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My Boyfriend Has Erectile Dysfunction: What Should I Do?

<p>My Boyfriend Has Erectile Dysfunction: What Should I Do?</p>
Dr. Constance Odom, MD Picture of Dr. Constance Odom, MD

Medically reviewed by

Written by our editorial team.

Last Edited 7 min read

When a partner experiences the symptoms of erectile dysfunction (ED), it can prompt a number of emotions to arise. In many scenarios, the unaffected person believes that their partner is no longer attracted to them sexually. Meanwhile, the affected party struggles with guilt, embarrassment, and frustration. Over time, these thoughts and emotions can drastically alter the relationship. There may be less intimacy in other aspects of the relationship and communication may be limited on the subject. This is common when a boyfriend is struggling with erectile dysfunction. The good news is that the condition has nothing to do with sexual attraction and everything to do with overall physical and mental health. Educating yourself on your partner's condition is a great place to start in learning how to cope and retain a solid intimate bond despite the diagnosis.

What is Erectile Dysfunction?

Erectile dysfunction, commonly referred to as E.D., is a condition where the penis is unable to get or remain erect to participate in sexual intercourse. This is frustrating for the affected male--both physically and mentally. Likewise, it can make it difficult for couples trying to conceive or those who previously enjoyed an active sex life. The cause of erectile dysfunction is not limited to one factor and may be physical, mental, or a combination of both. 

What Are The Signs of Erectile Dysfunction?

It isn’t uncommon for a male to experience difficulties achieving or maintaining an erection from time to time. Whether they are stressed, nervous or feeling unwell, it happens. This does not mean that a diagnosis of erectile dysfunction is imminent. In order to be classified as ED, the problem must be persistent. This means that over the course of several weeks or months, there are frequent encounters where they cannot get an erection or the erection cannot be maintained throughout the duration of sexual activity.

In this case, it is wise to consult a medical professional and mention the problem along with any other symptoms that are experienced. A doctor will want to rule out certain conditions like sexually transmitted infections (STI’s), heart disease, kidney problems, and diabetes. If any of these are detected, treating the underlying condition can help to restore normal erectile functions. If not, a doctor may also suggest seeing a mental health care provider to discuss mental conditions that can lead to ED, like depression or anxiety. 

How Is Erectile Dysfunction Diagnosed?

Before a doctor dives into performing a bunch of diagnostic tests, they will likely take a look at your boyfriend’s medical history. If they have existing conditions that are linked to erectile dysfunction, this will be helpful for the doctor in making a diagnosis. Pre-existing mental conditions or medications that he is taking are also helpful tools at this stage. 

A big concern when ED suddenly emerges is that there could be a more serious underlying condition. To rule this out, a doctor will want to perform a thorough physical examination. As part of this exam, they may include blood tests, liver and kidney functionality screenings, thyroid functionality examinations, testosterone levels and urine tests. A lot of times these exams will either rule out or confirm any suspected health conditions associated with ED. If further examination is needed, doctors may use tools like ultrasounds and electromagnetic vibrations to test nerve functionality. 

Despite the use of these tests and tools, many men are able to self-diagnose erectile dysfunction; however, it is crucial to determine whether it is a symptom of an underlying condition 

Causes of Erectile Dysfunction

There is no singular cause of erectile dysfunction and the condition can be linked to numerous other issues. Both mental and physical problems can be to blame, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that they are severe. In some instances, men can experience erectile dysfunction on a short-term basis due to excessive stress at work or because they are feeling insecure or anxious. These instances typically occur around big life events, such as moving, marrying or divorcing, starting a new job, a death or welcoming a new child. As your partner feels more secure or settled, the problems may resolve on their own.

Physical causes for erectile dysfunction are more common in men who already have health concerns or who are 40 and older. Some of these causes include:

  • Heart disease

  • Diabetes

  • Injury

  • Obesity

  • Tobacco use

  • Stroke

  • Brain tumors

  • Parkinson's disease

  • Peyronie’s disease

  • Sleep apnea

  • Cancer/cancer treatments

  • High blood pressure

  • High cholesterol

  • Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)

If any of these conditions are suspected but have not been diagnosed, seek medical treatment immediately. Erectile dysfunction symptoms may improve when these conditions are well-controlled or treated. In some cases, however, it may not be safe to participate in sexual activity. This is particularly true for those with cardiovascular concerns, so it is important to address any sexual concerns with your regular care provider. ED may also warrant further examination to check for certain cancers or illnesses.

Another common cause of erectile dysfunction is linked to treatment options for mental health disorders like anxiety, depression and bipolar disorder. While these conditions themselves may not affect a male’s ability to get and maintain an erection, sexual side effects are some of the most prominent side effects for those who take anti-depressants and other medications. If you suspect your boyfriend may be struggling with erectile dysfunction as a result of a medication, look into the medication and see if it is a known side effect. If so, your boyfriend can discuss these concerns with his doctor. It is important that he does not stop taking prescribed medications unless directed by a doctor. In many cases, a doctor will recommend a lower dosage of their current medication or they may switch medications altogether to alleviate these symptoms. 

Is Erectile Dysfunction Common?

When your boyfriend has erectile dysfunction, it helps to understand that the condition is a common one. Although it is hard not to take the inability to perform sexually personally, it is rarely ever linked to their level of sexual arousal or their interest in their partner. In fact, around 52% of all men experience difficulties in getting or maintaining an erection at some point in their lives. As men age, their risk of long-term erectile dysfunction increases as well. It most commonly affects men between the ages of 40 to 70 years old, although younger men are not immune to ED. One study, conducted by The Journal of Sexual Medicine, revealed that as much as 26% of men under the age of 40 have been diagnosed with erectile disfunction. 

Treatment Options for ED

In most cases, erectile dysfunction is a treatable condition. Before a treatment plan is decided, the cause must be taken into consideration. If medication is to blame, for instance, switching medications may be all that is required to eliminate erectile problems. When ED is temporary and linked to a stressful time or event, the problem will often resolve on its own over time. Despite this, some men are unable to identify a specific cause or otherwise are unable to resolve the condition on their own. At this point, they can speak to a medical professional about starting a medication to treat erectile dysfunction

There are four main types of medications used to treat erectile dysfunction, including:

  • Viagra (Sildenafil)

  • Cialis or Adcirca (Tadalafil)

  • Levitra or Staxyn (Vardenafil) 

  • Stendra (Avanafil)

The dosage and specific side effects of each of these medications varies widely, but all of them aim to relax the muscles in the penis. When the muscles are relaxed, there is more blood flow to the area. In turn, the penis better responds to sexual stimulation which makes it easier to achieve and maintain an erection. 

What Steps Can I Take to Help?

It is important to be a supportive partner as your boyfriend struggles with erectile dysfunction. The first step to keeping your relationship strong in these cases is to have an open line of communication. If your partner is feeling hesitant about major life changes or is stressed out, it may be helpful to give them space as they work through these feelings. Every relationship and individual is different; however. By talking about the issue, you can understand what your partner will find most helpful in this situation. Likewise, you should also express any concerns that you are experiencing about their struggles with erectile dysfunction. For instance, if you feel that their level of attraction to you has declined, it may be helpful to discuss this. It can be reassuring for many to present these feelings to their partner and work through them together.

Additional steps you can take to improve your sex life when your partner is struggling with erectile dysfunction include:

  1. Increase intimacy in other aspects- If you are unable to experience the same closeness due to a lack of sexual activity, try to increase intimacy in other areas of your life. This might mean cuddling on the couch, having regular date nights or holding hands.

  2. Experiment with new sexual activities- Traditional sexual intercourse is not the only way for you and your boyfriend to engage in sexual activity. You can use thi opportunity to try new things, like introducing sexual aids, pumps or other tools to enhance pleasure for both of you.

  3. Accompany him to doctor’s appointments- The topic of erectile dysfunction is not a pleasant one for men to discuss. It is a sensitive and highly personal topic that many are uncomfortable discussing with their partners- let alone a health care provider. By going along, it can alleviate some of the discomfort.

  4. Participate in healthy activities together- When the cause of erectile dysfunction is linked to health concerns or obesity, a lifestyle change may be in order. Whether changes are needed to lose weight or to improve heart health, there is comfort in numbers. Turn healthy activities into partner activities that you can participate in together. Whether this is taking a hike or preparing a healthy meal together, it will help with the underlying problem and strengthen your relationship.

  5. Share your feelings- In attempting to address mental health or emotional barriers that may cause erectile dysfunction, your boyfriend may feel as if he is being put on the spot. To avoid this, make communication a two-way street. If he shares concerns about work, don’t hesitate to discuss your own problems. This may make him more willing to open up than if you continually question him.

  6. Be patient- Even once your boyfriend seeks medical treatment or begins taking medication for erectile dysfunction, the problems will not resolve immediately. They may be ongoing and come and go over a period of time. While this can be frustrating, try to remain patient as he works with his doctor to find the best and most effective treatment option for his specific needs.


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This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your physician about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Nu Image Medical may not offer the medications or services mentioned in this article.