Advice from a Sex Therapist on Overcoming Erectile Dysfunction

Doctors today are far more knowledgeable about the real causes of erectile dysfunction (ED). For most men, ED is a circulatory issue and can be addressed with medicines that target those circulatory issues.


By Dr. Neil Cannon, Certified Sex Therapist

Erectile dysfunction (ED) is one of the most common sexual health concerns that men face. Many men are so ashamed of their inability to obtain and maintain a firm erection that they come to me in secrecy. These men have equated their manhood to the rigidity of their penis. Every situation is different. However, some men even dodge relationships entirely for fear of becoming intimate and finding themselves with an uncooperative penis.

To treat ED effectively, first we need to explore the most common causes. The number one thing to do is rule out a physiological problem. If you have early-morning erections, then your plumbing probably works fine and your issue is most likely not physiological.  The same rings true if you can maintain an erection during masturbation.

If you are not experiencing erections under these two circumstances, however, you should definitely see a medical doctor, post haste. The inability to achieve erections can also be symptomatic of serious medical issues such as heart disease.

More Causes For ED

Another common cause is prescription medications. This is tricky because the older we get the more prescription medicine we tend to take. Many patients assume it is the aging process that is causing them to lose erection strength and sustainability. Oftentimes, however, it is prescription medications. Fixing the problem can be as simple as a visit with your doctor to discuss replacement medications that accomplish the same thing but without the sexual side affects.

Excessive alcohol, obesity and smoking are other common causes of ED. But one of the most frequent causes is stress. The stress can be indirect, i.e., financial stress. I have yet to hear a man say, “Thank goodness the stock market tanked. My erections are better than ever!” Stress directly related to sexual activity, i.e., the fear of not having an erection, is also a leading cause of ED and can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. The more we worry about not getting an erection, the more likely we are to not get an erection.

Fixing the Problem

Honest communication is the first step to addressing ED.


So what else can you do? Start with open and honest communication with your partner.  It needs to be okay if you do or don’t have an erection. While you are taking parallel paths to rule out the possible causes I mentioned earlier, you can also re-define sex. Great sex is all about pleasure not performance! It really is true: erections are nice, but not always necessary. Remember, lesbians do just fine! Erection problems can often be alleviated when a certified sex therapist gets involved in the process.

Obviously ED is complex and more than I can cover here. One thing I can assure you, however, is that the better your relationship, the easier it will be to overcome ED. Men with ED feel incredibly vulnerable. Depending on what your doctor says, medications such as Viagra, Cialis, Levitra can be invaluable – even if they are only used as a temporary solution to help you regain your confidence. (Editor’s note: You can buy Viagra online by obtaining a prescription on this website.)

Unfortunately, many men resist medications because they feel less manly. If that’s the case, set your ego aside.  Getting some “wins” is key to overcoming ED if it’s psychosomatic. Success breeds success. So even if it takes Popsicle sticks and duct tape, I say it’s time for you and your honey to address any dissatisfaction that exists because of ED. Of course, the other methods mentioned above should work a little better.

About the Author

Dr. Cannon is a certified sex therapist and couples counselor who holds a master’s degree in public health, as well as a doctorate in Human Sexuality. In addition to leading his practice in Denver, Colo., he teaches sexual diversity, attitudes and behavior at the post graduate level; serves as an expert witness; provides diversity training to corporations and is the co-host of The Sex & Intimacy Show – a weekly radio show in Denver. Dr. Cannon is a regular contributor to the blog. You can view his website at or reach him directly at
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