There is no evidence that mild or even moderate alcohol consumption is bad for erectile function, says Ira Sharlip, MD, a urology professor at the University of California San Francisco School of Medicine. But chronic heavy drinking can cause liver damage, nerve damage, and other conditions -- such as interfering with the normal balance of male sex hormone levels -- that can lead to ED.
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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."
Low libido can be caused by many different things including medications, fatigue, recreational drugs, alcohol, depression, relationship problems, fear, systemic illness, and testosterone deficiency. Problems with maintaining an erection is a common symptom of erectile dysfunction (ED), and can be frustrating to deal with when trying to engage in any type of sexual activity. In most cases, ED is triggered by one or more health problems or unhealthy lifestyle habits, but can be improved or resolved by treating the underlying cause, which may be vascular, neurologic, penile, hormonal, drug induced, or psychogenic.
Not to give your already stressed-out dude one more thing to worry about, but stress is the cause of 20 percent of all erectile problems, from one-off boner blunders to a lingering inability to get and maintain an erection. Of course, sex difficulties are just the tip of the stress-induced health problem iceberg — sustained stress can also lead to insomnia, stomach troubles, chest pains, anxiety, and more severe health issues in the long term.
The American Medical Association (AMA) estimates that more than 30 million men in the US experience ED. And they expect that number to double by 2025, largely due to the fact that erectile dysfunction is affecting more and more guys in their 20’s and 30’s. ED in your 20’s is becoming more common, and that can signal some serious health risks to a growing number of young men.
It’s important not to take a bout of psychological ED personally. Still, when confronting a suddenly soft penis in the moment, “It’s not you” can be hard to believe. For instance, Erin, 22, tried—really tried—to make sex with Drew* happen. The first time his erection died right before they were about to have sex, she improvised and gave him “really long” oral instead. But the lack of a boner was confusing. “That had never happened to me with a sexual partner, so I was like, ‘Okay, he’s just not into me,’” Erin recalls.
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"Research shows that most erectile issues are a secondary cause to something psychological happening," he says. "This is when it's important to find a sex therapist. A lot of sex therapy begins with myth busting. We have a lot of myths about the meaning that comes from erectile issues. Most of those myths are simply untrue. Recognizing these myths can often decrease a lot of anxiety."
Be intimate in new ways. If your sex is focused just on penetration and climax, you may feel under more pressure to quickly get and maintain an erection, which can make this harder to do. Try to find new and more varied ways to be intimate with your partner that are not just about sprinting to the finish line. Take time with each other, such as taking a bath or shower together or massaging each other.
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If you think you have erectile dysfunction, or ED, you’re bound to have questions for your doctor about what’s happening and how to fix it. Lots of men have been there. Don’t be afraid to talk to your doctor and ask him any and all questions you might have that can start you on the road to getting a solution. Here are the first six questions you should definitely ask:
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There are a lot of explanations for these high ED rates, some of which are psychological. “A lot of men may have an off night, and then that sticks in their head and hurts their performance for a few weeks or months,” Dr. Köhler explains. He says anxiety stokes hormones like the fight-or-flight chemical adrenaline, which is a serious boner killer. (In evolutionary terms, it would be tough to run away from a predator with an erection.)
If your erections are really strong, fantastic. Regular erections—including daily morning erections—are an important measure of a man’s health. If you get strong, frequent erections, that’s great! There’s no need to be concerned about being “too hard” as your body only has so much blood to offer. However, an erection that lasts too long (generally more than two hours) can be dangerous as priapism (erections lasting longer than 2 hours) can cause tissue damage. If you’ve had an erection lasting longer than four hours contact a doctor or emergency care immediately.
"When it's persistent and consistent, it's extremely likely to have biological factors" regardless of age, Dr. Irwin Goldstein, director of sexual medicine at Alvarado Hospital in San Diego and the director of San Diego Sexual Medicine, told Mic. But the cause of ED can also be psychological: For instance, if a man can get an erection on his own but not with a partner, then his ED is more likely to be rooted in performance anxiety or a deeper psychological issue.
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As the nervous system of autonomic response, the erection can result in different stimuli that include the sexual arousal and stimulation which is not even under the control of the conscious mind. The absence of the nocturnal erection is also used commonly for distinguishing between the psychological and physical cause of impotence and erectile dysfunction.
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Like going bald, ED becomes more common as men age. According to the National Institutes of Health, about 5% of all 40-year-old men have ED and that number rises with age. Between 15% and 25% of 65-year-old men have ED. This is one of the reasons you see so many ED drug commercials during televised sporting events, Fox News programs, and other shows that typically attract men over 50 (just kidding, Fox).
"It definitely was a blow to my masculinity," Francis told Mic. "It didn't help that my wife at the time would say that I must be gay if I couldn't keep it up for her." Compounding the issue, if an erection doesn't happen during a given sexual encounter, the man can obsess over it, inevitably creating pressure and making it difficult for him to become fully aroused during future encounters.
Another way to keep your libido up is to act when you do get aroused. This might mean going home at lunchtime to have sex with your spouse, or leaving a party early with your date if you’re both aroused. Staving off an arousal trains your body to disassociate arousal with erections. You want the opposite. You want to get and keep a strong erection when you feel aroused so that you can have better sex. So this is a great excuse to tend to your sexual needs as they come, if you can.
"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.
The blood vessels in your penis are smaller than the larger veins and arteries in other parts of your body. What that means is the first sign of hypertension, heart disease, high cholesterol, and clogged arteries may not be a stroke or a heart attack. It will often be erectile dysfunction. Regular physical activity reduces your risks for cardiovascular disease (which is awesome), but it also lowers your risk for ED. If there’s a better reason to sweat through a spin class, I can’t think of one.
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