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Men Devastated When Viagra Fails

Treatment of Erectile Dysfunction Affects Men's Self-Esteem

WebMD Health News

March 29, 2004 -- Men have high expectations of Viagra, and if the drug fails them the effects can be devastating to their ego, a new study suggests.

Researchers found that men are more distressed about erectile dysfunction than previously thought, and the media frenzy surrounding the launch of Viagra has dramatically raised their expectations of treatment.

The study shows that impotence has a considerable impact on men, "with most more deeply shocked than generally realized, their masculinity and self-esteem being particularly affected."

When treatment with Viagra was successful, men's self-confidence surged. But if the drug did not work on the first try, the study showed the psychological blow was severe and led to depression in some cases.

Impact of Erectile Dysfunction

Researchers say much attention has been given to the causes of erectile dysfunction, but little is known about the impact of the disorder and its subsequent treatment.

In this study, published in the current issue of the British Medical Journal, researchers interviewed 40 men who attended a men's health clinic in the U.K. and were prescribed Viagra for erectile dysfunction. The average age of the participants was 52.

The study shows the most common initial reaction to erectile dysfunction was a sense of emasculation.

"For many men, the ability to perform sexually and to satisfy their partner was an important maker of their masculinity," write researcher John Tomlinson, of the Men's Health Clinic at Royal Hampshire Country Hospital in Winchester, U.K., and colleagues.

This decline in self-confidence not only affected their sexual relationships, but it also had a negative effect on day-to-day relationships with co-workers and friends. Many men said they felt "old before their time."

Impact of Treatment With Viagra

Most of the men had first heard about Viagra on television or in newspaper articles and had high expectations of the drug before taking it. Researchers found many men expected to gain an instant erection easily and immediately before sexual intercourse.

Men who were successfully treated with Viagra experienced a boost in self-confidence.

But if the drug failed to work on the first try, the psychological blow was severe. Most tried the drug again, but a second failure just confirmed their negative feelings.

Researchers found all the men who thought the treatment had been unsuccessful expressed a considerable degree of disappointment, and they often attributed it to the media hype that raised their expectations of Viagra.

Many also thought the treatment was unsuccessful because it took the spontaneity out of their sex or because their sex life now depended on medical treatment.

Researchers say the findings suggest that health-care providers need to be sensitive to the effects of erectile dysfunction as well as the impact of its treatment.

"Erectile dysfunction has a major psychosocial impact on men, and health professionals might well also anticipate an impact on personal relationships," write the researchers. "The media have had a major effect on expectations of the effects of [Viagra], and in retrospect, less sensational reporting would have lowered those expectations to the patients' benefit."

SOURCES: Tomlinson, J. British Medical Journal, March 29, 2004; vol 328.

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