There are several factors that affect how you get an erection and whether you can sustain it. Some of these are things that you need to personally address because they could be affecting the way that you perform.
Alcohol, Tobacco and Substance Abuse
As mentioned earlier, substance abuse, i.e., drugs, alcohol and nicotine can signiﬁcantly increase a man’s risk for erectile dysfunction and is often times an offshoot of poor stress management — people run to these substances to release stress. And unfortunately, these substances contribute to the very essence of erectile dysfunction — poor blood circulation, especially in the penis.
Let’s take a look at smoking ﬁrst. Studies have shown that the main harmful ingredient in cigarette smoking — nicotine — leads to constricted blood vessels and in particular, increases one’s risk for atherosclerosis wherein the arteries harden. Nicotine does this by inhibiting the body’s ability to produce nitric oxide, a substance that helps improve blood ﬂow. Smoking leads to less available nitric oxide in the arteries, which leads to poor blood circulation. And that is one sure way to kill erection. If there’s a best time to quit smoking, it is now.
Let’s now look at alcoholic drinks. For most people, substance abuse merely pertains to drugs and doesn’t count alcohol as a deadly substance particularly if consumption is at most, moderate. Part of the belief is the result of studies that show occasional alcohol consumption — red wine in particular — has healthy beneﬁts both physical and emotional.
Speaking of emotional beneﬁts, drinking alcohol helps people feel more positive. It’s because alcohol can act as some kind of anti-depressant — helping shut down the negative-talk monster inside the mind for a period of time. As such, it helps people feel happier, more conﬁdent and to some extent — hornier.
You may be surprised to learn that despite suppressing sexual inhibitions for the moment, drinking alcohol can still cause men to suffer from a ﬂaccid penis also known as “brewers’ droop”. Although this effect is just temporary, it can ruin a man’s sexual plans for the night when he ﬁnds that however horny he feels, his “mini—me” isn’t up to the task.
Over the long term, alcoholism can seriously affect a man’s ability to experience erections, i.e. chronic erectile dysfunction. It’s because heavy consumption of alcohol for extended periods of time, e.g., alcoholism, can lead to damaged nerves. In particular, it can lead to permanent damage in the nerves that connect both man’s heads, i.e., the brain and the penis. Permanent erectile dysfunction due to alcoholism is also known as alcohol-induced impotence.
Apart from nerve damage, alcoholism also leads to erectile dysfunction by affecting a man’s hormones particularly testosterone, which you learned in an earlier chapter to be crucial for having enough libido to experience erections. At this point, it is well worth evaluating the pleasures brought about by drinking alcohol and sexual pleasures and to choose wisely between the two. Just bear in mind that moderate drinking is probably ok but it’s best to avoid drinking altogether if you want to minimize your risk for erectile dysfunction.
Lastly, let’s talk about drugs and how they signiﬁcantly increase the risk for erectile dysfunction. There are two kinds: psychoactive and prescription ones. Psychoactive drugs such as barbiturates, amphetamines, marijuana, cocaine, opiates and methadone can cause erectile dysfunction in 2 ways: central nervous system and blood circulation. Avoid these unless prescribed by your doctor and talk to him or her as soon as you notice that using such is interfering with your ability to experience erections.
Prescription drugs can also be abused, though not necessarily on a recreational level. As mentioned earlier, blood pressure medications, anti—depressants, sedatives and tranquilizers can increase your risk for erectile dysfunction.
One demographic that’s at very high risk for erectile dysfunction are men who are obese. Yes, there are many other factors responsible for erectile dysfunction but even an emotionally and physically healthy man can still fall prey to this condition if
he is overweight. The connection between being overweight and the ability to experience erections is a strong one and it is estimated that on average, the risk of suffering from erectile dysfunction is 2.5 times higher for obese men than those who weigh normally.
But what is obesity, really? How can we objectively classify a person as obese or not? There are several ways to do it that are beyond the scope of this e—book but all of those methods have one thing in common: they have established benchmarks of what is considered to be healthy weight based on a person’s height and age, among other things.
So how does being obese keep a man from experiencing erections? Do you still remember what makes for an erection? Yes, blood ﬂow to the penis is what makes erections possible. Obesity increases a person’s risk for atherosclerosis or constricted arteries due to accumulated cholesterol on the blood vessels’ walls. The tighter the arteries are, the less blood ﬂows to the organs, which includes a man’s penis.
Another way obesity can keep a man from experiencing erections is by reducing the amount of testosterone. As you have learned earlier, testosterone plays a huge part in feeling aroused and eventually, having erections. In particular, testosterone increases the nitric oxide and this substance helps increase blood ﬂow to the penis.
Obesity is the single biggest risk factor for cardiovascular disease and since sexual and cardiovascular health are closely related, erectile dysfunction can — in some cases — be a symptom of heart problems in obese men. Researchers from a leading university in Italy found that men who were diagnosed to have heart problems started to experience erectile dysfunction as early as 2 to 3 years prior. Doctors at a leading university in the United States also found that erectile dysfunction can be an indicator or warning sign of future strokes and heart problems.
Obesity doesn’t just physically affect a man’s ability to experience erections — it also does so psychologically. Because obesity can lead to significantly lower testosterone levels, obese men are vulnerable to experiencing low libido, feeling depressed and having low energy. Synergistically, these can kill a man’s hope for a satisfying sex life and lead to or exacerbate existing erectile problems.
Fortunately, obesity isn’t as complicated to address. With the right amount and types of exercises coupled with a sound nutrition plan, losing excess weight is highly achievable and safe. A leading center in Italy noted that 1/3 of obese men who lost signiﬁcant weight reported better sexual functions afterwards.
Weight loss, especially huge ones, can look daunting at first but it isn’t. What makes it so is the pressure to lose a lot of the excess pounds asap, which isn’t just unrealistic but also unhealthy in the long run. Healthy weight loss is at most 2 pounds a week — cutting just 500 to 1,000 calories daily. Losing more than 2 pounds weekly run the risk of losing more water and muscles mass instead of fat. Fewer muscles mean a slower metabolism and consequently less ability to burn calories and fat.
When trying to lose fat, it’s important to monitor food consumption, particularly the kinds of calories and the amount of calories. Some of the best guidelines to follow for a successful and sustainable weight loss include:
-Know your average daily caloric requirements for maintaining your current weight.
-Don’t cut daily calories by more than 15% and don’t do it for more than 4 days straight. Every 5″‘ day, bump up consumption to 10% more than your maintenance in order to “trick” your body into believing there’s enough calories going around and prevent it from slowing down metabolism as a survival instinct. Extended crash diets lead to weight loss plateaus because such practices tell the body that calories are scarce, making it slow down metabolism to survive.
-Stick with good carbohydrates like oats, brown rice, whole wheat breads, fruits and vegetables. Avoid sugary foods and drinks as well as processed carbohydrates like white bread. They can wreak havoc on your energy levels and metabolism.
-Increase your protein intake. Apart from extending feelings of being full, protein helps build and maintain muscle mass, which is crucial for maintaining a healthy metabolism.
-Eat whole foods instead of processed ones. As a rule of thumb, courtesy of the Paleo diet people, the more a food item resembles its original form, the healthier it is. For example, roasted chicken (you can tell that it is chicken) is deﬁnitely healthier than chicken nuggets (really, how can you be sure they’re made from chicken, eh?).
Here are a couple of helpful exercise guidelines for successful weight loss:
-Take baby steps. Don’t expect to immediately run 10 kilometers straight if you can’t even walk 2 kilometers without stopping. Gradually build up your capacity to avoid burning out or worse, getting injured.
-Don’t baby it too much too. You need to exercise at an intensity that’s challenging enough it burns calories. If you’re used to walking 1 kilometer straight comfortably, aim for 1.5 kilometers the next time and when you become comfortable with that already, go for 2 kilometers and so on. The point is don’t baby yourself.
-The right intensity is key. There are several, high-tech ways of determining the intensity level but of course, those are too much of a hassle and are expensive. Just use the talk test to find out. While exercising, try talking. If you’re able to comfortably carry a normal conversation while doing so, you’re exercise intensity is too light. If you’re barely able to say a word, it’s too intense. If you’re still able to carry a normal conversation although with some difficulty, that’s moderately intense. Go for moderate intensity, which is optimal for long-term weight loss success.
-Exercise continuously at moderate intensity for at least 20 minutes for at least 3 times a week for best results.
-If you’re hitting the gym to lift weights, it’s best to let at least 48 hours pass before working out the same muscle group again. Muscles need 48 hours to fully recuperate before being worked out again with resistance exercises such as weight lifting.
-Don’t force it. If you’re feeling some pain or are sick, skip the exercise session for that day. You’ll just make things worse if you push through.
Although erectile dysfunction is mostly a physiological problem, psychogenic causes can also account for it or even exacerbate the situation. As you learned earlier, stress, anxiety and depression can affect a man’s ability to be aroused and the medications used for treating psychogenic causes also have the same effect. Psychogenic causes of erectile dysfunction may include the following:
-Lirnit your consumption of oil-fried food. Even if you use canola and olive oils (healthy oils), heating them past a certain point alters their molecular structure and strips them of their healthiness.
The other half of the successful weight loss equation is exercise. Apart from weight loss, it has been reported that men who are physically active with exercise have a 30% lower risk for erectile dysfunction than those who just exercise mentally.
-Dysfunctional view of sex;
-Sexual performance worries; -Previous sexual traumas;
-Personal beliefs and inhibitions; and -Sex phobias.
Psychological erectile dysfunction can be caused by persisting psychological issues like chronic depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), manic depression, general anxiety disorder (GAD), schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder, borderline personality disorder, attention deficit- hyperactivity disorder and unresolved personal issues. The good news is most men’s erectile dysfunctions aren‘t caused by major psychogenic causes nor do such men share a common proﬁle according to a study by Weeks and Gambescia in 2000.
Erectile dysfunctions caused by temporary mental difﬁculties like depression or anxiety brought about by major events like job loss or death of a family member are called psychological distress erectile dysfunction. It is believed that almost half of the population may experience such major events at least once in their lives and as such, puts many men at risk for such an erectile dysfunction. In many cases, it can be challenging to determine which causes which, the erectile dysfunction or the mental difficulty. The good news is that this kind of erectile dysfunction is often intermittent in nature and as such, isn’t chronic and can be easily addressed.
Psychological stress is often underestimated by men when it comes to sexual potency and as such, often attribute their inability to achieve erections to heavier, more profound reasons. Truth is, it only takes some form of psychological stress to interfere with normal sexual functioning and experiencing erectile dysfunction is highly likelier when he experiences reactive depression, situational anxiety, self doubt, lack of conﬁdence, irritation, disappointment, embarrassment, remorse, unrealistic sexual expectations about himself and personal conﬂicts.
Erectile dysfunction can also occur due to lack of necessary behavioral, emotional and cognitive sexual abilities for successful and pleasurable lovemaking. In other words, a man’s lack of conﬁdence in terms of his looks, his penile size and his ability to please his lover can cause him to lose hope and interest in sex and can lead to his penis’ inability to “stand up and take notice”. The thing with this kind of erectile dysfunction is that unless the psychological issue is addressed, it can persist for life. However, this kind of dysfunction is limited to actual lovemaking alone. A man who suffers from this kind of erectile dysfunction can still have erections when masturbating alone because in such a situation, he’s in full control and thus feels relaxed, comfortable and confident, which allows him to be aroused and experience erections.
So how can psychological erectile dysfunctions be addressed? One way is through what is known as the Cognitive-Behavioral-Emotional model, also known as the CBE model. This particular model acknowledges that each man is made up of thoughts (cognition), actions (behavior) and feelings (emotions), which comprise the core of what needs to be addressed in dealing with psychological erectile dysfunction. Let’s first consider thoughts or cognitions.
Thoughts or cognitions are made up of a person’s beliefs, ideas, observations, assumptions, expectations, interpretations and perceptions. They can either be good or bad for the person, depending on their effect on the person and the way that person feels and acts. Thoughts are the major drivers of one’s emotions and a persons thoughts about key sexual issues, e.g., standards for lovemaking, sexual beliefs, assumptions, expectations and perceptions about sex in general and about himself in particular, are keys to how he can perform and feel satisﬁed sexually. As such, it is crucial that one’s sexual thoughts are well grounded on realistic and reasonable ideas about one’s sexual relationship, ability to respond sexually and one’s body. It’s important to be able to think positive and realistic sexual thoughts instead of negative and unrealistic ones.
Now let’s talk about actions or behaviors, which are dependent on our thoughts and emotions. One of the most prevalent myths about behavior is that it’s a reaction. No it isn’t. At the end of the day, behavior or actions are decisions made by an individual. If a person withdraws from any opportunity for sexual contact because of feelings of insecurity, it’s a decision made by the individual to let such feelings rule and to withdraw. Without his consent, withdrawal from such opportunities won’t be possible. Responsible and accountable men exercise control over their actions or behavior and don’t let their feelings rule them. It’s worth noting that in many cases, feelings and thoughts can be inﬂuenced by — you guessed it right — actions or behavior.
Now let’s discuss feelings or emotions. These may be considered as electrical and chemical events that the body experiences and are labeled accordingly per physical sensation experienced like sadness, fear, dread, loneliness, resentment, satisfaction, contentment, worry, pleasure, frustration, excitement, irritability, surprise, anxiety, shame, confusion, comfort, embarrassment and guilt. Feelings or emotions motivate people to act or respond to actions either by rewarding or penalizing such. These aren’t inherently right or wrong, good or bad — only how we handle them.