Erectile dysfunction (ED) affects over 20% of men in the United States, yet the connection between stress, anxiety, and sexual health is seldom discussed. Mental distractions interfere with the body’s capacity to produce erections at the proper moment.
The sexual response cycle is divided into four stages: desire, arousal, orgasm, and relaxation. Erectile dysfunction is directly associated with arousal. Anxiety or stress may make it difficult to enjoy or maintain sexual pleasure. “There are many fallacies concerning erectile dysfunction that have anything to do with desire, ejaculation, or sexual activity.” or even climax,” explains Ryan Berglund, MD, a urologist at Cleveland Clinic’s Glickman Urological & Kidney Center. “It is just the inability to acquire and maintain an adequate erection for intercourse.”
Is it possible for stress or worry to induce erectile dysfunction?
“Everything that causes worry might impair one’s capacity to obtain an erection,” explains Dr. Berglund. This encompasses everyday difficulties, mental health issues, and performance anxiety.
Erectile dysfunction caused by stress
When ED is induced by external pressures or other psychological factors, it is referred to as psychogenic erectile dysfunction. It usually occurs in two ways. Anxiety creates a mental distraction, making it difficult to concentrate on sex. Stress, on the other hand, may produce an increase in sympathetic nerve activity (think: the fight-or-flight response).
“Interestingly, the parasympathetic nervous system, which is active while you’re resting or sleeping, is the component of the autonomic nervous system that causes an erection,” adds Dr. Berglund. The stress reaction in your body opposes the parasympathetic nervous system, which operates while you are at rest. It’s virtually hard to remain aroused while you’re overcome with anxiety and terror.
Anxiety and depression disorders
According to Yooni Yi, MD, assistant professor in the Department of Urology at Michigan Medicine, there is also a link between melancholy, anxiety, and erectile dysfunction, which is likely related to overall life discontent, a decrease in sexual desire, or drug side effects.
Performance anxiety happens when your attention is diverted from the sensual pleasure that generates arousal to negative thoughts or worry about satisfying your spouse. According to Dr. Yi, it is a unique sort of sexual tension that affects 14% to 25% of males. Performance anxiety may erode self-esteem, sexual confidence, and partner communication over time, and can even lead to relationship conflict or resentment.
What is the best way to treat erectile dysfunction caused by stress or anxiety?
It is a process, not a fast remedy, to treat psychogenic erectile dysfunction or performance anxiety. “It is critical that the patient accept this at the outset of therapy,” Dr. Yi explains. It is also good if your spouse is engaged throughout the procedure.
- Identify the root reason.
A prominent sign of psychogenic erectile dysfunction is situational erectile dysfunction (being able to obtain an erection via masturbation but not with a partner). If the reason is medical, your doctor will take a comprehensive history and do a physical exam, which may include blood tests. Morning erections seen at the time of waking up, but still experiencing ED with a partner, suggest to psychogenic erectile dysfunction.
- Minimize the number of triggers.
Avoid circumstances where you know a specific stressor is leading to performance anxiety or erectile dysfunction. Conversations with your partner regarding erection length expectations, worry about the refractory phase, or body anxieties may help ease some of these stress and ED causes.
- Think about medicine.
PDE5 inhibitors (such as Viagra, Fildena 100, and cenforce 150) might improve your sexual response even if you’re stressed or anxious—but they may not address the underlying cause. “A lot of the time, when we treat erectile dysfunction, we simply put the patient on PDE5 inhibitors empirically without really addressing the main cause,” explains Dr. Berglund. “These drugs improve the ability to acquire and sustain an erection, but they do not treat other underlying concerns such as relationship difficulties or decreased libido or desire.”
If you’ve been suffering from anxiety for a long time, seeing a mental health expert may be a better option. Anxiety-related ED may be treated with medication in certain circumstances. Some drugs used to treat depression, anxiety, or high blood pressure, on the other hand, might make it difficult to obtain an erection. Discuss your concerns with your doctor in order to identify the best treatment option.