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How Men and Couples Can Cope with Erectile Dysfunction

Updated on September 17, 2019
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Robert Nicholson is the founder and president of the ED Treatment Information Center, a resource for living with erectile dysfunction.


Over 30 million men in the United States alone have erectile dysfunction. ED can be caused by many things, including vascular and circulatory problems, nerve damage, side effects of prescription medications, and psychological issues. Sometimes erectile dysfunction is a symptom of a serious underlying health problem, so for men experiencing ED it’s very important to see a doctor.

In most cases ED cannot be cured. In fact, it’s likely to worsen as men age. Lifestyle changes, such as better diet and exercise, may improve the condition but not entirely reverse it.

The Impact of Erectile Dysfunction

ED is more than just a physical issue. It can cause loss of self-esteem and confidence for men and their partners. It frequently damages and sometimes even destroys relationships. It can even trigger long-term depression.

A pair of surveys conducted in 2018 [1, 2] found that ED had:

  • “Some Impact” on the Self-Esteem of 45.6% of men, and a “Major Impact” on a further 41.5%.
  • “Some Impact” on the Feelings About Their Relationship of 47.1% of men, and a “Major Impact” on a further 33.7%.
  • “Some Impact” on their partner’s Self-Esteem for 24.7% of the respondents, and a “Major Impact” on a further 50.0%.
  • “Some Impact” on their partner’s Feelings About Their Relationship for 37.5% of the respondents, and a “Major Impact” on a further 42.5%.

The impact of erectile dysfunction is often compounded because men are embarrassed or reluctant to seek help. The surveys found that 26.8% of men are “Somewhat Reluctant” to talk to a doctor, and 31.2% are “Very Reluctant.”

A 2013 study [3] showed a good reason for seeing a doctor. The study found that men who are treated for ED show a significant improvement in their self-esteem and confidence.

While it may not be possible to cure ED, it is possible to minimize the impact… but it requires acknowledging and addressing the problem, rather than ignoring or hiding from it. If you have ED, there are four things you need to do in order to reduce the impact of ED on your life.

1) Acknowledge and Talk About the Problem

If you are in a relationship, talk to your partner about your condition.

It’s important to understand the ED is a medical or psychological problem. It’s nobody’s fault.

Neither partner should blame the other, or feel guilty or responsible. Talk about how ED makes you feel, and listen to your partner’s feelings.

Having an initial conversation will help defuse some of the negative feelings reported in the surveys. It will also provide a foundation for you and your partner to work together to deal with erectile dysfunction.

If you don’t have a steady partner, it’s also important to get comfortable talking about your condition while dating or starting a new relationship.

2) Learn About Erectile Dysfunction

There are a wealth of resources on the Internet for learning about ED.

There is also a wealth of misinformation, including sites selling quack treatments. Sadly, you may even find bogus treatments on doctors’ websites. A medical degree is no guarantee that a person is reputable!

To find sites that you can trust, look for a certification by the Health On the Net (HON) foundation – a World Health Organization affiliated agency that certifies sites for providing trustworthy health information.

Learn about the causes and treatments of ED, as well as how lifestyle can affect your condition. Having this information will help you to take control over your condition.

3) See a Doctor

Some doctors call ED a “canary in a coalmine.” It can be an early warning of serious medical conditions, such as heart disease. In most cases there is nothing to worry about – but seeing a doctor will help you to eliminate serious causes.

Your doctor can identify the cause of your ED, and discuss effective treatments both for the underlying conditions, and for the erectile dysfunction.

In some cases your doctor may refer you to a urologist for more tests, or to a counselor or therapist to deal with psychological issues that can cause ED.

There’s no reason to be embarrassed when talking to your doctor about ED. Doctors see hundreds or thousands of cases of ED. They understand it’s a medical issue, and not a cause for shame.

You may want to have your partner accompany you when you see your doctor. It’s a good way to share the burden, and your partner may pick up some things, or ask some questions, that you would otherwise miss.

4) Improve Your Sex Life

Strange as it sounds, ED can be a great way to improve your sex life!

Most people, at a certain point in life, put their sex lives on auto-pilot. They no longer think about exploring their sexual desires, or finding new ways to share with their partners.

Erectile dysfunction can act as a trigger for you and your partner to get out of your rut, and find ways to rejuvenate your sex life.

There are some great resources on the web for couples dealing with ED, but for many people, it’s hard to have open and honest conversations about sex. You may want to schedule some sessions with a sex coaches or counselor, to make the conversations easier.

Jennifer Stephan, an intimacy coach who specializes in dealing with erectile dysfunction, says "This isn’t something you work through overnight. It is a process. You will hopefully grow closer together, respecting one another’s feelings, learn about one another, find new paths to explore and realize that sex and intimacy are more than body parts."


Whatever the underlying cause of your ED, or the treatment options you choose, it’s possible for men and their partners to maintain intimacy in their relationships, and avoid the impact of negative feelings.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2019 Robert Nicholson


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