Can we cure ED by sheer power of positive thinking? In some cases, yes, research shows. A recent scientific paper revealed a fake pill called placebo delivered similar results to Viagra in some men. What is the placebo effect and who can benefit from it?
What is the placebo effect?
Placebo is used is scientific studies of drug effectiveness. One group of participants takes real medicine and the other one receives a placebo. Placebo has to be taken the same way as real medicine but it contains no active ingredients. Basically, it’s a starch or sugar pill.
Study participants don’t know if they are taking the real thing or a fake. If in the end, if the healing power of the drug is not much higher than that of the placebo, it’s a clear indication that the medicine is not that effective.
Interesting about placebo trials is that some participants who receive sugar pills experience an improvement in their symptoms. The sheer belief that they are taking real medicine makes them better.
Placebo use in ED drug studies
Throughout the years, many placebo studies were conducted for ED drugs, such as Viagra or Cialis. A group of Swedish researchers analyzed 63 scientific papers, documenting the studies on over 12000 men. The reports showed ED drugs do work and work well.
The paper gave some interesting insights into the power of placebo in ED treatment. It turned out men who suffered from erectile dysfunction as a result of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), reported much higher success rates in ED treatment with fake pills.
The significant placebo effect might be linked to “psychological factors”. It shouldn’t come as a surprise since PTSD itself is a mental health condition.
Lead researcher Alexander Stridth highlighted “the importance of taking into account the underlying cause of [erectile dysfunction] in each individual, which could also help determine what the best treatment option would be.”
Doctors should pay attention to psychological factors in ED treatment
What does this mean for patients? Essentially, physicians should take the individual needs of men into consideration. They should use their best judgment to decide whether ED has physical or psychological causes. This knowledge ought to guide further treatment.
While some patients will need Viagra to manage their symptoms, others may get better thanks to psychotherapy or stress management programs. Psychological causes are linked to 10-20% of ED cases.
Even if you suspect your erectile difficulties are happening because of stress, depression or other mental health conditions, make sure to consult your doctor first. He or she will order some tests to make sure the ED is not related to cardiovascular disease or other medical problems.
For some men, a combination of psychotherapy and drugs such as Viagra or Cialis works best. The diagnosis is not always straightforward with ED. You may suffer from a mix of physical and psychological issues. You may also have erectile difficulties because of the other medicines you take.
The power of ritual in ED management
There’s one more thing we can learn from the placebo trials. It’s not just about the power of positive thinking. It’s about rituals. A 2014 study revealed even people who knew they were taking fake drugs, experienced health improvement.
Researchers linked this surprising result to the fact of taking the pills regularly, going for check-ups and paying attention to one’s well-being.
While taking a blue sugar pill that looks like Viagra may not help you get your erections back, it might be a good idea to introduce healthy rituals into your life. Meditate, even for 10 minutes a day. Make a tasty smoothie for breakfast. De-stress while running or riding a bike.
Even if your healthy habits don’t eliminate the need for ED pills, they will help you feel better and can prevent serious illness in the future.
Most importantly, don’t be afraid to talk to your doctor about erectile difficulties. Educate yourself about treatment options (Click here to see what’s available). Ask questions. And ask for help. Remember, in most cases, ED can be successfully treated.
Anka Grzywacz is a sexologist, reproductive health expert and Certified Sex Coach™. In her online practice she helps busy women and couples solve their intimate problems.