Erectile dysfunction: treatment tips and at-home exercises to overcome persistent erection issues

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A sex therapist offers expert advice and tips you can try at home to overcome impotence problems.

By Sarah Berry

Erectile dysfunction (ED), also known as impotence, is the inability to achieve or maintain an erect penis that is firm enough to enjoy penetrative sex. While occasional ED is not usually cause for concern, persistent erection issues can impact your relationships, play havoc with your self-esteem, and can even indicate an underlying health condition.

The first port of call for persistent erection problems should be your GP. In the meantime sex therapist Sarah Berry offers her expert tips on how to go hard and go home:

What is erectile dysfunction?

Erections occur when the brain, hormones, emotions, nerves, muscles, blood vessels and maybe some stimulation come together in a happy union. When they don’t, a flaccid member can sadly lead to negative feelings such as shame, frustration, dissatisfaction or confusion— for both the penis owner and their sexual partner.

If you suffer from erectile dysfunction, these feelings perpetuate a negative cycle of fear and assumption that the penis will always fail them — and so it does. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Most penis owners have failed to rise to the occasion at some point in their lives. But it’s important to get behind what might be causing a persistent erection issue.

Erectile dysfunction treatment options

There are a number of erectile dysfunction solutions on the market that have varying degrees of success. Here’s some of them:

  • Medicines for erectile dysfunction

In 1997, Viagra launched and the spirits of ED sufferers lifted at the promise they could get erections any time they wanted. The reality is that a dose can come with an array of side-effects from a night-long stiffy to heartburn and even heart attacks. Now Pfizer’s patent is almost up, other drug companies are preparing to put renewed research and development into a better fix.

It is possible to buy Viagra online, but many sites sell fake pills which come with additional side-effects. Always buy medically approved pills (eg FDA in the US and NICE in the UK) and get checked out by a GP first.

  • Supplements for erectile dysfunction

There are a number of natural supplements said to boost sex drive. Panax ginseng, rhodiola rosea, DHEA, L’arginie, yohimbe, ashwagandha, ginkgo bilboa and Epimedium (AKA horny goat weed) have all been linked to improvements in erectile function.

  • Cock rings for erectile dysfunction

Rings of varying materials that are put onto the base of the penis can encourage any blood that has flown to the penis to stay there. Lovehoney has a great range of cock rings to choose from.

  • Penis pumps for erectile dysfunction

Penis or vacuum pumps can be bought from sex shops or ideally prescribed by doctors. They comprise of a tube that fits over your penis with a ring that seals around its base and a battery or hand-powered pack that removes the air triggering an erection that can reportedly last up to 30 minutes. They are cumbersome and can reduce spontaneity though can be used much more often than medication. Make sure you get one that is specifically for ED with a vacuum limiter and follow the instructions.

  • Vasodilator creams and injections for erectile dysfunction

When rubbed on or injected into the penis, vasodilators help increase the blood flow by widening the blood vessels. Ask your GP for advice.

  • Penis implants for erectile dysfunction

There are two types, both inserted into the penis. There are two main types of penile implants, semirigid and inflatable. Semirigid are always firm while inflatable devices can be inflated or deflated at will.

  • Alternative treatments for erectile dysfunction

Acupuncture, hypnosis meditation and mindfulness have all been found to help raise a flaccid member.

  • Talking therapy for erectile dysfunction

Erections are often a symptom of bigger issues in your life and relationships. Non-psychologically induced erection issues can still impact your relationship and sex life. If you’re finding it hard to take the issue in hand yourself, talking therapy for you, either on your own or with a partner, can really help you work through any issues to do with erections, your relationship and life in general.

  • Mindfulness and erectile dysfunction

Erections can flop or fail to happen if you’re feeling disconnected or disassociated from what is happening, or thinking too much. Get out of your head (not with drugs) by focussing on what you’re doing, or grounding yourself in the present. Try the following tips:

  • Make eye contact with your partner.
  • Make a noise or say something sexy.
  • Concentrate on the feel, look and smell of your partner.
  • Stop and reconnect with your partner – maybe hug, kiss or talk.

Erectile dysfunction exercises to try at home

If you’re not keen on supplements or medicines, there are a number of exercises you can try at home to either reprise your flagging penis or learn to enjoy your sexuality in a different way:

  • Go hands free

Most penis owners have had a long career in masturbating before they get to be naked with someone else. It could be that you have a certain style of masturbation that is hard for others to replicate, or that you feel generally less confident that another person could do it well enough. A way of masturbating that many clients have found sadly hard to admit is the hands-free approach of wriggling on a mattress. I would also recommend you try the exercises listed below.

  • Learn to play with your flaccid penis

Bernie Zilbergeld’s book The New Male Sexuality isn’t very new but has some great exercises to help tricky penises. The idea of “Pleasuring your soft penis”, is not to get hard but to get used to the sensations that touching one’s penis produces. With practice, when you are in a high stakes situation with a soft penis, this exercise can help you feel less negative feelings towards a soft penis and also help you engage more with it. Try these tips:

✔️ Put lube on your hands and spend 15 minutes touching your penis – experimenting with different strokes.

✔️ Don’t try and get hard, in fact an erection will only get in the way.

✔️ If you do get hard, carry on touching but also notice the sensations that occur when this happens.

✔️ At about 50-80 per cent rigidity stop touching yourself. Enjoy looking at it as it goes down. The session is now over.

✔️ Repeat two to three times until you feel you can focus more on your penises’ sensations.

  • Try this hard and soft penis exercise

The “losing and regaining erections” exercise, also in Zilbergeld’s book, can be very effective:

✔️ Touch yourself until you get an erection — either with mindful touches or via fantasy (best not with porn as you won’t often have porn available when you’re with someone).

✔️ When you get an erection, enjoy it for a moment, then take your hand away and let it go down – it can take anywhere from seconds to minutes.

✔️ Once it is soft, repeat the above steps.

✔️ After two cycles of this exercise you are done.

If you don’t get an erection in this way, think about what may have been preventing it. Is there anything else you could do to be more relaxed or aroused? You can look at porn if it helps you get into the groove of the exercise. Mindful breathing can also help, or any other stress-busting activity. Think about your mindset or the day you’ve had. Be curious about the conditions that may affect your arousal, such as a sense of defeatedness. I often find that there’s something blocking with clients. Repeat the exercise as many times as you need to feel more connected with your penis – with at least one day of rest between each attempt.

  • Experiment with lesscontrol of your penis pleasure

Most people find masturbating with their own writing hand to be the trustiest way to get an erection and feel less in control when someone else is at the helm. To experiment with less control, you can do the above exercise with your less dominant hand, using a masturbation device like a Tenga egg or a Fleshlight.

You could also try this with a partner’s hand. It can be very intimate asking a partner to help you with an exercise, but if you are able to overcome the feelings of vulnerability and feel that your partner is supportive, it can be very bonding.

If putting on condoms causes you to lose your erection then, even if your penis happily stands to attention whenever else you need it, do these exercises while wearing a condom.

  • Teach yourself to feel relaxed about your erection

The usual aftermath of an erection failing or not happening is two, sad naked people pretending to sleep, rethinking all their life choices on opposite sides of the bed. If you know it is OK to lose your erection, then you’ll feel less anxious and have more hope of having a lovely time regardless. This double bluff is easier said than done. It takes a deep breath, trust, communication and bit of preparation. Here are some ideas:

➡️ Think of some lines you can use, either to explain why you might not get an erection or at the point of losing one. These can include, “I’m a bit tired,” “I had a stressful day,” “I’m a bit nervous, you’re so lovely/sexy…”. This can keep a dialogue happening and help your partner know it isn’t them. If it IS them, then this is something that should be thought about and acted on outside of the bedroom.

➡️ Think about what you need. Is it for all sex to stop? If so, I often suggest to my clients that someone makes a cup of tea – it gives both parties a bit of space and tea, if you drink it, can feel very nurturing.

➡️ If you are stuck in your own head and need to get back into your body — which often happens when people panic and lose their erection —then maybe you can dial it back a little, hold each other and talk, maybe snog a bit and see what happens.

  • Take the pressure off

Some people only lose their erection at certain times. Maybe when receiving oral or upon having penetrative sex. Taking these things off the table can help relieve pressure. While some women will say they need penetration to feel satisfied, many attest to orgasming more through clitoral stimulation. Some men enjoy going down on their partner – maybe they could masturbate while doing so.

  • Try mutual masturbation

For a sensual, less goal-orientated time you could try mutual masturbation. Try sitting opposite each other while touching yourself and your partner. Taking it in turn to kiss and stroke the other while they touch themselves can also feel nice.

Having non-penetrative sex doesn’t have to feel like a sad, second best, activity. It can be a great thing for most couples whose sex life usually revolves around this. It can be a fun, relaxed and sensual way for any couple to connect.

  • Use sex toys with your partner

If your penis isn’t playing ball but you (and your partner) still feel like you want to stimulate your partner’s bum or vagina, then using a sex toy can help. If you opt for bum fun then make sure it has a flanged base to avoid it getting sucked into the intestine!

While some of the ideas in this feature may be daunting, it’s worth remembering that, working with your erection issues can mean that you are allowing your penis, yourself and your partner to be loving and also working towards being happier and healthier in general. Now that’s my idea of a good lover.

Net Doctor

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