The pandemic has proved to be detrimental to our health, and beyond that of contracting the virus. The quarantine, social distancing and lockdowns have caused isolation, mental health issues, and caused an increase in erectile dysfunction (ED).

According to the Daily Mail, the number of prescriptions for erectile dysfunction have doubled in the last decade, and in June last year, Superdrug reported a 13 per cent increase in requests for erectile drugs.

But given what we know about the bodily functions that control erections, it is not hugely surprising that erectile dysfunction has increased at a time like this.

The ability to have a sustained erection — or any erection at all — is directly related to a host of emotional, physiological and psychological factors. In a nutshell, it’s complicated, and the added layer of a global pandemic has only compounded the sometimes troublesome nature of erections.

There are also the long term erectile issues for those who have had the virus. There is more research that needs to be done on the lasting effects post-recovery, but recent data suggests that COVID-19’s potential long-term effects on the cardiovascular system could result in erectile issues for people with penises. 

However, with or without COVID-19, erectile issues are very common. A quarter of men under the age of 40 are experienced ED at some point in their lives, and according to a 2018 study, a third of men experience ED at one time or another. 

If you are not feeling emotionally robust, your penis is going to struggle to attain an erection. Contrary to popular opinion, most instances of ED do not occur for physiological reasons. The vast majority of the time, ED occurs because of psychological issues, which can be related to shame, anxiety, guilt and fears about sexual performance.

The pandemic has caused stress levels to soar, we are all anxious about our health, and that of our loved ones and all that anxiety will have a huge impact on sexual desire, arousal and performance.

If you’re anxious about a potentially lethal virus, it makes getting erections more difficult. It’s not exactly easy to concentrate on sex when you’re worried about death.

This generalised anxiety leads to performance anxiety during sex, which then leads to fewer erections. It’s a vicious cycle, and according to research from The Kinsey Institute, which aimed to gauge the long-term effects of COVID-19 on sexual health, the more stressed and disconnected we feel, the worse our sexual health becomes. 

However, there are steps you can take to make your libido more resilient to COVID-19. Keep on to of your physical health, ensure you are eating healthy, and exercise regularly. Not only will being healthier boost your immune systems, but also your cardiovascular system.

It might also be a good time to use the coronavirus crisis as an opportunity to take stock of what we value sexually and redefine what it means to be intimate by having real, honest conversations about sex and to create a language with which couples can communicate without shame.

By taking the pressure off sex, we can be intimate without the added pressure of needing to perform. Putting pressure on erections will only lead to fewer erections.

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