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Adult male looking in a mirror at his beard growth.

The Relationship Between ED and Men’s Body Confidence

What comes to mind when you think of an ideal man? You know, the masculine type? Chances are you’ve pictured one of the superheroes like the Aquaman. Or maybe an athlete, like LeBron James. 

In our modern imagination a perfect man is tall, lean and muscular. We see him on covers of magazines and huge billboards on the way to work. It’s not just women today who compare themselves to supermodels and worry about the extra pounds.

Studies reveal men’s body image issues

A big 2016 study of men’s self-esteem revealed high levels of dissatisfaction with physical appearance, weight and muscularity. Gay men were a bit more worried about their looks than heterosexual guys. In both groups overweight or obese men were the least satisfied with their reflection in the mirror.

Another British study pointed out that men who internalized the “athletic appearance-ideal” had more body image issues than those who did not have the tendency to compare themselves to muscular men.

Low body confidence may lead to ED

What does it all have to do with ED? Low self-esteem can trigger so-called performance anxiety. The more you worry about your looks in bed, the more stressed you become. All this tension may lead to erectile difficulties.

A vicious circle begins. After the first episode of ED, you are even more concerned about every possible aspect of your intimate relationship. The lack of six-pack abs turns into a silent drama. More stress ensues and erectile problems return.

Is there a way out of this trap? Sure, you might think. I need to go on a diet and hit the gym. If I look better, I’ll stop worrying about it and my ED will be a thing of the past. Well, you may be right. But only partly right.

Ways to improve your self-esteem

Even if you loose the extra pounds and build those killer pecs, your well-being will always depend on external factors. What happens when you get sick and can no longer continue to work out? What happens when you age and your body starts changing, despite all your best efforts?

Bodybuilder lifting a barbell.

Get real about your goals. It might take years to look like a bodybuilder. 

The best way to feel good about yourself is to ditch the comparisons and perfectionism. Be honest with yourself – what do you really want? Is this your life’s goal to look like Dwayne Johnson? Do you want to look like him for yourself? Or to attract your partner or lover? Does s(he) even find this type handsome? Have you ever asked?

If you feel losing weight and toning your muscles will make you happier, by all means go ahead but be realistic. If you’re currently overweight and out of shape, getting to bodybuilder level might take you years. What are you going to do with your life and relationship in the meantime?

Dealing with ED when you have body image issues

Young adult couple lying down kissing.

Focus on intimacy while you work out your body image issues

Significant change takes time. It doesn’t mean your sex life has to be put on hold because of anxiety-related ED. Using medication such as Viagra to achieve and maintain an erection will help you reduce stress levels in intimate contacts. One less thing to worry about.

It’s very likely that your erectile difficulties are temporary. Once you’ve worked on your self-confidence and gained some healthy distance from unrealistic ideals, you may realize you don’t need treatment anymore. But in times of crisis, it may be the best solution for you and your partner.

If you’ve never used erectile treatment before, talk to your doctor or click here to visit our Erectile Dysfunction page and consult one of our licensed physicians anonymously online. They will help you choose the best solution so you can start enjoying intimacy again.

Anka Grzywacz is a sexologist, reproductive health expert and Certified Sex Coach™. In her online practice she helps busy parents solve their intimate problems.