Impotence, also referred to as erectile dysfunction, is the inability for a male to either achieve an erection, or maintain an erection during sexual intercourse. Many men will experience it at least once during their life, and there are many different causes for it.
The most common form of erectile dysfunction is the inability for a male to initially achieve an erection that is sufficient enough for penetration in order to have sexual intercourse. The causes are either physical or psychological.
In cases where the cause is psychological, there are a range of factors that can bring about impotence. These include stress, anxiety, and depression.
In the case of anxiety, the most common reason relates to performance anxiety, that is, one’s worry about their ability to achieve an erection, or one’s worry about their performance during sexual intercourse. Difficulty in achieving an erection is one of the body's responses to this anxiety, as it enters ‘fight or flight’ mode, in which it directs blood only to those parts of the body which can aid fight or flight, thus preventing blood from sufficiently flowing to the penis.
Common physical causes of impotence include smoking, alcohol, diabetes, obesity, and certain medications. Other causes may include deteriorated arteries which can affect blood flow, cerebral and spinal cord injuries, and abdominal or prostate surgery.
Treatment will vary depending on the root cause of one’s impotence. Many psychological cases of impotence can be solved through counselling, although temporarily using a form of medication can help confidence in cases of performance anxiety.