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When an erection alone is not enough: biopsychosocial obstacles to lovemaking


Giving men firm erections is relatively straightforward these days; getting them to make use of it regularly in lovemaking is more complicated. Discontinuation rates for any of the available medical treatments for erectile dysfunction, including sildenafil, have been found to range from 50% to 60%. Thus, there is a disproportionately high number of individuals who fail to continue using medical interventions compared to those for whom treatment is efficacious. If not efficacy, then what factors contribute to this puzzling dropout phenomenon? This article discusses the psychological resistances of men, women, and couples that contribute to their stopping treatment for erectile dysfunction. Some of the factors that may be responsible include: (1) the length of time the couple was asexual before seeking treatment; (2) the man's approach to resuming a sexual life with his partner; (3) the man's expectations of how sildenafil will change his life; (4) the partner's physical and emotional readiness to resume lovemaking; (5) the meaning for each partner of using a medical intervention to restore lovemaking; (6) the quality of the nonsexual relationship; and (7) unconventional sexual arousal patterns in the man. To be effective, clinicians must go beyond the simple restoration of erectile function to help patients become active lovemakers again.

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Correspondence to S E Althof.

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  • erectile dysfunction
  • sex therapy
  • psychotherapy
  • combination therapy

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