Stress and ED
Stress is an important and necessary reaction in humans and other animals so that a healthy body can respond appropriately to real threats in life. At times of stress, blood is shifted toward the muscles, heart, and brain to allow these organs and tissues to respond to an appropriate threat. This is called the ‘fight or flight reaction’, and running from a real physical threat, (the flight), or preparing to fight it, can be life saving indeed. Unfortunately modern life is full of stress and stressful situations that are less physically threatening to life but nevertheless induce the stress reaction in people. Blood Restriction The penile blood vessels, like other blood vessels throughout the body, are controlled by certain nerves that reduce blood flow to the penis when the blood is needed elsewhere in the body. The penis also has other nerves that allow increased blood flow, engorgement, and erection. Because the penis is not an important component of the ‘fight or flight’ reaction to stress, at times of real or even imagined stress, the nerves that reduce blood flow to the penis take over. This contributes greatly to ED (erectile dysfunction), particularly if blood flow is already restricted due to poor NO (Nitric Oxide) production, and an unconditioned circulation in someone who is sedentary. So, after a day at the office that was stressful or in a situation where sexual performance is expected, performance anxiety can lead to ED. Challenges and Solutions
Deliberately decreasing stress can be a lot more challenging than increasing blood flow by optimizing NO production, or improving the ability of the circulation to provide the needed blood flow for good erections. If stress is a particular factor in your life, you will have to work harder to optimize all other factors described on this website and in our books. In spite of those efforts you may still have to solve the stress factor. What can you do to decrease stress? We give some suggestions in our book, and Web MD has some information that may be helpful. Sometimes just taking on fewer tasks or modifying your work schedule may be all that you need to do. Many people find that exercise helps reduce stress, and you’ll also get the positive effect of conditioning your circulation to maximize blood flow for erectile function.
Relaxation and Arousal
Relaxation is a learned response. Doing yoga or meditation, for example, teaches you how to relax. Just taking four slow, deep breaths inhaling through your nose is a simple relaxation technique. Once you learn how to allow your body and nervous system to relax, that will be the same state of mind you need for allowing the penile arteries to dilate. An erection occurs when the body is relaxed and when you are optimally aroused, provided your circulation is conditioned to provide the increased blood flow, and the ability of your penile blood vessels to produce and maintain NO is maximized. An erection is not something you try to have- it’s something you allow yourself to have by relaxing. Trying to consciously flex the muscles in the penis will prevent blood flow from filling the penile vessels. Only when the penis is maximally engorged and hard, can flexing the muscles temporarily make it more rigid, because at that point the outflow of blood is already constricted. Stress can become significant and be associated with anxiety and even depression. When ED is associated with significant anxiety or depression professional help should be obtained to diagnose and treat these serious problems.