It’s tempting to head for the doctor and ask for a Viagra prescription when you’re experiencing erectile dysfunction, but the popular little blue pill and other erectile dysfunction medications only address the physical causes. What are your options if your inability to have or maintain an erection is due to a psychological problem?
How Psychotherapy Helps Erectile Dysfunction
A therapist can help address psychological factors and even physical issues like premature ejaculation, says Sally Connolly, LCSW, LMFT, a therapist who offers individual and couples counseling through Couples Counseling of Louisville in Kentucky.
“For difficulty with getting an erection, it is important to have a thorough medical exam; however, erectile dysfunction is often due to performance anxiety,” says Connolly. “The more that you worry about having an erection (just like the harder you try to fall asleep), the more likely it is that you’ll have difficulty.
Therapy can help men let go of their worry about the erection and learn to relax and enjoy the sexual and sensual experience.”
Psychotherapy and Your Relationship
Psychotherapy, often called talk therapy, is one important way to build a stronger, more communicative relationship.
The more comfortable you feel with your partner and with intimacy, the less you’ll experience stress and pressure in the bedroom — and erectile dysfunction.
“Opening up conversations and changing patterns in a couple’s relationship often increase healthy sexuality. Improving their sex life often increases a couple’s connection and friendship, thereby helping them to solve other problems,” says Connolly.
Should You Give Psychotherapy a Try?
If your doctor doesn’t find a physical reason for your impotence, common psychological factors may be the cause. These include:
- Anxiety or nervousness about sex
- Stress at home or at work
- Relationship problems
- Problems communicating with your partner
- Feelings of self-consciousness during sexual intercourse
- High expectations of yourself or from your partner about your sexual performance
- General anxiety
- Lack of interest in sex
- Problems with self-esteem
How Counseling Works in Treating Erectile Dysfunction
Psychotherapy can be beneficial for an individual, but couples therapy sessions are also helpful. Connolly says it’s often good for a couple to attend an initial session together to address issues and concerns.
Individual sessions can then address issues with each partner, leading up to the couple working together. This approach “can help reach under the outward problems and uncover what needs to be dealt with and talked about in order to enjoy physical and emotional intimacy,” Connolly says.
Psychotherapy sessions can help you learn to deal with anxiety, both in and out of the bedroom. Sometimes, therapy sessions are “as simple as helping couples understand what happens in typical couples’ sex lives.
Couples therapy can also include learning to talk about sex in ways that help them let down their defenses and openly discuss their needs, wants, and desires,” says Connolly.
You can expect to talk about your sexual needs and expectations during these sessions, as well as what prevents them from being met. Some sessions may involve prioritizing different aspects of work, home life, and the relationship and sexual intercourse.
Finding the Right Therapist
If your doctor suggests that psychological issues may play a role in your erectile dysfunction, he may be able to recommend a good therapist. “If therapy would be helpful, that physician may know a therapist who specializes in sex therapy and/or couples work,” says Connolly.
“There are times when couples recognize that the problem is more about their relationship or individual issues that get in the way of relaxing and enjoying physical intimacy,” Connolly adds. In this instance, an individual or couple should look for a qualified therapist, preferably a member of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, who will have experience in dealing with issues regarding relationships and erectile dysfunction.