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What Does It Mean If He Loses His Erection – Again?

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Photographed by Kate Anglestein.
It is a natural part of the circle of life: flaccid, erect, flaccid, erect. But what does it really mean when your sexual partner can't keep it up?

Well, firstly it's unlikely to be you. Abuse of drugs, cigarettes and alcohol, as well as low levels of testosterone and stress are much more common reasons for a man to lose his mojo, but sometimes it's a larger problem. The Independent reported in January of this year that ED (erectile dysfunction) is becoming increasingly prevalent in younger men and also suggested that men who eat Mediterranean diets (high in fruit, vegetables, olives and red meat) suffer from ED less than other men.

According to the NHS there are myriad reasons why a man might not be able to stay hard and many are psychological. In fact, it's highly unlikely in men under 40 for the problem to be physical. The problem is much more likely to lie with sexual abuse, stress, anxiety, depression and performance anxiety.

We spoke to Stefan Walters, psychological therapist at Harley Therapy about ED; about how to help your partner if they're suffering from ED, and some of the possible reasons why he might be failing to stand to attention.

Why might a man lose his erection?
This exact question brings a lot of men (or their partners) into therapy; hoping to understand why this is happening to them, and how to resolve the issue. It's important to rule out any physiological causes at first, so a visit to the GP is always recommended. After that, there are any number of causes - such as performance anxiety, negative associations with sex due to bad experiences in the past, other sources of stress, and so on - and it's these underlying triggers that are preventing the man from being fully present during sex, and unable to remain fully aroused. So the best thing to do is to explore and identify these triggers, and to then work on either resolving them or being able to put them aside, so that they're not impacting one's sex life.

Does it mean he's not attracted to you?
Absolutely not. In fact it often has absolutely nothing to do with the partner but is simply caused by an issue that is being played out in the man's mind, and that has become obstructive to his sexual enjoyment.

What does it mean if a man loses and gains, then loses and gains his erection?
Again, there could be any number of underlying reasons for this, but this would suggest a fluctuation in the man's ability to be present and in the moment. The distracting thoughts and feelings may come and go, or may have a different intensity from one day to the next, and the man's erection may be impacted in correlation to this.

What's the best thing you can do when it happens?
Talk about it! Be open and honest. Identify any thoughts or feelings or concerns which might be causing it, without any sense of blame or expectation. It's really important that the man can feel supported and safe, and have a collaborative approach to addressing the issue.

And the worst?
Bottle it up. This can lead to rumination or feelings of guilt and shame.

When should you begin to worry?

If it's an ongoing issue and really starts to impact your sex life, then it's probably time to go and discuss the issue with a professional. Erectile dysfunction can be an early precursor for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure, so it's good to look into it as soon as possible.

How common is it?
Extremely common. Statistics suggest that at least half of all men may experience erectile dysfunction at some time in their lives. It's an issue that comes up all the time in therapy, and can often be resolved, so there's no need to feel ashamed to discuss it, or to put off seeking advice.

If you have questions, or are concerned about your sexual health, please consult your doctor, a sexual health clinic or visit NHS.uk.

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