Sexual healing: How alcohol, cigarettes and stress are ruining your performance - Evewoman

Between The Sheets

Sexual healing: How alcohol, cigarettes and stress are ruining your performance

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Dear Eve,

I am 49 years old. I don’t know what is going on with me. I am struggling to get an erection and even after I do, I cannot keep my erection until we are finished. I also used to want sex but nowadays my desire is low. What could be happening to me? Please help!


Dear James,

Thank you for your question. I can tell, even just from reading your question, that this is a rather distressing situation for you. There are many things that can and do get in the way of a man’s sexual performance.

One of the most common culprits is stress. At 49 years old, I would imagine that there are many things on your mind regarding family, finances and major life events. These would include but are not limited to marriage, divorce, death, graduations, births of (grand)children, starting a business, retiring, or even making or losing large amounts of money. 

My question is, how is your life going right now? Is there something that you are particularly worried about? Is there anything that you are particularly excited about? This is an especially tricky and unexpected thief of sexual joy because assume that all good things bring good consequences when in fact, sometimes good things bring with them added responsibilities which often mean added worries and concerns.

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What's your lifestyle like?

How are you living your life? Are you a heavy drinker? If so, you should know that alcohol is a depressant. It slows down your body’s systems which can have a direct impact on your sexual abilities. Think of it this way; how likely are you to sprint 100 metres while intoxicated or even slightly tipsy? The truth is that you are unlikely to engage in very physical activities like running while intoxicated so it is also unlikely that your body will be able to engage in the very rigorous activity that is sex; even pleasure feels like work.

While we are on this subject, do you smoke? If you do smoke, you should know that nicotine – aside from being extremely toxic to your body – has the added disadvantage of interfering with your lungs and heart, two main organs that you need for satisfactory sex (your lungs, to manage your increased breathing and your heart to help pump blood to your sexual organs).

There is a direct correlation between smoking and reduced sexual function so if you do smoke, it is in your best interest to stop or commit to reducing your cigarette smoking drastically. While we are talking about lifestyle, how well are you eating and sleeping? These two are easy to overlook but are actually necessary to a happier sex life.

Context matters

Yet another suspicion would be along the lines of your sexual context. You would not believe how many men complain about decreased sexual function only for us to discover that they are unhappy with their sexual partners. In such a case, decreased function or desire is really a matter of disconnection between yourself i.e. wishes, desires and even dignity versus your chose partner.

Perhaps you are angry with them or you are in a relationship rut. Perhaps you are generally unhappily coupled and have managed to ignore or push past those feelings until now. If this is the case, it would be in your best interests to seek the services of a couple’s therapist. Their job is not to keep you together so much as to help you work through whatever is going on in the relationship that could be getting in the way of your love life, in and out of bed.

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Health matters too

There is always the suspicion that your challenges could be as a result of an underlying medical condition. At the age of 49, I would actually strongly recommend that you visit your GP (General Practitioner), sometimes referred to as a Family Doctor.

Resist the temptation to jump to the worst conclusions, which can sometimes happen when you are already under stress with regard to your sex life. Let the doctor do their job by allowing them to examine you, treat you and/or make the appropriate recommendations.

Your role is to be honest about the fact that you have noticed a decline in your sexual function, and about any pains or other symptoms that you may have noticed -- whether or not you think they are related to your sex struggles. Leave the rest to them; your doctor should know what to do.

Here's a recap

I know that this is a lot of information to consider so let me summarise; pay attention to your stress levels, lifestyle, sexual context and your health. If any of those areas strike you as possible causes for your current situation, do your best to attend to them by visiting a doctor, a therapist or making the appropriate steps to manage the situation.

Sexual desire, performance and pleasure are biological functions so it makes sense that you would be distressing to feel like you are unable to respond as you wish. My hope for you is that something in this article will strike enough of a nerve for you so that you can pursue the necessary course of action. I wish you a happier, healthier sex life that is to your satisfaction.


Maggie Gitu is a Marriage, Family & Sex Therapist. She can be reached at [email protected]

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