The Library

What is Erectile Dysfunction?

2 Min Read
What is Erectile Dysfunction?

What’s standing between you and good sex?

Often, it goes beyond whether you’re single or you know someone who is interested in having sex with you... At BTBz, we often talk about the psychological stuff — the things that are in your head. They include anxiety, past trauma, and all those instances in which your body and brain don’t sync up. (That’s called arousal nonconcordance, if you need a refresher.) After all — and like we often say —  the most important sexual organ is the brain

But sex is — obviously — also physical, and physical hangups can and do impact your ability to find sexual fulfillment, too. Perhaps one of the more famous of these is erectile dysfunction, or ED.

What is ED?

ED is a relatively common condition that affects people with male sex organs. In other words, it’s people with penises (and we’re avoiding the term “men” because we want to include people who have that appendage but who aren’t men!) As the name suggests, ED refers to when a penis doesn’t quite work as expected, or when it can’t maintain a sufficiently erect state when someone is aroused. The majority of ED cases are rooted in physiological stressors; though, as frequent readers might have guessed by now, psychology does occasionally come into play.

Three Main Causes

According to the book Orgasms by Lou Paget, there are three main causes of ED:

  • Failure to fill: For someone to get an erection, their body must direct sufficient blood flow to the penis. If this flow is disrupted, it can lead to erectile dysfunction, even when the person is aroused.
  • Failure to store: Sometimes your body can start to have an erection, but you might “lose it” soon after. This likely has to do with the tunica, a fibrous coat that “traps” blood in the penis in order to maintain its erect state. If, for some reason, this trap malfunctions, the blood will simply drain out and re-enter circulation. Thus, you lose the erection.
  • Failure to initiate: This is the psychological stuff. Anxiety, fear, or insecurity — particularly as it’s related to new sexual encounters — can stop an erection before it has the chance to start.

It's More Common Than You May Think

Since many different factors can contribute to ED, it’s an incredibly common experience. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, up to 30 million Americans live with some form of ED. You wouldn’t know it from how little people talk about it though, and the stigma that goes along with it.  

Is ED Really About Age?

The diagnosis itself includes the word “dysfunction,” which carries a very negative connotation. And the fact that many people associate ED with aging doesn’t help either. As a result, people might feel discouraged from seeking medical help. 

However, it’s important to note that compromised mental or physical health is the true cause of ED, not someone’s age. In fact, ED can be one of the symptoms of a more serious condition. So approaching it like any other medical condition — without judgment or blame on the patient, and with the help of a trained medical professional — can be the difference between your health and illness, as well as a satisfying sex life and one that leaves you searching for more.