Every couple’s ideal sexual experience is to have a long-lasting, satisfying session that sends both partners to the moon and beyond in ecstasy. But sometimes, sexual practices are short lived because of what I like to call “the lack of enthusiastic penis,” also known as erectile dysfunction.

At some point in his life, every man experiences difficulty with “getting it up” and keeping it up long enough for sexual function, and for some, this can be a scare as well as a blow to the ego. (Yes, even Black men who are believed to be rock-hard champions in bed are stricken with an unenthusiastic penis from time to time.)

There are many men around the globe who often seek out help for this common sexual issue with great concern, hoping it can be resolved with the writing of a prescription or the application of simple advice from a urologist or a sex expert. However, ED is a problem that isn’t a simple issue to treat. It’s a complex multi-system dysfunction that’s often just a symptom and not a condition in itself.

Male sexual arousal involves the nervous system, blood vessels, the brain, muscles, hormones and emotions. A problem with one part of the body can cause an issue elsewhere, which could then be the ultimate cause of ED. While prescription drugs such as Viagra and Cialis are often referenced as go-to treatments for erectile dysfunction, there are several other treatments a man can undertake before adding another pill to the list of medication that he may (or may not) be taking on a regular basis.

There are several common causes of ED, and before any type of treatment can be prescribed, the underlying issue must first be addressed. If unenthusiastic penis has sent your sexual relationship through the floor and a solution is what you seek, take a look at these common causes of erectile dysfunction and their treatments to become educated about your options.

1. Health issues

In most cases, ED is caused by something physical. There are several health conditions that can be responsible for erectile dysfunction, but these are the issues that commonly plague African-Americans: obesity, heart disease, clogged blood vessels, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes. Low testosterone is also another major cause of ED that men can experience as they age. Tobacco use, alcoholism and other forms of substance abuse are also common causes. An enlarged prostate is a health issue often overlooked by Black men, yet it’s another cause of erectile dysfunction, as well as surgeries or injuries sustained to the pelvic area or lower spinal region.

2. Psychological blocks

The brain plays a major role in sexual arousal, so when mental blocks are present, maintaining an erection can become a difficult task. Common psychological blocks that can worsen erectile dysfunction include depression, anxiety or other mental health conditions, stress and relationship problems due to stress, poor communication or other concerns.

3. Porn overload

Pornography often serves as a source of inspiration for many men who need a visual while self-pleasuring. But sometimes the fantasy of pornography can become an obsession that begins to paint an unrealistic reality for men who believe the acting is a real interpretation of typical intercourse. Watching countless hours of “far from average” sexual experiences can dampen sexual relationships by setting unrealistic expectations of sexual performance, leading to a letdown (and penile deflation) in the bedroom.

4. Sexual anxiety

Whether the anxiety stems from a lack of confidence in sexual skill or insecurity with the size of one’s package, many men suffer from sexual anxiety that causes the penis to shrink away from the idea of having sex.

A man experiencing erectile dysfunction may be a result of one or more of these issues working together against his sexual desires, but there’s hope! Before discussing the pros and cons of using prescription drugs to give the penis a rock-hard mass, let’s look at some natural approaches to solving ED.

5. Treating health issues

If a health issue is the cause of erectile dysfunction, the first step is to treat that health issue. Many of the common health issues associated with ED stem from a poor diet and lack of proper exercise (obesity, hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes), so naturally making a series of lifestyle changes would bring great benefit. In some instances, medication may be prescribed to help with treating some of these health conditions, and if so, those medications should be taken as directed by a physician.

6. Lifestyle changes

By incorporating regular exercise and a properly balanced diet, men suffering from physical conditions that cause erectile dysfunction can keep those issues under control and allow the body to use blood correctly in producing an erection. If an overuse of pornography is the cause of ED, reducing the amount of pornography watched and accepting a realistic level of sexual performance can help.

Stress is also a major contributor to ED, so participate in activities that relieve stress (couple’s massages, meditation, recreational sports or other desired activities). Sexual therapy, relationship counseling and psychotherapy can help reduce sexual anxiety, sort out relationship issues or help treat mental conditions preventing erection.

7. Natural herbs

DHEA (a naturally produced hormone), panax ginseng (a Japanese ginseng root), L-arginine (an amino acid found in red meat, poultry, fish and dairy products), yohimbe (bark from an African evergreen tree) and pinus pinaster (bark of a pine tree) are all natural herbs and supplements known to help treat erectile dysfunction. However, precaution should be taken when using any of these supplements, as they may have an adverse effect on the body in conjunction with other medications or lifestyle practices. Consult a physician or herbalist before attempting to add any of these herbs into a treatment plan.

8. Now for the medications  

Viagra and Cialis are the medications popularly used to treat ED successfully. However, the downside to using these medications is their inability to treat the causes of erectile dysfunction. An erection can be maintained by using these medications as a supplement, but to solely depend on these medications to function sexually isn’t something that is recommended for long-term use. (Both help maintain erections, but they don’t produce erections. Only you can do that.)

Again, ED is a symptom and not a dysfunction itself. It’s the body’s way of telling a man that something somewhere within is restricting blood flow to the penis and should be treated. If ED is causing disconnect in your relationship, there’s hope! Consult your physician, have patience and begin a set of healthy lifestyle changes that can set you on a path to sexual satisfaction once again.