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February 14, 2007 3:39 PM   Subscribe

I'm a healthy, mid-20s male suffering from impotence.

Whereas most guys my age seem to suffer from premature ejaculation, I'm at the other end of the spectrum, erectile dysfunction.

I've seen a doctor about it, and all the tests have demonstrated that it's very likely a psychological thing.

I'm very open and communicative with my girlfriend about it, so she's not in the dark or anything. I'm at a state where I can attain an erection, but maintaining it is the tricky part. Some days I get lucky and it stays up for a good 20 minutes. More often than not, I'll be lucky to go 5 minutes. This forces me to rush through sex, seizing the first opportunity to reach orgasm. As much as my girlfriend claims to the contrary, I can tell in the back of her mind my failings signal that I don't find her sexy or some nonsense like that.

In short, it's affecting my sex life and relationship.

It's definitely a condition that has shriveled? grown worse over the years, from not being an issue at all back in high school, to a distraction in college, and now to an inadequacy.

The good news is that it's all in my head so I feel I have a modicum of control over getting past it.

I definitely don't have the funds to seek therapy, so I'm looking for some kind of advice that may lead to some enlightenment. Yoga? Meditation?

The last thing I want to become is dependent on a drug, that's why I refuse to take them.

I have pretty bad ADHD, but even on my meds I'm prone to the same complications, if they don't already exacerbate them.

So maybe some deep-seeded anxieties or somesuch that are interfering with my mind....what are some general recommendations for introspection techniques that can help me overcome these mental blocks?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (18 answers total)
My guess is that your anxiety is feeding on itself. E.g., you know you're experiencing some performance anxiety, and that performance anxiety makes it more difficult to maintain an erection. So you become anxious about the anxiety itself. As soon as you say to yourself, "Oh no, I wonder if I'm going to perform well this time, or if my anxiety is going to get the better of me . . . " it's already starting to get the better of you.

If this is the case, then you need to find a way short-circuiting this feedback cycle. It's kind of a zen thing, and can thus be much easier said than done -- the key, I think, is to "relax out of it" rather than try to stop it directly. It seems to me that meditation and/or yoga could be very useful in helping you learn to do this.

Cognitive behavioral therapy techniques might also help -- you may be semi-consciously telling yourself negative things (e.g., "I'm a bad boyfriend/lover/man if I can't keep an erection") that cause the anxious feelings. There's an oft-recommended book, Feeling Good, which you can give you a good idea of how this type of therapy (which can be practiced on your own) works.

Finally, if you and your girlfriend are open to it, you might try expanding your definition of sex to include things that don't depend on you keeping an erection. Knowing that having satisfying sex doesn't necessarily depend on you keeping it up might take some the anxiety-producing pressure off.
posted by treepour at 4:03 PM on February 14, 2007 [1 favorite]

Your masturbatory practices are conspicuously absent from your post (Are you unable to achieve orgasm by yourself? This is very relevant to your question, it's unfortunate that it's not addressed). They have a large impact on how you're accustomed to being stimulated. If your orgasms have historically come mostly from masturbating, your brain is basically rejecting the stimuli you're getting from sex as inadequate. If you're normally pretty rough with yourself, then sex might not be stimulating enough. It's the masturbator's dilemna: what do you do if getting yourself off is better than sex?

What will probably work: stop masturbating completely, and start exercising regularly. You might find that 3-5 hours per week of cardio will do wonders, and perhaps help with the ADHD too.
posted by mullingitover at 4:07 PM on February 14, 2007

I'd stop calling it "impotence". That's a barrier in and of itself. For years and years I was incredibly spotty with "getting it up". A lot of it had it do with expectations and disappointments in my relationships, I think. All I can say is that as soon as I started dating someone I felt genuinely secure with, the problem vanished, completely dissapeared.

In the meantime, get good at oral. Part of the road to, erm, recovery is feeling like you CAN please her. It'll help aleviate some of the guilt, perhaps? To that end, The Vice Guide to Eating Pussy is a landmark document.
posted by GilloD at 4:12 PM on February 14, 2007 [1 favorite]

Ahem, NSFW, obviously. But to the above poster: I found masturbation actually helped if I, say, did it in the morning and had sex a few hours later. Go figure.
posted by GilloD at 4:13 PM on February 14, 2007

More often than not, I'll be lucky to go 5 minutes. This forces me to rush through sex, seizing the first opportunity to reach orgasm.

I don't own a penis, but maybe you could benefit from having sex WITHOUT thinking at all about reaching orgasm. I'd say forget about your erection completely, even. Try doing this for a while, like several weeks or a month or whatever. If you stop focusing on your erection, and make sex about something else than just orgasm and using your erect penis...the anxiety is bound to start disappearing.
posted by CrazyLemonade at 4:16 PM on February 14, 2007

This is tangential but might help ease your mind regarding this part of your question: "As much as my girlfriend claims to the contrary, I can tell in the back of her mind my failings signal that I don't find her sexy or some nonsense like that." And like the other answers/suggestions say, clearing your mind from this problem might help you acheive and maintain an erection.

I was involved with a man who had a problem similar to your's for most of our sexual relationship, but he was otherwise very adventurous and (ahem) giving. Because he knew I was being satisfied, I think it took some of the pressure off him and kept this problem from engulfing our sex life. For me, it expanded my own ideas about what worked and didn't work for me sexually.

At the time, I read it suggested somewhere (will try to find it, maybe Dan Savage?) for both partners to agree to make out and engage in foreplay without ANY expectation for sex; this might eliminate any mental roadblocks. As in, even if you get an erection, make it a "rule" that you can't have sex at the time. This is supposed to shift the focus away from sex and removes the pressure that might be causing the problem.
posted by juliplease at 4:40 PM on February 14, 2007

I guess you could try doing some masturbation with your girlfriend for awhile instead of intercourse. It could even be that you aren't sexually attracted to your GF.

For me it can be difficult getting it up the first few times I have sex with someone new. It requires some concentration. But after I become more comfortable then it is easy.
posted by JJ86 at 5:00 PM on February 14, 2007

Oh fuck it, it's the internet, and I have little shame. Let me address the queries....

It's the same when I masturbate. It's hard to stay hard.

Consequently, the only time I have full-blown erections is when I wake up with them in the mornings.

I guess you could say I've gotten progressively bored over the years. It's hard for me to get excited, but I've done a lot of experimenting and nothing sticks. (You might remember sometime back I asked about a girl who wanted me to shit on her.)

Exercise-wise, I'm a personal trainer. I take care of the basics and then some.

I have no inadequacies about getting her off orally. Before we started dating, she'd only received one orgasm from a guy in her entire life. She counted six our first night together.

I guess I may be playing up the idea that she feels she's missing out more than I give her credit for, but I guess it's really just a battle with myself.

I guess what I'm looking for is a way to will my penis to stay hard.
posted by Mach3avelli at 5:00 PM on February 14, 2007

Did you get your testosterone levels checked? Although I have no erectile dysfunction, I am just not what you'd call motivated to mate, beyond a vague desire to be with someone. When I got tested, I found out the reason why: my testosterone levels are in the basement. Don't discount physiological problems. Everyone used to assume that female arousal is complicated, and male arousal is simple. The latter has proven to be false. The range of physical things that can cause ED in men is a lot larger than you'd think. Remember, they still can't make a working penis (without some kind of inorganic pump) for female-to-male transsexuals. That is a complex piece of hardware you've got.

I second the question about masturbatory practices. If you have no problem alone, then you can look more at psychological issues. It makes a nice control variable. And don't just say that you do, tell us, well ... how often, how do you do it (lotion? dry pull?) Are you just yanking your chain or do you take the time to get yourself worked up?
posted by adipocere at 5:06 PM on February 14, 2007

I guess what I'm looking for is a way to will my penis to stay hard.

There is no such thing. It's like willing yourself to fall asleep — the harder you try, the more frustrated you'll be. The answer, as much as it sucks, is to stop trying.
posted by nebulawindphone at 5:11 PM on February 14, 2007

how often, how do you do it (lotion? dry pull?) Are you just yanking your chain or do you take the time to get yourself worked up?

0-20 times a week (I'm moody), all sorts of ways, from porn to just my imagination, from jerking off to a complicated genital rub, sometimes dry, sometimes lubed, sometimes quick and dirty, sometimes long and concentrated (up to an hour).

The thing literally has a mind of its own, it seems, with how it responds. Lots of unpredictability involved.
posted by Mach3avelli at 5:12 PM on February 14, 2007

I don't believe your problems are psychological. I have MS which is documented to cause ED and I've still had doctors tell me any problems I was having were psychological. They got in the habit of saying that when there were no treatments, and somehow they haven't gotten out of it.

I second the importance of remembering that sex does not equal intercourse. It's all a dance and there are many ways to have great hot sexy satisfying intimacy that do not involve intercourse. Intercourse is basically the only sexual practice that requires consistent erections. All other types of playing around work just as well even if your erection comes and goes.

Regardign masturbation: you can actually do this as a way to practice gaining and maintaining erections. As an exercise, find yourself some privacy and something that turns you on (pron or whatever) and see how long you can masturbate, i.e. keep yourself aroused and hard. Do this without your girlfriend around. Give yourself time to be relaxed, and to go through the phases of being hard/not. This will let you find your spot where you can both focus and relax and maintain your erection. Practicing that will then help you transfer the experience to when you are with your girlfriend. But again, that will only work, I believe, if you aren't focused on intercourse but if you let the erections flow out of the fuller intimacy.

As far as the drugs: these can be helpful in three ways. (1) as a temporary crutch they can help people find their groove again; (2) as a temporary restorative they can help tone the tissues of the penis and increase the blood flow; (3) they can keep you hard while you fuck.

1 and 2 are temporary uses of the drug. 3 is the permanent use that people most often associate with them. So even if you don't want 3, you could still try 1 or 2.

As far as the rest of it, books on tantra are your friend. Books that give info on things like delaying orgasm and stuff --- those techniques are all applicable to your situation.

Good luck, and have fun along the way.
posted by alms at 5:29 PM on February 14, 2007

You mention you have ADHD. You know that difficulty maintaining erection is a side effect of most or all ADHD medications, yes? If you're taking any amphetamine derivative, you could have "crystal dick".
posted by Justinian at 6:28 PM on February 14, 2007

Oh, for what its worth I think you're making a mistake being unwilling to consider boner pills to at least get you over the hump (heh heh). Your anxiety is self-reinforcing, and ADHD medication may be contributing. It's not like you have to take them forever. Once you get your confidence back you may well be able to stop taking them.
posted by Justinian at 6:47 PM on February 14, 2007

Depression and worrying can definitely worsen things, especially when one gets depressed and worried about one's dick atop one's normal baggage. And I can attest that anxiety about ANYTHING is likely to limped one, especially anxiety about limpness. 15 years ago I found going on Zoloft (an SSRI) actually helped me get it up because I felt better emotionally -- and they lasted longer because Zoloft made it take a long time (like half an hour) to finally cum. Of course eventually I ran into that diminished-libido side-effect, but for a few years there I basked in my studliness.

Consider also Justinian's mention of "crystal dick": I got it from all kinds of stimulants (crystal, Ritalin, cocaine, ephedrine) and even decongestants (both pseudoephedrine and the phenylephrine they've replaced it with). I wish I'd've put two and wo together about that before I was 28, but I didn't know any men well enough to discuss impotence -- and they hadn't commercialized the Net yet. And hey, what's so bad about "boner pills"? If you're prone to bad migraines I'd avoid Viagra (unless it seems a decent trade-off or you have a stock of migraine meds already), but otherwise why not? It'd damage MY ego more to stay limp.
posted by davy at 7:10 PM on February 14, 2007

Two comments:

1) I'll second (third?) the suggestions that you look into the side effects of your ADHD drugs.

2) I will reccommend to you a book that will do wonders for your erectile problems, if you stick to the exercises within. It's called "The Multi-Orgasmic Man". If you can get past the cheese (and there are Roquefortian amounts therein) and the pseudo-spiritual hokum, the exercises alone will do wonders for you. Biological couplings do not favor long-lasting erections, b/c the point is to get in, deliver the payload as quickly as possible, and get out. It is not enough that you are physically active and a personal trainer - you need to exercise the actual muscles involved themselves. Combining this with deep-breathing exercises, and mind-over-matter practice should help you overcome your issues within a few weeks. It has worked so well for "people I know", that they actually got to the point that they could will themselves to full erections and eventual orgasm without any physical stimulation whatsoever. Like anything worth doing well, it takes a lot of practice, and does not, unfortunately come naturally (all puns intended). Good luck!
posted by piedrasyluz at 8:09 PM on February 14, 2007

Seriously, if you're on Dexedrine or Ritalin or something, that'll make it difficult to get an boner for sure.
posted by nathancaswell at 9:07 AM on February 15, 2007

“Cheap man’s Viagra”?
posted by dgaicun at 11:51 AM on February 19, 2007

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