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Talking Your Way to Functionality
by Sam Folk-Williams

Many men have a standing anxiety about sex. Most of them don't talk about it, which is part of the problem. These men feel they shoulder a disproportionate amount of responsibility for the heterosexual sex act. Age old cliche: Women, these men say, just have to take off their clothes and, well, wait. Men, on the other hand, have to perform. With any performance, the cliche goes, comes performance anxiety.

Thinking About The Cause
If you're impotent (theoretically speaking), the chances are much better than not that your affliction has a physical cause. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), physical causes are responsible for about 80-90% of all impotence cases. The biggest are these: chronic disease (like diabetes or alcoholism), after affects of surgery, or any kind of damage to the arteries, tissues, or muscles around the penis. Another common cause of impotence is medication. If you're taking high blood pressure drugs, antihistamines, antidepressants, tranquilizers, appetite suppressants, or cimetidine (an ulcer drug), impotence could be a side effect of the drug.

If you suffer from severe impotence, you should see your health care provider to rule out any of the above physical causes. If your impotence is just an occasional thing, it could be caused by pure psychology. The NIH estimates that 10-20% of impotence cases are caused by psychological reasons (note that 80% of people with impotence develop psychological issues as a result of the dysfunction).

If It's Caused by Psychological Reasons...
If you think that you're in the 10-20% of men with impotence caused by their own minds, then you're in luck. This is the kind of impotence that's easiest to overcome (no pun intended). The basic causes are these: stress, anxiety, guilt, depression, low self-esteem, and fear of sexual failure. The cruel irony is that if you're worried about failing, that's what will cause you to fail. In sex as in life, if you are feeling stressed and anxious everything is going to be more difficult.

Treating impotence caused by psychological factors is easier than you might think. It might help to start by identifying which of the above feelings you're experiencing, and then thinking about whether those feelings are caused by sex itself, or by the relationship you have with your sex partner(s), or something else related to sex -- or if the feelings are coming from some totally different part of your life (like work, or money, or dealing with your family).

What Can You Do?
If the feelings are sex-related, one of the most important things is to become more comfortable talking about sex, talking about sex in relation to yourself, and thinking and speaking opening with your sexual partner(s) about how you feel and what's on your mind in terms of sex. Don't be shy, don't feel silly, and don't feel as if your thoughts and feelings are not valid, are stupid, are perverted, or anything else. There's no such thing as "normal" when it comes to sex, and it's just as strange and mysterious (and potentially wonderful) to anybody else as it is to you.

Basically, the more comfortable you are with the idea of sex, the more pleasant it seems to you, the more comfortable you feel with your partner, and the more open you feel in discussing and thinking about sex, the easier it's going to be to have sex. It may take you a while to get there - you may have to see a therapist (by yourself or with your partner) - but there's no reason it can't happen. The most common goal in sex therapy is to learn how to gradually approach intimacy and increase stimulation. There's no pressure, there's no risk, there's just you and your partner and your mutual enjoyment.

The first step to better sex is to admit that you have a problem (this shouldn't be too hard, as you and your partner are undoubtedly aware of the situation). Talk about it, out loud, and candidly. The more you talk, the easier it will become, and the sooner you'll be back in the sack.

"Impotence" The National Institutes of Health.

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