If you suffer from impotence or erectile dysfunction (ED), don't let embarrassment keep you from sexual health and happiness. Try the self-help home remedies below, but if the problem doesn't resolve, don't hesitate to seek professional help.
Check your prescriptions. A variety of medications can cause ED, including blood pressure drugs, antihistamines, antidepressants, tranquilizers, appetite suppressants, and cimetidine, an ulcer drug. Ask your doctor or pharmacist whether any of the drugs you take could be contributing to ED. If one of the medications you take has ED as a side effect, your doctor may be able to prescribe a different one.
Remove the performance demand. It's not unusual for a man to have an occasional episode of ED -- after drinking alcohol or after a particularly stressful day, for example. However, if he places too much emphasis on the incident and harbors fear that it may happen again, the anxiety itself may become a cause of erectile difficulties. Behavior modification can help with this, though. One strategy that sex therapists often use is to have couples abstain from intercourse altogether, telling them instead to engage in cuddling and nonsexual touch. Gradually, over a period of weeks or months, depending on the couple, the partners work toward more sexual touching, then intercourse. The idea is to make sex a less-threatening experience.
Break out of a rut. Add some spice to your lovemaking: Go to a hotel or a different setting. Vary the routine. Try new positions. Buy your partner some new lingerie.
Learn to relax. Stress, arising either from performance anxiety or from other life situations, can exacerbate ED. Regardless of the cause, it's difficult to enjoy yourself when you've got too much on your mind. Try relaxation exercises such as deep breathing or progressive muscle relaxation, where you consciously tense and relax each part of the body in sequence.
Express your feelings. Marital or relationship difficulties are notorious contributors to sexual problems. Anger, resentment, and hurt feelings often spill into a couple's sex life, turning the bedroom into a battlefield. This situation is especially likely to develop if partners don't communicate. Work to share your feelings with your partner. Use "I" statements, and keep the focus on your feelings, instead of your partner's actions. Doing a thorough housecleaning of the relationship, instead of storing up emotional debris, may very well clear the way for a healthier sexual union.
Talk about sex. Sometimes, erectile problems occur because you simply don't feel aroused. In these cases, sex therapists often work to help patients communicate more openly about their sexual relationship -- what they like, what they don't like, whether they'd like to do some experimenting. Again, to avoid defensiveness and hurt feelings, "I" statements are key. Choose to make assertive, rather than aggressive, comments.
Don't drink before sex. Drinking alcohol or being drunk can significantly impair your sexual functioning.
Remember your successful experiences. If performance anxiety has undermined your confidence, thinking about positive sexual relationships or experiences you have had in the past may help boost your self-esteem. It may also convince you that you can have a fulfilling sex life in the future.
Involve your partner. Although erectile difficulties originate with the man, they are a couple's problem and have couple solutions. If the problem is not a medical one, there are many strategies, such as the ones discussed in this chapter, which can help. However, your chances for improvement are much better if your sexual partner is involved in the solution.
Know that you are not abnormal. It can never be stated enough: Having problems with erection does not mean that you are physiologically or psychologically abnormal in any way. It is not your fault and you shouldn't feel guilty or allow your self-esteem to suffer.
Read, then talk. Take advantage of the many sources of information about sex -- books that can help you and your mate solve your problems and work towards a more mutually satisfying sex life, as well as sex manuals and even videos.
Skip the aphrodisiacs. Spanish fly and other so-called aphrodisiacs are usually little more than placebos -- sugar pills that do nothing but boost your confidence. What's more, Spanish fly can be very dangerous to use and can even be fatal. Avoid alternative or herbal remedies.
Employ fantasy. Many men with erectile problems engage in "spectatoring," or constantly observing their own sexual performance. This takes the individual out of the moment and leads to being overly critical. Instead of judging yourself, focus on the pleasures of being with your partner. Fantasizing about and with your partner can take the focus off you.
Try masturbation. Performance anxiety is just that -- anxiety over performing for your partner. But don't forget that while it's important to please your partner, you're also there to please yourself. Masturbation -- bringing yourself to orgasm while you are alone -- may be helpful by reteaching you how to achieve your own pleasure (as long as it's not overdone). The next step is to bring that ability into a sexual situation with your partner. In this way, you can change the focus from performance to mutually pleasurable interaction.
Don't be afraid to seek help. If your ED has no medical cause, psychological issues may be involved. Guilt, shame, anger, fear, sadness, and other emotions can impair your ability to perform sexually. Help is available from therapists who specialize in sexual issues. Ask your doctor or urologist for a referral.