First Responders Have More Erectile Dysfunction Than Other Men
First responders dedicate their lives to serving and protecting others, but that often comes at a significant cost to their physical, emotional and sexual well-being. While we often associate first responders with heroism and bravery, the reality is that the stress and trauma of their jobs impact sexual health. First responders experience higher rates of erectile dysfunction compared to the general population.
I was recently a guest on the Code4Couples Podcast hosted by Cyndi Doyle, LPCS, NCC, CDWF, CCISM. We took a deep dive into the issue of higher rates of erectile dysfunction among first responders.
If you’re a first responder, you’ll want to uncover the potential causes for higher rates of erectile dysfunction and learn what you can do about it.
Even if you aren’t a first responder, you’ll benefit from the helpful ideas I shared about treating erectile dysfunction.
Read on for a summary of the key tips I shared on the Code4Couples Podcast.
First Responders Have More Erectile Dysfunction
Studies have shown that those who have experienced trauma or PTSD have a higher correlation with erectile and sexual dysfunction. Unfortunately, exposure to such traumas is all too common for first responders and law enforcement officers. They respond to stress with a natural fight or flight system. The stress response system, coupled with continued exposure to trauma, makes it more likely for erectile dysfunction to occur.
How Stress Kills Erections and the Role of Hypervigilance
We are biologically wired to lose erections when we are stressed. Imagine the caveman being attacked by the wooly mammoth - when faced with danger, the caveman needs blood to flow to the major muscle groups and organs to be able to escape.
When you have an erection, smooth muscle tissues in the penis relax and allow blood to engorge your penis, which is what makes it hard. However, when you are stressed or thinking anxious thoughts such as “Am I going to get hard?”, your body becomes tense.
Blood leaves your penis and goes to the larger organs like the lungs, heart, and major muscle groups. This is all in a bid to 'run away' from danger, just as the caveman had run away from the wooly mammoth to survive.
Plus, there’s a huge link between hypervigilance and sexual and erectile dysfunction among first responders. Hypervigilance is what keeps officers safe while on the job, but what happens when they come home?
Well, on average, it takes a whopping 18-24 hours for them to come down from the cycle, leaving them vulnerable to the effects of stress and anxiety. This can also ramp up everyday stress, making it hard for first responders to relax enough to get an erection.
The consequences of this phenomenon are startling, with law enforcement families far more likely to be impacted by erectile dysfunction. This unique combination of hypervigilance, stress, and anxiety takes a toll on the physical and mental well-being of first responders and results in them being more likely to be impacted by erectile dysfunction.
Men are socialized to “perform” and to be strong and masculine. This is especially true in law enforcement. One incident of erectile dysfunction is all it takes to trigger a dangerous cycle of hyper-focus and sexual performance anxiety. This sets up a cycle of worrying about your sexual performance that causes the fight or flight response mentioned above to kick-in, causing you to not get or maintain a good erection.
When you are hyper-focused on your erection, whether it’s hard enough or whether you are going to get one, you are in your head and not really present in your body. You end up missing out on other important sexual cues, like the touch and scent of your partner. This hyper-focus can even lead to rushing into sexual activity before you're truly hard enough for intercourse.
Are You Making these Common Mistakes?
Sex = Intercourse
When you define sex as intercourse, you are setting yourself up for problems. It makes sex become a pass-or-fail activity. If you end up with erectile dysfunction, you fail. What an awful experience. No one wants to fail at sex. Instead, you and your partner need to define sex as all of the pleasurable and connecting sexual activities you enjoy together, not just intercourse.
Thinking Your Penis is Still 15
That sounds funny, but most guys don’t realize that as they get older, their penis also ages. It doesn’t respond with the speed and vigor of their teenage years. It takes more physical and erotic stimulation to get and stay hard.
Many first responders with erectile dysfunction avoid sex because they are afraid they won’t be able to “perform.” They even go as far as avoiding any physical touch or any intimate act that might have previously led to sex such as a romantic dinner out. Avoiding problems never helps. It doesn’t fix the problem. In fact, it often reinforces the problem and makes the erectile dysfunction worse.
Not Talking About Sex
Too many people feel uncomfortable talking about sex and about erectile dysfunction. We are socialized to NOT talk about sex and it carries a huge stigma. Men feel shame about erectile dysfunction so it makes sense that it’s the last thing they want to talk about it. Partners avoid talking about it because they don’t want to hurt their spouses’ feelings. But it’s the elephant in the room. The only way you will begin to treat erectile dysfunction is if you tackle it as a couple and that requires you both to start talking about it.
Partners think erectile dysfunction is because they aren’t good enough
Many partners attribute the wrong causes for erectile dysfunction. They think they aren’t sexy enough, pretty enough, good enough in bed etc. Sometimes, this insecurity even leads them to worry their partner has erectile dysfunction because they aren’t attracted to them. This is 99.999% of the time completely false.
How to Treat First Responder Erectile Dysfunction
So what can you do about erectile dysfunction in your law enforcement relationship?
Sex is like a buffet with endless options to satisfy different cravings. It's not just about intercourse, but a celebration of your connection and love with your partner. If you think success only comes from intercourse, you're setting yourself up for failure. Instead, explore other meanings of sex with your partner and create your own sexual buffet. Whether it's playfulness or raw power, the beauty of sex lies in the unique and special bond you share with your partner. No one else can have what you have together. It's a place where you can be vulnerable and trust each other, regardless of any challenges like erectile dysfunction.
Talk About Sex and Erectile Dysfunction
Communication is key to creating great sexual intimacy. finding out what works best as a couple. It might be awkward at first, but the more you talk about it, the easier it will get. Be honest about your wants and needs! Have fun creating a list of what’s on your sex buffet.
Know What Turns You On and Off
Emily Nagoski, Ph.D., a researcher and educator, uses a clever analogy to explain sexual arousal. Just like in a car, hitting the gas accelerates you, and hitting the brakes stops you. To understand your own arousal, you need to know what turns you on (hits the gas) and what turns you off (hits the brakes). Plus, it’s especially important to communicate with your partner to ensure you're both on the same page. Knowing what works for you and your partner can lead to a more satisfying sexual experience.
Set up the Right Environment for Sex
Let's talk about the "sex environment" - it's all about planning, timing, and knowing what gets you going (and what doesn't). If you're short on time, get creative with what you can do in those precious minutes. And if you're feeling tired, take a break and come back when you're revved up and ready to go.
But it's not just about the physical stuff - your emotional state is just as important. Men and women have different ways of feeling loved, so make sure you're connecting with your partner in the right way. Women need that emotional intimacy to really get in the mood, while men might need a little bit of action to get their heart racing. So, set the mood, show some love, and get ready to hit the gas!
The Bottom Line
If you’re a first responder with erectile dysfunction, there are many things you can do to treat erectile dysfunction.
What's your takeaway? What's something you can implement in your life to treat erectile dysfunction?
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If you want to read more about erectile dysfunction, check out this post.
If you want to listen to my interview on Cyndi's podcast, please click here.
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