Submissive Men More Likely to Suffer Erectile Dysfunction
Nov. 2, 2000 -- Say "erectile dysfunction" these days, and the response is likely to be "Viagra." Such is the power of advertising. But there was a time, not that long ago, when psychotherapy was the mainstay of treatment for what was then known as "impotence." Has it become outdated or irrelevant?
It shouldn't be, say the New England Research Institutes. In a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, the Watertown, Mass.-based organization analyzed nearly 800 men of whom more than 160 had erectile dysfunction, and found that men who are submissive are much more likely to develop erectile dysfunction than those who are not -- and that problem can't be cured by the little blue pill.
Regardless, psychologists say they are feeling the pinch of the Viagra revolution. "There's a very significant drop in the number of men who come into a therapist now for ED [erectile dysfunction]," says Paul Tobias, PhD, a psychologist in private practice in Santa Monica, Calif. "Their primary response is to see an internist and get Viagra prescribed -- or not prescribed. As a psychologist, this [seems like] you deal with the symptom, not the cause. It's very easy to use a Band-Aid -- but quite often it doesn't take care of the root cause."
But even Tobias admits that Viagra can sometimes be the answer even when a psychological problem is the primary cause of a failed erection. Take the case of a man with performance anxiety -- perhaps the most common psychological cause of erectile dysfunction. If you increase performance by prescribing Viagra, then the anxiety part of the equation disappears.
But, Tobias says, Viagra is not a fix-all -- perhaps especially when the problems involve younger men. "Younger couples need to work with someone because the issues are quite often buried -- issues of power, dominance, virility. Often ED is just a symptom of a conflict that exists between a couple."
Psychologist Warren Edwards, PhD, remembers the days when erectile difficulties were thought to be connected to males' too-early viewing of a vagina. "In the early 1960s, we talked seriously about that stuff. Now we're more recognizing that things have changed -- and we're once again going back to the idea there's some organic component in most men's erectile dysfunction."