Why do men get erections when they don’t want one? Why can’t some men get an erection when they do want one? Here is the long and short of the problem (no pun intended) just about every man in the universe suffers the occasional bout of erectile dysfunction. You may think that’s just a cop out – but it is a fact.
Physicians say the ED will present itself as a man ages. It is difficult to think of a man as aging at 40, but they say the group that complains more about the problem is 40-50 year olds. This may be because they had not suffered their first episode up to that point. Everyone knows that testosterone begins to level off in a male after he reaches 18. Some experts say that at 19 he has 5% less and this continues in 5% increments for life.
Sex is an important part of most people’s lives and as the average ago of the population grows each year, the surveys into ED flourish. One survey was conducted called the Massachusetts Male Aging Study (MMAS) among a community-based survey of men aged 40-70 years. In this study 52% of the men reported some degree of erectile problems. Complete ED occurred in 10% of the men in the study. Lesser degrees of mild and moderate ED occurred in 17% and 25% of participants.
Another study confirms that you are not alone if you have suffered an ED episode. In the National Health and Social Life Survey (NHSLS), a nationally representative sample of men and women 18-59 years of age, 10.4% of men reported being unable to achieve or maintain an erection during the past year. The study concluded that an estimated 18-30 million men are affected at some time in their lives by erectile dysfunction.
Before we go further you must differentiate between ED and PE (premature ejaculation). Sometimes they can go hand in hand, but in this report we are covering ED only.
An introduction to your penis
What do you know about your penis? After all, you’ve been looking at it and holding it every day of your life (maybe not in infancy). This is the best description of the internal workings that are worded so the lay person can understand: “An erection occurs when blood flow increases into the penis, making it expand and become firm. Two long chambers inside the penis, called the corpora cavernosa, contain a spongy tissue that draws the blood into the chambers. The spongy tissue contains smooth muscles, fibrous tissues, blood-filled spaces, veins, and arteries. A membrane, called the tunica albuginea, encases the corpora cavernosa. The urethra, which is the tube that carries urine and semen outside of the body, runs along the underside of the corpora cavernosa in the middle of a third chamber called the corpus spongiosum.”
So there’s quite a bit going on in there to make you fully erect and help you maintain an erection. The main issue would be circulation of blood to your lower extremities. Without sufficient blood supply, you will not get or maintain an erection. But there is more biology to be understood. Like a cascading waterfall, or spokes in a watch, certain things have to happen in the right sequence. An erection begins with sensory or mental stimulation, or both. The stimulus may be physical—touch, sound, smell, sight—or a sexual image or thought. A porn movie may be a good example or a woman sun bathing in the nude.
When the brain senses a sexual urge, it sends impulses to local nerves in the penis that cause the muscles of the corpora cavernosa to relax. As a result, blood flows in through the arteries and fills the spaces in the corpora cavernosa. The blood creates pressure in the corpora cavernosa, making the penis expand. The tunica albuginea helps trap the blood in the corpora cavernosa, thereby sustaining the erection. The erection ends after climax or after the sexual arousal has passed. The muscles in the penis contract to stop the inflow of blood. The veins open and the extra blood flows out of the spaces and back into the body.
There is no quiz section, so you will not be required to know all the terms. What is important for you to understand is that achieving and maintaining an erection takes a great deal of concerted effort among different organs in your body – including your brain. That’s you big head. If your big head is not on board, it becomes the missing link in your erection.
Clinical erectile dysfunction
Did you know that you can have multiple erections during your sleep and not just waking up with morning wood? There is one of those tried and true ‘old wives’ tales’ that is supposed to determine if you really have ED or not. Remember, 100 years ago there was no talk of ED. True, the men were not as old as they are today, but anything sexually related was not talked about in respectable company.
But it does seem that the women talked among themselves. Perhaps some wondered if their husbands had lost interest in them because they were no longer the beauties they first married. Maybe they thought the men had other women on the side and didn’t have enough strength to come back and do their homework.
So the women came up with a way to tie a piece of paper around the husband’s flaccid penis while he was asleep. If the paper ring stayed in place all through the night and did not break, the man probably was impotent. If the paper broke because of one of the nighttime erections, his ‘problem’ was with her or psychological.
This test can be done in the privacy of your own home. Just do not tie the paper too tight. And if your man gets up in the middle of the night to urinate, he might be surprised to see paper wrapped around his member – unless you both are in concert for the test.
If the paper does not break, it is best to get a confirming diagnosis from a physician.
The term erectile dysfunction means that a man was not able to achieve an erection and keep the erection until his partner was satisfied. Let’s enter a few common sense scenarios here. First, some women never have a vaginal climax and may only be able to achieve a clitoral orgasm. The man cannot be expected to last for several weeks when she will never be vaginally satisfied. Also, if a man does get an erection and lasts long enough for his partner to reach an orgasm, that’s the name of the game. That is not ED.
Common psychological reasons for ED
Don’t you just hate it when you have a pain or problem and you visit your doctor who tells you it’s all in your head? You feel like you are being dismissed like the village idiot and no one is taking your seriously.
This is a true story from a clinic psychologist who had a patient with an issue. He had a pain in his bum that was getting to the point of being disabling. This was an even larger problem because his wife had a major disease where he had to lift her and do everything for her. He went from doctor to doctor and had test after test. There was nothing clinically wrong with him. They told him it was all in his head and he should get mental help. So he did.
In working with the psychologist she discovered he had feelings of guilt because sometimes he didn’t want to help his wife. He felt caged in. He would tell himself that maybe if he had something wrong with him that maybe he could understand her needs more. It was all a pain in the ass.
And there is was. His pain was in his butt for sure – but the reason for his pain was in his head. Needless to say, by changing his ‘self-talk’ he got rid of his pain.
So let’s look at some reasons why your suspected ED can be in your head:
Depression – Real depression can be caused by many factors including a change in your life (death of a loved one, divorce, loss of job). This does not mean it is not real. Depression can be caused by certain medications. And, believe it or not, it can be caused by lack of sunlight.
Anxiety – Anxiety is part of everyday life for everyone. Anxiety can be caused by something good or something bad. You can feel anxious when you are nominated for an award – or on the other hand, you can feel anxious when you are on your way to get a root canal. It depends on what you do with your anxiety.
There is always ‘performance anxiety’ with a new partner. First, whoever decided that that a man had to perform in bed? Is he doing a circus act or is he trying to please his partner? This is a word that should be scrubbed from sexual language. You can be anxious about pleasing your new partner. That is normal. Here is where that self-talk comes in. Instead of imaging what if’s should you fail, picture the process in your mind and how satisfied she will be. Practice it over in over in your mind with a positive outcome. Your picture will become reality.
Low Self-Esteem – Take a page from the book on anxiety. Low self-esteem is going to hamper just about every facet of your life. ED is just one. You will never reach your full potential in your career or goals with low self-esteem. Here is another psychological truth. This may have come from the book I’m okay-You’re okay. Don’t take that to the bank. But the real truth is that a doctor or coach would tell his clients to look in the mirror every morning and say out loud, “Every day in every way I’m getting better and better.” Try this for 10 days and see how you feel. This is something you can say to yourself every day of your life. Instead of picking things that in your mind are wrong, select those things that are good. Think about the good.
Fear of having a small penis – You may tell yourself this or maybe you were bullied in school when the boys were in the locker room. Read up on what is a normal penis size and get over it. That sound cruel, but it isn’t. It’s tough love. Satisfying a woman has less to do with the size of your drill and everything to do with your technique. Read everything you can from men who also believe they are diminutive and the things they do to satisfy women. These tips should quell this fear.
Surprising and not so surprising physical conditions
Your wife has tried the paper test and you did not have any erections during the night while you were sleeping. Maybe you have seen your doctor who has confirmed the diagnosis. You keep asking yourself, why me? The following are some medical conditions that can cause ED – some that can be reversed.
You already know the huge factors like heart disease and clogged arteries. These are some you may have never considered.
Obesity – There’s morbid obesity, regular obesity and then down right fat. Any of these can cause ED. If you are carrying around an extra 25 pounds on a six foot frame it can make a difference. Fight the battle of the bulge and see if this doesn’t help the problem.
High blood pressure – Remember, it takes good blood flow to the nether regions to get a good, hard erection. If you have high blood pressure where your heart is trying to get enough blood to all your other vital parts, your penis can come in last. Get the blood pressure down and you will have extra to pump into your pump.
Diabetes – Whether you are Type I or Type II, diabetes can interfere with a lot of your internal organs. Keeping your A1C in control can be helpful.
Smoking – This is not a criticism of the medical community. We all know smoking in any form is bad for you. But plenty of men prior to the 1950’s when it was determined that smoking causes cancer and other lung issues were still able to get a boner. Maybe the medical professionals throw this is as another way to tell you to quit while you can.
Too much alcohol – Remember when you frequented fraternity parties in college and drank like there was no tomorrow? Can you remember those times when you got lucky and had a willing party girl? You may have had some semblance of sobriety to get it up, but you could have worked for hours and still not gotten off. Or, maybe you pulled the trigger before the target was in sight. Booze affects your brain and your body. If you have an inkling of ED, cut out the drinking before trying to hit a home run.
There are plenty of other illnesses which can cause temporary or permanent ED. As a preventative measure, you may want to check and see if you are wearing the right size condom. If your condom is too small or too tight, you could lose your erection prior to penetration.