Erectile Dysfunction Radio Podcast
Dealing with the feelings of embarrassment that come with erectile dysfunction is the subject of today’s podcast.
The Erectile Dysfunction Radio Podcast is dedicated to educating and empowering men to address erectile dysfunction, improve confidence, and enhance the satisfaction in their relationships. This podcast is hosted by certified sex therapist, Mark Goldberg, LCMFT, CST.
Transcript of Episode 25 – Erectile Dysfunction and Embarrassment
Casey: My name is Casey, and I am the podcast producer and I’m happy to join Mark for some special episodes of this podcast moving forward, and that includes today’s broadcast. I want to jump into our discussion right now on erectile dysfunction and overcoming embarrassment.
So Mark, you are a therapist, so I just want to back up first and foremost and ask for you to please define embarrassment. What is embarrassment? Where do feelings of embarrassment originate?
Mark: That’s a great question. Embarrassment is an emotion, like you identified, and emotions are a little bit challenging to give a clear definition to because I think each person, every individual is going to experience emotions a little bit differently.
Embarrassment generally is a type of emotion that encompasses feelings of shame, discomfort, and where exactly embarrassment comes from is a question I think that’s a little bit more broad.
I think we have to take a few steps back and ask where emotions come from in general, emotions are something that we all experience, whether they are positive emotions, negative emotions, and they exist in our experience, they exist in our brain.
What drives those emotions tends to be what we think. I think one of the questions that you might be trying to get at is, what are some of the thoughts? Some of the mindset that leads to feelings of embarrassment, and in particular what might cause a person to feel embarrassed around various aspects of erectile dysfunction, is that what you’re trying to get it?
Casey: Yes. Definitely, Mark, that’s really helpful. I just remember one time, and I have an education background, and we were taught, do not tell someone to not feel embarrassed, it is useless to tell someone to not be embarrassed because I’m assuming that embarrassment is something that you really can’t control. Does that make sense?
Mark: It makes complete sense. So the way I like to think about this is, if you tell somebody to go ahead and experience an emotion, they’re going to struggle to be able to do that.
I can’t tell you to feel sad if you’re feeling happy. I can’t tell you to feel happy if you’re feeling sad, it does not work that simple, but we do tend to have a little bit more control over though, is what we are thinking.
I could go ahead and ask you to think about a sad memory and by thinking about that sad memory, you may be able to evoke sad feelings inside of you, so as you mentioned, you can’t just tell somebody to not feel embarrassed, it’s a very difficult emotion to control as are many emotions.
However, what a person thinks either about themselves, about a particular situation, about a partner, about erections, those are thoughts that can lead to various emotions, one of them being embarrassment.
Casey: How do feelings of embarrassment impact erectile dysfunction in men?
Mark: When you talk about erectile dysfunction, there are multiple settings, multiple situations in which a person or man may experience erectile dysfunction. If we take as an example, a man who experiences erectile dysfunction when he’s with his partner or with a partner, and we look at the question of embarrassment, we want to be looking at what this man thinks about his partner, what this man is worried that his partner is thinking.
What expectations does he have about his performance when he’s with a partner? Those various areas can give us an understanding, or an indication about what might be leading to those feelings of embarrassment.
Other men may feel embarrassed about the appearance of their penis, they may feel embarrassed about the size, and that can lead to erectile dysfunction even when they’re on their own, so it’s quite a broad and complex question, and a lot of that will have to do with, again, the manifestations of the erectile dysfunction and the particulars of each person’s situation.
Casey: Does embarrassment cause ED or does Ed cause embarrassment? It’s almost that chicken and the egg type question, but I’m going to ask it anyways. What are your thoughts on that?
Mark: I think it’s a chicken-egg type question, I do think that it is a compounding process, in other words, erectile dysfunction or erectile function is something that really needs to be managed, it’s not so much a question of an on-off switch what caused this as opposed to, what is maintaining this?
Like we’ve spoken about in other points in this podcast, it’s normal that the guy is going to have an experience of not gaining or not maintaining an erection every so often. That’s not really an indicator of erectile dysfunction. When that becomes the norm, when that becomes the most common experience, that’s when he’s really having erectile dysfunction.
So the question becomes, what’s maintaining that? So absolutely, it makes sense that a man would experience feelings of embarrassment, potentially some feelings of shame around having erectile dysfunction, and that certainly can be more pronounced if he’s having erectile dysfunction in a partnered setting at the same time.
The embarrassment can lead to multiple trains of thought that can actually induce and maintain erectile dysfunction moving forward, so to kind of circle back and answer the question, the answer is yes embarrassment absolutely causes erectile dysfunction and erectile dysfunction can absolutely cause embarrassment. They can feed into each other in this really difficult loop.
Casey: Got it. And so many things in relationships come back to communication, so I want to ask, if you would recommend that a man discuss the feelings of embarrassment with his sexual partner, how would a man best want to navigate that conversation if you think it is a conversation worth having?
Mark: So it’s another great question. As a therapist, I would want to jump in and lean heavily in the direction of improving communication, finding the opportunities to communicate, however, I do recognize that every relationship is unique, and it’s not always in a man’s best interest to automatically conclude that he needs to go ahead and share this with his partner.
It really is something that I think each man has to look at the dynamics of the relationship. As an example, if a 22-year-old man is having erectile dysfunction in particular in a partnered setting, and this is a very new relationship, to go ahead and disclose deep feelings and to talk about that embarrassment at very early stages of a relationship could put the relationship at risk.
Whereas a couple who’s been married for 25, 26 years and erectile dysfunction has been a feature or has been present at various points, and that man wants to go ahead and speak with his wife about what’s happening for him, there may be enough safety and security in that relationship that it would make sense to go ahead and proceed to have that conversation.
To answer the first part of your question, I think each man has to assess what his relationship situation is, and perhaps speaking with a professional to try to determine what the next best step is to be able to communicate this in an effective manner that leads into the second half of the question that you were asking about, what is the best way to navigate that conversation.
Some of the important things to keep in mind are partners of men who are experiencing erectile dysfunction can be very sensitive to feeling like it’s their fault, feeling like somehow they’re not doing something that they’re somehow inadequate.
I advise men to approach these conversations with deep sensitivity to make sure that their partners are assured that what they are experiencing is not a result of a specific action or inaction by the partner.
And I would say, take it easy, meaning take it slow, you don’t need to disclose that first, initial conversation. Every aspect of what you might be feeling, how deep your shame runs. It’s okay to test the waters a little bit and to see; is your partner in a position to be able to hear you out ultimately?
I believe that if men are able to get to a point where they can share that embarrassment, those feelings of embarrassment will actually dissipate, I think in most instances, partners are a lot more understanding than men are assuming.
Casey: That’s really great feedback. I’ll just ask before we wrap up here today, if you have any other final thoughts on the topic of ED and embarrassment?
Mark: I would mention one other component of embarrassment, and this is something that I run into most often is men, a lot of times, they’re embarrassed to address this topic, they’re embarrassed to speak to somebody about it, and that level of embarrassment can really prevent men from getting out of that loop that we were talking about earlier.
My final thought would be that it’s normal to feel embarrassed. It’s understandable. You feel embarrassed.
As somebody who works with many men who are experiencing ED at various stages in various situations of their lives, I can tell you that this is very common, and it’s very, very normal to experience this.
Oftentimes, there’s a lot that can be done to make the situation better, and the quicker that you reach out for help, the quicker that you speak to somebody about this, the quicker that you face this yourself and are able to communicate and overcome that initial embarrassment, the quicker you’re going to find a solution that ultimately works for you and your partner.
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