I had no idea that talking could fix my erection problems …
Andy looked up from the feedback form he was filling in, at the end of his sessions in our specialist sex and relationship therapy service. With a slightly bemused look he said ‘I had no idea that talking could fix erections!’ His GP had referred him to our specialist sex and relationship therapy clinic a few months earlier as he’d been having problems maintaining his erection when in a partnered sexual situation. Andy was quite typical of our male identified clients in that he would far rather have had a medical diagnosis for his sexual problem than be referred to a sex and relationship therapy service. He wasn’t big on talking about anything, other than his passion for fishing, so having weekly therapy sessions to talk about sexual problems was not high on his to do list. We had already joked about his genuine disappointment that he had normal testosterone levels and heart function, no signs of diabetes or cancer. And yet here he was, having tolerated sex therapy, with his erections pretty much back on track.
Andy went back to his feedback form and listed the aspects he had found most helpful about his time with us. He had found the psycho-education sessions on the biology of erections really helpful. Having taken his erections for granted for most of his adult life, he’d had no idea about the mental and physical conditions required to maintain blood flow to the penis. He’d certainly had no idea about the effect of anxious thinking on that blood flow process and the way that anxiety affects arousal. He noted on his form that having the time to think about what turned him on and what turned him off, what we call personal conditions for arousal, was a revelation to him. He had realised, for example, that being able to see his partner when in a sexual situation was important for him to maintain arousal, having recognised that his unreliable erections started when he was with a partner who preferred the lights off and the covers over their body. He looked up again to tell me that he hoped I didn’t mind but he didn’t want to write about his ‘mum stuff’ as he called it, on his form. He still felt conflicted about the impact of his mum on his sexual function. Having married a man with mental illness who had struggled to support the family, his mum had very little respect for men and had no compunction telling her son this throughout his life. Andy had connected his beliefs that he could never please his mother with a fear that he could never please any woman, which had not exactly helped in the bedroom when his erections became unreliable. He wanted me to know that he had made those connections but writing about it on the form brought it too close to home, so he left that part out. The most helpful part of the therapy, Andy wrote, was the realisation that successful sex was based on attention to his own sensation, rather than that of his partners. This had conflicted with his masculine code beliefs about the importance of giving sexual pleasure, which had led to anxiety about ‘failure’, which had inevitably led to the loss of his erections. He realised through self-focus and partnered sensate focus exercises that when he allowed himself to stay mindful to the sensations of touch, he stayed aroused. Simple really!
Andy then turned to the last section of his form and wrote ‘Talking actually helps hard ons! Who knew?’ and handed the form back to me with a smile.
If you would like help with a sexual function problem contact our Practice Manager, Kathy Freeman, in complete confidence on firstname.lastname@example.org