SEXUAL HEALTH: A stressful life is bad for the bedroom

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By JOACHIM OSUR
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Lois came to the sexology clinic because she was sexually dissatisfied with her husband. It had been six months of no sex in their 11-year old marriage. Before that, her man had suffered repeated episodes of erection failure. “The few times he did get an erection, it was flaccid and short-lived,” Lois explained. “You can only imagine how that can be frustrating to a faithful wife.”

Lois suspected that her husband was getting sexual satisfaction elsewhere, and had angrily told him she didn’t want to have sex with him anymore. “I thought he was no longer interested in me because I had gained too much weight after bearing our two children, a very hurtful thought,” she explained sadly.

And so for six months the couple kept off each other. The relationship got strained and unfortunately Andrew, Lois’ husband, threw himself into his work. He stayed late at work and came home after everyone was asleep. He woke up and left the house early. He paid no attention to their two children anymore.

“So how can I help you?” I asked, lots of thoughts going through my mind due to the complexity of the case. You see, the man, who was the one having a problem, had not come to the clinic. Erection failure or erectile dysfunction (ED) is a complex symptom that requires a thorough assessment for its cause to be pinpointed. I needed Andrew to come see me himself.

VICTIM OF THE RELATIONSHIP

“What do you mean that it is a symptom of complex problems?” Lois asked, frowning. ED is simply a failure to be aroused sexually. This could be due to the derangement of some chemicals in the brain such as dopamine. It could also be due to hormonal problems such as low testosterone, high prolactin and so on.

What we are also seeing at the clinic is a rise in cases of diabetes and hypertension, usually accompanied by obesity. Most of the affected people have high cholesterol. These diseases destroy blood vessels, including those in the penis, making erections impossible. Further still, the diseases can destroy nerves, and if the nerves of the penis are affected, erections fail. People with heart, kidney, liver and other chronic illnesses may similarly get ED either from the diseases or from the medicines used to treat them.

Stressful lifestyles are also contributing to ED quite a bit these days. Many people work two jobs to get by, and have no time to relax or get adequate sleep. A physically worn out, sleep-deprived body is too weak to have an erection and you should expect ED to befall you any time if this is your lifestyle.

But emotional distress is even more dangerous for ED. If you are consistently emotionally distressed due to social, economic or relationship pressures, you can be sure to lose erections. Being annoyed with your intimate partner all the time, and feeling undermined or frustrated are bad for your erections. Further, feeling like a victim in the relationship can lead to ED. All these are further complicated by anxiety and depression, which are bound to set in as part of the relationship problem or as a result of the ED itself.

“So can’t you just give me some medicine for him to try then if it fails he can come for full assessment?” Lois asked, realising that my explanation was taking longer than she had anticipated.

Unfortunately that was not possible. We get this kind of request all the time at the clinic. In fact, people make phone calls asking for tablets to swallow to get erections immediately. Sometimes they call from the bathroom with their partner in the bed waiting for action yet the erection has failed. There is however no alternative to a thorough assessment and treatment of the cause of the ED.

Andrew came to the clinic a few days later. A full assessment found that he had a stressful career and relationship difficulties, and both had taken a toll on his sex life. He had to undergo a lifestyle change. Further, the couple went through intimacy coaching. It was another six months before they resumed having sex.

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