Monthly Archives: September 2018

Men’s anxiety: How to combat middle-aged pressures so they don’t reach crisis point

Men’s anxiety: How to combat middle-aged pressures so they don’t reach crisis point

2018-09-25

The mid-life crisis is a common cliche, but an expert today explains how pressure to perform in life is driving many men into mental health difficulties.

our middle years can be a high pressure and confusing time, but don’t bottle up your feelings (or get a tattoo that you’ll regret later).

We all know the cliches of the midlife crisis – the sports car, the wardrobe overhaul, the desire to chuck yourself around at Arctic Monkeys gigs and, um, the affairs.

But there are reasons behind the stereotype.

There’s a wake-up moment in middle age when you realise most of your life is probably behind you.

Plus the stress of caring for a young family as well as ageing parents, while ­shouldering job ­pressure can take its toll on your mental health and relationships .

In fact, a report from the Office for National Statistics found middle-aged people are the least happy, have the lowest levels of life ­satisfaction and suffer the most anxiety.

And men are more vulnerable than women, who reported feeling more satisfied overall.

“There’s always been a clear ­correlation between how the economy is doing and the mental health of middle-aged men,” says Dr Rafael Euba, consultant psychiatrist at The London Psychiatry Centre ­(psychiatrycentre.co.uk).

“There’s pressure to achieve, which isn’t always easy, especially in times of economic hardship, and that can provoke a deep sense of failure.”

While women tend to deal with psychological distress by talking to each other, Dr Euba says men are reluctant: “Most men still think acknowledging they’re suffering is a sign of ­weakness, and so put up with stress which is more likely to come out in other ways, such as drinking.”

Have you reached a crisis point? Our Q&A could help you to find out, and learn how to navigate those rocky years…

Do you fail to embrace new things and feel the best is behind you?

Middle age can actually be a great time to try new things, says Dr Euba: “When you’re young there are many possibilities in the future, but by middle age it’s common to think, ‘this is my life’, and dwell on things you haven’t achieved.

“But you could argue you’re in the peak of life. Yes, if you watch films and read novels you’d think that peak time is the 20s, but people in their 20s make huge mistakes.

“By now, you’re ­experienced, you know what you like and what you don’t, you will ­probably have more money and freedom, so potential to enjoy life is huge. You may also look at life in a balanced way.”

Do you feel overwhelmed by stress, but keep it bottled up?

Planning your goals and reaching out to friends for support are key, says Dr Euba.

He says: “Stress often comes down to economic ­pressure and dealing with the system – providing for your ­family’s future and dealing with authorities over schools and care provided for elderly parents.

“You need to be able to delegate if you can, to compromise where necessary, to negotiate and to plan.

“If you’re feeling overwhelmed, it’s crucial to make use of your social network and don’t regard stress as a sign of weakness, but as a sign you have to plan things and get support from the other people in your life.”

Do you feel trapped or dissatisfied at work?

This is a tough one to sort out, admits Dr Euba: “Most of us can’t just walk out of a job if we have dependents. But it can help to remind ourselves of the norm – that it’s a minority of privileged people who genuinely love their job and earn good money from it. They are the exception to the rule – not you.

“Don’t compare ­yourself to others. These days, largely thanks to social media, if your life isn’t amazing it’s tempting to believe you’re failing. But it’s normal to have difficult days.

“Set yourself smaller, achievable goals and celebrate those wins and, if possible, try to carve out areas of your work that you’re in control of.

“It’s also important to understand there’s much more to being a man than how big your salary is and how far you go in the hierarchy.”

Are you anxious about your physical health?

Our bodies begin to decline in middle age and it can be a painful glimpse of what’s to come.

Dr Euba says: “The knowledge there’s less ahead combined with the onset of physical ailments can cause anxiety. Getting fitter is good for the mind and there’s growing medical evidence that exercise can help people beat depression. The key is, don’t overdo it.

“Pay more attention to lifestyle – don’t smoke and don’t drink too much – and just be aware of your body. Taking responsibility for your health will help you feel in control.”

Do you feel your sex life and relationship are dull? Do you want to cheat?

If you’ve been in a relationship a long time, along with a sense of stability can come a sense that life is, well, just a bit boring.

Dr Euba says: “Men’s sexual potency does start to decline in middle age, and although it’s more subtle than it is for women, it can affect self-image for some men.

“If that’s combined with a lack of sexual interest from their partner, many guys take that as a personal failure. These things make couples more vulnerable to affairs.

“It helps to know these issues are normal and seeking help in therapy doesn’t mean you’re less of a man.”

This Bi Visibility Day, let’s hear it for the “B” in LGBTI!

This Bi Visibility Day, let’s hear it for the “B” in LGBTI!

Today is Bi Visibility Day and this year we’re marking the moment with a brand new mini-campaign focusing on busting the myths surrounding bisexuality.

Bi people suffer many of the same abuses as gay men and lesbians – including criminalization, violence and discrimination. They also have to deal with an additional set of negative stereotypes, such as the myth that being bi is a phase or that bi people are promiscuous, confused, or just seeking attention. Some people wrongly believe that bi people don’t experience violations because they can “choose” to be in relationships that will be perceived as straight. As a result, most bi people fear coming out – even to their closest family and friends.

None of these assumptions are true, but they leave many bi people feeling misunderstood, isolated and at risk of harm. You can help change that!

Click on the link, below, to visit our new campaign action page, where you’ll find a new animated myth-busting video, advice on how to be an ally to the bi community, and a factsheet for those looking to learn more. Please take a moment to read up, watch the video and share a message of support on social media.

https://www.unfe.org/bivisibility/

This Bi Visibility Day, let’s hear it for the “B” in LGBTI!

In solidarity,

Team UN Free & Equal

www.unfe.org

India’s Anti-Gay Law Is History. Next Challenge: Treat LGBTQ Patients With Respect

India’s Anti-Gay Law Is History. Next Challenge: Treat LGBTQ Patients With Respect

2018-09-18

Two years ago, Shivam Sharma rushed to a Mumbai hospital at 2:30 a.m. He’d had sex earlier that night with a man who was HIV positive. They’d used protection, but Sharma just wanted to be sure he was safe.

So he went straight to the emergency room and asked a junior doctor for a preventative dose of antiretroviral medicines, or PEP — post-exposure prophylaxis.

Hospital staff “were absolutely clueless,” Sharma, 28, recalls. No one had ever asked for a PEP before, staff told him.

“They pulled out a massive manual on how to deal with sexually-transmitted infections and insisted I take something like 25 different tests,” he says. They phoned a senior doctor at 3 a.m.

Sharma felt frustrated. He had to fight for a basic prescription.

It was just like the first time he got tested for HIV, back in college. He went to a posh health clinic, and the nurse yelled across the room, warning a colleague — and anyone else within earshot — to “be careful” of him.

The implication was that Sharma was dangerous and dirty because he had identified himself as “queer.”

For more than 150 years, homosexuality was a crime in India. Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, a British colonial-era law, banned sexual acts that were “against the order of nature.” There have been prosecutions under the law. But more frequently, it gave police license to harass and blackmail gay men.

Section 377 drove generations of LGBTQ Indians into the shadows. It prevented many from fully embracing their sexual and gender identities. It complicated both patients’ and doctors’ access to information on LGBTQ-specific health issues. And it got in the way of access to vital medical care.

When India’s Supreme Court ruled Sept. 6 to decriminalize homosexuality, modifying Section 377, it opened a new era for public health policy.

In its judgment, the court said the Indian constitution guarantees all Indians, including LGBTQ people, “the right to emergency medical care and the right to the maintenance and improvement of public health.”

FYI: Masturbating Wrong Can Lead To Sexual Dysfunction

FYI: Masturbating Wrong Can Lead To Sexual Dysfunction

Do you masturbate? If you answered ‘no’, you’re likely to be one of those automated internet bots; or else you’re probably lying, according to a recent survey on sexual health and behavior. The study showed that for people in their twenties, 84.6 per cent of women and 93 per cent of men admitted to masturbating! But if so many of us are doing it, why aren’t we speaking openly about it?

Why is masturbation taboo?

Why do kids love to put sugar on corn flakes? This is because corn flakes are, well, bland; and this is no coincidence. The product was designed by a medical doctor called John Kellogg – a proponent of the anti-masturbation movement who intentionally made corn flakes neutral tasting as he believed a bland diet would reduce sexual desire!

This idea that masturbation is bad has been reinforced by other ill-informed health professionals of the 20th century. It was said, for example, that rubbing one out could cause blindness, cancer, tuberculosis and a range of other ailments – ideas which have since been disproved. And of course, since biblical times religious institutions have told us that masturbation is a mortal sin. Why is our society so uncomfortable about the simple act of tugging the slug?

Life is chaotic and unpredictable – we all know this, on some level. As a society, then, we experience an unconscious need to gain a sense of control over ourselves, our lives and our world. Sexual urges are natural and inevitable – we’re going to experience them one way or another. But masturbation is an act which we can choose to control.

By portraying masturbation as dirty, bad, forbidden and unhealthy, we are giving ourselves a wonderfully simple choice: don’t masturbate and you’ll be good; do the five-finger shuffle and you’ll be bad. This may be part of the reason why masturbation is a taboo topic: it’s comforting, on a psychological level, to have things set out in black and white and to portray something that we don’t fully understand as being bad.

Why should we speak more openly about masturbation?

Upon reaching a legal drinking age, an adolescent is likely to pay a trip to the bottle store. Ideally, the teen should also get a lecture on how to drink responsibly. The same should apply when it comes to masturbation! Let’s explore why.

1. Sex addition is a growing phenomenon

Can you become addicted to masturbation, or perhaps porn? Sex-based addictions and compulsions aren’t yet counted as official diagnoses in their own right, at least not by the American Psychiatric Association. But that doesn’t mean that these problems aren’t real! A visit to any sexual health clinic – or my own consulting room, for that matter – will show that compulsive porn use and masturbation (which often go hand-in-hand) can cause big problems in people’s lives. It’s by talking about these risks -and creating a space where people feel comfortable to ask for support – that we can combat this problem.

2. Incorrect masturbation habits are linked to sexual dysfunction

Some of us may have developed a habit of rushing through masturbation – we learnt this when we were shameful adolescents, nervous about being caught or overheard by our parents. Rushing the process, however, trains our bodies to do the same during sex; and this can lead to a form of sexual dysfunction called premature ejaculation, which can be extremely distressing and emotionally debilitating for men who suffer from it.

Furthermore, do you use porn to help you masturbate? If so, you’re not alone; but researchtells us that porn actually changes the structure of our brains, desensitizing us to sexual stimuli and making it unlikely that we’ll be aroused by anything other than porn. This can put you at risk of serious sexual health concerns such as erectile dysfunction and performance anxiety.

3. Men feel unnecessary emotional distress

While societies attitudes toward masturbation are slowly shifting (particularly for men), those who do wax the carrot often end up feeling embarrassed, guilty or ashamed from participating in this natural and healthy process. Women who masturbate are potentially at an even greater risk of feeling shame, given the taboo that surrounds female masturbation in particular!

Apart from being unpleasant, these sorts of emotions can cause unnecessary harm. One study, for example, found that men who felt guilty about solo sex experienced higher levels of general distress, anxiety, depression, alcohol use, relationship problems and general sexual problems! However, this unnecessary guilt can be avoided if we’re able to speak openly and normalize this ordinary aspect of our sexuality!

4. Masturbation is healthy

Despite what 20th century doctors – and perhaps your grandmother – have been saying: masturbation won’t make you go blind, become impotent or grow hair on your hands. Quite the opposite, doctors today will tell you that masturbation, especially when done correctly, is healthy!

The benefits are extensive: masturbating can lower your risk of prostate cancer and may improve your immune system; it creates a cocktail of feel-good chemicals such as dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin and also lowers your levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) which can protect from you from other stress-related illnesses. One study even suggests that masturbating more primes your body and mind for intercourse, meaning that you’re likely to have more sex; and if you know how to masturbate correctly you can program your brain and body to last longer in bed!

In my own therapy room, clients usually become visibly uncomfortable when we start talking about masturbation! Ironically, it’s once they start opening up about this important aspect of their sexual and psychological health that they truly stand to gain from what sex therapy can offer.

As a society, we have come a long way since repressive, Victorian times. Nonetheless, we still have a long way to go. We need to start combatting the taboo and stigma that accompanies discussions of masturbation, so that those engaging in it (i.e. everyone) can make sure that they’re accessing the multiple health benefits on offer!

Daniel Sher is a registered clinical psychologist. He serves as a professional consultant for the Between Us Clinic, which provides sex-therapy online programs.

https://www.menshealth.com.au/incorrect-masturbation-habits-are-linked-to-sexual-dysfunction?category=Sex

It Happens – Get Over It!

It Happens – Get Over It!

2018-09-17

 

Why treat sanitary pads like radioactive isotopes, asks Twinkle Khanna

You know that moment when you walk into a store to buy your pads and the shopkeeper awkwardly shoves it into a brown paper bag to hide it from the world, as if he has the right to be ashamed for you. Or the time in Ramadan, when you’re not fasting and it must be kept quiet, ‘chhupa kar rakhna’ – even though it’s not your choice. Even the moments where you discuss your period only amongst women, or when you’re stopped from going into the kitchen and told ‘achaar mat kholna’. You’re made to feel dirty, when really, you’re healthy.

Women across the country suffer as a result of this stigma and are all feeling it too. But that is all it is – a stigma. It is not the reality of menstruation. The shame associated with talking about periods needs to end. Every day we hear health complaints, this hurts or that is broken but the monthly cramps that many women go through can’t be discussed. Furthermore, pregnancy and childbirth are topics of many people’s concern, yet periods, which play a primary role in the process of reproduction, are considered a taboo.

The word ‘period’ can’t be said on TV, school textbooks discussing reproduction are taped shut, even mothers often fail to be open with their daughters regarding the reality of their bodies. If we, as the youth, begin to break these social barriers, we can ensure a future generation that understand their bodies and are not afraid to talk about the simple notion of periods. Period.

Personal Experience

Growing up in an all-girl school, being raised by female teachers who were too conservative to talk about periods, my first period took me by surprise. It was during school hours that I was first terrorised by the blood that stained my underwear. I turned to the women that I expected to take care of me and was brushed off and ignored when I needed them the most. I was made to stand in class, as their main concern was the maintenance of their furniture rather than a young girl’s distress. Several of my friends experienced the same thing as I did, and we were left to our own devices; made to, unaided, figure out the one thing we didn’t understand.

4 Common Sexual Insecurities, And How To Fight Them

4 Common Sexual Insecurities, And How To Fight Them

2018-09-07

Sex and anxiety go together like socks and flip-flops; i.e. not well at all. We’re all a little bit insecure, whether we’re aware of this or not. When it comes to the bedroom, however, us men are particularly prone to doubting ourselves. Unfortunately, sexual insecurities can have a devastating effect on our sex lives, relationships and self-esteem.

What’s the link between anxiety and sexual performance?

Anxiety can trigger various forms of sexual dysfunction. How? This happens because anxiety hijacks your brain and body, generating a burst of hormones and electrical activity that sends you into fight-or-flight mode. It’s impossible to have sex in this state because on a biological level, your brain is pushing your body to fight or flee – not fornicate. We discuss four common sexual insecurities faced by men and what you can do to address them.

Penis Envy

Most men would like a bigger penis, but why is this such an issue for so many? The short answer (ha!) is that our joy-sticks carry a lot of symbolic weight, representing everything from power and dominance to competency and success. We are also told that a real man should be, well, Khal Drogo from Game of Thrones: dominant, confident, aggressive and super ripped.

But nobody is all of these things all of the time; and so we carry a perpetual sense of insecurity, which we project onto our junk. Unfortunately, however, this can lead to serious self-esteem issues and research shows that men who worry too much about the size of their penis are more likely to face erectile problems and premature ejaculation.

Regrettably, there are limited penis enlargement strategies that actually work. While surgery may add a few centimeters to your flaccid penis, it does not change the size of your erection and it can cause serious nerve and tissue damage. Other strategies – creams, devices, weights and pills – are not effective, so don’t even waste your time.

So, what can you do? Keep in mind that statistically speaking, your penis is probably of normal proportions, despite that niggling voice in your head that says otherwise. Moreover, remember that in most cases penis size doesn’t really matter that much: research shows, for example, that only a minority of women are concerned about this issue; and 85% of females were perfectly happy with the length of their partners’ gear.

This means that ultimately, you’d be better off investing your energy into aspects of yourself that can be changed. Like what? You could work on your communication skills and take your emotional connection to a higher level. You could also work towards becoming a foreplay master. These skills will be far more useful in the bedroom than an elephant trunk in your pants.

Body Image Concerns

Body image concerns are becoming an increasingly common source of sexual insecurity among men. Who wouldn’t want to be stronger, slimmer and more ripped? Studies have shown that 40% of us are unhappy with our bodies and a quarter of men prefer to have sex with the lights off as a result.

Apart from negatively impacting your sex life, these sorts of concerns are linked to self-esteem issues, eating disorders, depression and more. But no one should have to feel ashamed of their body and if this is causing you serious distress or getting in the way of your ability to live a normal life, speak to your doctor or psychologist about getting some support. Apart from that, if you’re able to adopt a healthy lifestyle in terms of your diet, exercise and sleep schedules, this may help you change the way you feel about yourself by increasing your self-esteem and confidence.

Worrying About Satisfying Your Partner Sexually

Why are we so hung up on this, especially when it’s not necessarily such a bad thing? One study showed that men desperately want their partners to orgasm because this makes them feel more masculine. So, we’re obsessed with giving orgasms because we care about our partners, but also because we’re caught up in our own fragility.

What can you do? Remember that penetrative sex with an orgasm at the end is not the be all and end all. Rather, we need to focus on creating an experience of mutual pleasure. Sexually, this often means concentrating more on foreplay. But don’t restrict yourself to that: a fulfilling sex life is built on solid emotional foundations. Aim for satisfaction by giving her a massage, cooking her dinner and providing your undivided attention after asking about her day. All of this will ease the pressure and help you to realize that your relationship can be intensely satisfying, even if she doesn’t climax every time.

Falling into the Performance Anxiety Cycle

The three sexual insecurities listed above are common sources of sexual anxiety; and the big problem is that a single case of erectile dysfunction is often enough to make a man anxious about whether or not he can get an erection the next time he tries to have sex. After a bad sexual experience or two you might find yourself deep in the sexual performance anxiety cycle, which is challenging to get out of.

In fact, so many of us are insecure about our erections that in 2017, Pfizer earned $1.2 billion from Viagra sales in the U.S. alone! However, while drugs might work for erectile problems that are caused by aging or medical conditions, these sorts of pills fail to address the underlying cause in people who have erectile dysfunction that’s caused by psychological factors.

It’s common to worry about being able to get or keep it up. But because of the way that anxiety affects the brain, worrying about your erection reduces your ability to have one. Whether or not you’ve actually been diagnosed with erectile dysfunction, the best way of tackling this common form of insecurity is by treating the underlying sexual performance anxiety that causes erectile problems in so many of us.

wning Your Sexual Insecurity

Insecurity is part and parcel of being a man, even though so few of us are able to speak about it. It’s important, though, that we become comfortable with the parts of ourselves that don’t quite match up to what our society deems masculine. One way of doing this is by focusing on an aspect that so many men are acutely aware of: sexual insecurity. If we’re able to heal or at least accept the four sexual insecurities that we have discussed here today, we’ll be able to improve our own sex lives whilst also strengthening our relationships and ultimately become better men by being more open, honest and self-aware.

Daniel Sher is a registered clinical psychologist. He serves as a professional consultant for the Between Us Clinic, which provides sex-therapy online programs.

https://www.menshealth.com.au/how-to-overcome-sexual-insecurity

Do men really exaggerate their number of sexual partners?

Do men really exaggerate their number of sexual partners?

When it comes to sexual partners, what’s in a number? For one recent survey study, researchers at the University of Glasgow analyzed the responses of over 15,000 men and women and concluded that men are more likely to exaggerate their number of opposite-sex partners, possibly because men estimate rather than count all of their partners.

Men, it turned out, claimed an average of 14 sexual partners over their lifetime, while women reported only seven. The people surveyed were between the ages of 16 and 74.
The investigators claim that such studies are an important part of human sexuality research and in assessing the risk of sexually transmitted infections. But my fellow sex therapists and I aren’t so sure. Rather than focusing on one’s number of partners, “We should be talking about what folks want for their future and what they’ve learned from past relationships,” sex therapist Gracie Landes said.
I asked Landes and several of my other colleagues to weigh in on the continued fascination that the public — and media — seems to have with people’s number of sexual partners.

Are men exaggerating or overestimating their number of partners?

The answer to this question appears to be a resounding “yes.” Indeed, it’s simple math: “Given that there are not significantly more women in the population than men, if men are reporting higher numbers and women are reporting lower numbers, many are reporting inflated or deflated numbers due to the tendency to answer questions in a way that they think they’re supposed to,” sex therapist Dulcinea Pitagora explained.
In fact, statistics released by the dating app Tinder show that men use a broader strategy, indicating their approval of someone’s photo by swiping right on 46% of profiles, while women swipe right on only 14%. A study of raw data from Tinder also found that about 80% of female users are all competing for the same 20% of men.
“This seems to indicate that the number of sex partners would be especially skewed in the male population in favor of the more desirable men and that a majority of men are not having much success,” sex therapist Michael Aaron said. “It’s possible, then, that surveys such as this one, which find higher overall partners amongst men, may be indicative of men inflating their numbers, perhaps due to underlying shame.”

Why would someone inflate or deflate their actual number?

As Aaron suggests, society’s focus on the number of people someone has slept with may lead some to exaggerate — or decrease — their actual number out of embarrassment.
“Women might underreport out of fear of being judged negatively, while men might overreport in order to be looked at more favorably,” sex therapist Rachel Needle said. “In other words, men who have a high number are considered studs, while women are often slut-shamed. In addition, women might round down so their partner feels more important and special.”
Sex therapist Barbara Gold agreed. “I believe this is attributable to shame. It goes back to the gender myths that women aren’t supposed to enjoy or expose their sexuality lest they be judged in a negative way, while whatever sexual shame men may carry, social norms not only allow them to be sexual creatures but expect them to be,” she explained.

Should you ask your partner their ‘number’ — or tell them yours?

Whether you choose to talk numbers with your partner is entirely up to you. “You should do whatever you’re comfortable with,” Gold said. “You might ask why they want to know and what the number represents to them and then decide if or how you want to respond.”
“I find that more men ask this question of their female partners than vice versa,” sex therapist Deborah Fox noted. “Although men make some meaning out of the number they receive, it’s not really the question they want an answer to. They really want to know how they stack up to the previous partners, but that question requires way more nerve to ask. They want to know, ‘Am I the best lover you’ve ever had?’ but they’re also unlikely to ask that question.”

What should couples be discussing instead?

Rather than fixating on the number of people you or your partner have had sex with, I advise turning the conversation so that you’re having an open discussion about your interests.
“Instead of discussing a number, you should be talking about what you know you enjoy sexually, what you’re curious about and what you might want to explore in terms of sensations, types or scenarios, monogamy/non-monogamy and your top erotic triggers,” sex therapist Sari Cooper said.
And while you should certainly ask about your partner’s sexual health — and get tested — the number of sexual partners you’ve both had shouldn’t affect the need to practice safe sex.
It can be tempting to focus on one’s number of sexual partners, and studies like this one allow curious folks to compare themselves to others. But the fact is that there’s no right or wrong number. What matters most is your relationship with your current partner and how you can both make that as satisfying as possible.

https://edition.cnn.com/2018/09/06/health/number-of-sex-partners-kerner/index.html