact, has very little do to with sexual stimulation.
So not only are erectile problems common, they're nothing for you or your special friend to be freaked out about. Check out the nine most common reasons that dudes sometimes can't get it up, and get ready to become the soothing voice of reason the next time the guy you're with has a hard time pitching his tent in your happy valley. Everything (and every penis) is gonna be fine!