PENIS-RELATED DISORDERS – ARE YOU JUST IMAGINING IT?

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Be they sexually active or not, young or old, male or female, most people tend to, at some point in their lives, experience a sexually-related disorder or issue at least once. Whether they are physical or psychological, sexual issues can be traced back to health issues, changes in one’s life circumstances, or even stress levels.

A concern or ‘sexual disorder’ is defined as such when it starts to cause the person a great deal of negative emotions and irritation or pain. Unfortunately, many of these are still hard to classify and even harder to medically understand, especially those which have different psychological and emotional factors at their roots.

In our society, there is and has always been (wrongly so, I believe) a certain emphasis on men’s masculinity and sexual prowess as a definition of that individual’s strength, self-worth, and so-called ‘manhood’. Perhaps, this is why a high percentage of males seem to suffer from a number of penis-related disorders, most of them mainly brought on by psychological tension and expectations, even though these may not be the only cause.

Small Penis Syndrome (SPS), for example, is the anxiety of believing that one’s penis is too small – even though this is not the case. A study published in the ‘British Journal of Urology International’ some years ago maintains that 45% of men are convinced that their penis is not adequate. The doctors who carried out the research cautioned that male complaints about the size of their penis are to be taken seriously, as the issue itself could cause anxiety, shame, low self-esteem, depression and other emotionally-related problems. This syndrome could be caused to a certain extent by pornographic material, which mostly fosters unrealistic and exaggerated expectations. Side effects of Small Penis Syndrome also include behavioural issues related to feelings of overcompensation, which could in turn, lead to unwarranted bouts of rage or jealousy and obsession with one’s appearance.

Erectile Dysfunction is the inability to get and/or hold an erection firm enough for sex, for the amount of time needed. Having erection issues from time to time isn’t necessarily a cause for concern. However, if this issue persists, it can cause stress, affect self-esteem and confidence and lead to relationship problems. Male sexual arousal involves the brain, hormones, emotions, nerves, muscles and blood vessels. Sometimes, a combination of psychological and emotional issues may cause erectile problems. For example, if a guy feels uncomfortable with his partner due to frequent fights and/or stress-related occurrences, this could affect his ability to perform. In most cases, however, erectile dysfunction is caused by underlying physical causes, such as heart disease, clogged blood vessels, diabetes, high blood pressure and alcoholism, amongst others. In these cases, it is important to consult a doctor, not only because the issue itself could be a symptom of a more serious problem, but also as this may lead to depression and psychological stress. Treatment in these cases may include medicinal and psychological counselling, depending on the case.

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Genital Retraction Syndrome (GRS) or Koro Syndrome is a psychiatric disorder defined by the anxiety and deep fear of the shrinking or retraction of one’s penis into non-existence. This problem is defined by some as being a culture specific syndrome, since it is mostly found in individuals in countries such as India, China and Japan. Unlike most patients in the West, whose mental obsession is usually not so pronounced, Asians generally believe Koro symptoms to be fatal, suffering from feelings of impending death, which together with retraction and loss of one’s manhood, seem to have strong cultural links in traditional Chinese beliefs. In extreme cases, victims of this syndrome may even resort to physical methods of preventing the supposed retraction of the penis from taking place – anchoring the organ with a loop of string or some clamping device in order to ‘hold on to it’. These forceful attempts often lead to serious injuries.

Priapism, unlike the three syndromes mentioned above, is an entirely physical issue and does not have any psychological connotations at its origin. It is a very painful occurrence which takes place when blood becomes trapped in the genital area and does not circulate to the rest of the body, resulting in the engorgement of erectile tissues which lasts for hours. This can be caused by certain medications, diseases, recreational drugs and even anti-depressants, as well as be a side effect of certain types of injuries or cancers. Priapism can occur in women too but it is not so serious or painful. When it comes to men, it is always treated as a medical emergency, since it can cause permanent blood vessel damage, scarring, loss of organ function, and even gangrene. Although it may seem funny, this is not a joking matter at all. If the patient has had the erection for more than four hours, a surgical operation is usually needed to redirect the blood flow.

Most women tend to believe that because the female sex has to face all the issues and problems associated with pregnancy and/or menstruation, men have no such problems at all. This is an entirely wrong concept, since men have their own stress-induced problems, not to mention health issues, which would be unfair to overlook, much less ignore.

It is also important to note that psychologically-induced disorders may often be as serious as physical ones, and it would be very wrong and inhumane to minimise or trivialise them, not only because they may have quite serious consequences, but also because after all, if we are not happy, comfortable or at peace with ourselves for any reason, suffering is not an option, but a reality.