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Can Stress Cause Erectile Dysfunction?

How Does Stress and Anxiety Cause Erectile Dysfunction?

While there are many physical conditions that can cause or are pointed to by ED, we can’t ignore the enormous role that stress plays into it.

When you feel stress, your body makes adrenaline increases in your heart rate to move more oxygenated blood to your muscles, lungs and brains to make you faster, stronger and creates the “flight fight and freeze” response. Problems happen when your body processes constant stress as you move through the “flight, fight and freeze response”.

Mental health conditions like stress and anxiety affect how the brain signals your body’s physical response. Stress and anxiety interrupt how the brain sends messages to the penis to allow extra blood flow, affecting your sexual function and sexual performance. So, can stress cause erectile dysfunction?

Having erectile dysfunction (ED) can also lead to stress and anxiety and is a vicious cycle.  Stress and anxiety cause erectile dysfunction and having erectile dysfunction causes stress and anxiety. Especially in the case of sexual performance anxiety, for example. When this becomes persistent, it can definitely lead to physical symptoms such as erectile dysfunction. You could say that, in a sense, impotence becomes a self-perpetuating sexual dysfunction.

Stress and anxiety may lead to certain lifestyle factors that contribute to or cause ED, including:

  • Illicit drugs use

  • Tobacco use

  • Excessive alcohol consumption

  • A sedentary lifestyle or lack of physical activity

How Can I Tell if My Erectile Dysfunction is Related To Stress Causes?

Younger men typically experience erectile dysfunction due to psychological factors (like negative thoughts, performance anxiety, anxiety disorders, etc) instead of physical health or lifestyle causes. However, like older men, they can also experience stress-induced ED.

The following are some signs that your ED might be caused by stress:

  • You’re able to experience an erection while masturbating, but not with a partner

  • You’re worried about being able to please your partner

  • You experience nocturnal and/or morning erections

  • You experience high levels of stress and/or anxiety

What are Some Common Sources of Stress that Can Cause ED?

Stress can be caused by anything — good and bad. Your body reacts to these changes with physical, mental, and emotional responses. Sometimes we don’t realize how many things contribute to stress, and how issues that stress causes in turn.

These are only some of the common sources of personal and professional stress that cause sexual dysfunctions for men of all ages:

  • Marriage
  • Deadlines
  • Legal problems
  • Job loss
  • Divorce
  • New job
  • Retirement
  • Money problems
  • Illness
  • Parenting

The Dangers of Chronic Stress

Chronic stress is different from a sudden burst of adrenaline due to immediate danger like a fire or a car crash. A steady stream of adrenaline wears on your body and stress on the arteries.

Your arteries are like a firehose. They can handle enormous amounts of pressure during stressful times when your heart pumps hard and fast, especially when you need more oxygenated blood during an emergency, but can’t handle constant pressure.

Chronic stress is like using a fire hose to water your garden for 12 hours in a row. That blast of high-pressure water will not only ruin your garden, but also destroy the fire hose. The day to day constant stress you encounter such as your job, family, traffic is the worst kind of stress in your body.

Your blood vessels are the fire hose, they can handle the pressure long enough to put out the occasional fire but can’t handle the kind of pressure all day every day. And guess what part of the male body needs those precious blood vessels to sustain an erection?

Erections are about adequate blood flow. Chronic stress environment will eventually damage the way your blood vessels function, making it one of the leading causes of erectile dysfunction (ED).

Psychological Causes of ED

The saying is “sex – it’s all in the head”. Although there are multiple factors that cause erectile dysfunction, psychological affects all ages.

Some psychological causes for erectile dysfunction:

Depression: Depression is recognized as having effects far beyond mood. It can compromise someone’s immune system or even increase the likelihood of having a heart attack. Erectile dysfunction can affect someone with depression even when he is in a stable and loving relationship. Unfortunately, the drugs used to treat depression can cause erectile dysfunction, as well. The good news is that erectile dysfunction medications work whether the difficulty is from the depression itself or from the medications.

Anxiety: fear or anxiety over any issue that is distracting can lead to physical symptoms such as erectile dysfunction.

Stress: Stress can be job-related, money-related, family, marital, or relationship problems among other day-to-day concerns.

Loss of Desire: Hormone changes as in low testosterone—which play’s a role in a man’s sex drive—can cause erectile dysfunction and result in  loss of libido It means that a person no longer desires sexual intimacy as they once had but so can neurological or psychological conditions, medications, or relationship issues. Erectile dysfunction (ED) drugs will not work for many of these patients. A person must feel a sexual desire to kick off the process that allows the medications to function properly.

Low Self Esteem:  Can stem from a man being unable to fulfill the role he believes gives him value as a man. It can be a failure to provide as he hoped for his family, an inability to gain acceptance in a peer group, or being unable to engage in sexual intimacy with a spouse or partner.

Guilt: Guilt over having an affair, losing the family’s money, having a hidden compulsion like gambling or drug use, or being unable to satisfy a partner, as examples, can all interfere with being able to get aroused, respond to sexual stimulation, or engage in sex.

Health Conditions that Can Cause ED, Stress, and Anxiety

Understanding erectile dysfunction is complex because there are multiple factors emotional, mental and psychological. In addition to all those factors there are also health problems or conditions that cause erectile dysfunction including:

  • High blood pressure
  • Hypertension
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes and associated nerve damage
  • Obesity
  • Clogged arteries
  • Low testosterone
  • Prostate cancer or enlarged prostate
  • Drug use
  • Medication side effects
  • Alcohol and tobacco use
  • Medication side-effects (oral medications to treat high blood pressure, prostate cancer, depression, etc)
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Peyronie’s disease

One of the first things a urologist will do to come to a diagnosis of erectile dysfunction is to take a sexual and medical history. This is key to determining what conditions lead to ED in a patient.

Easing Stress and Anxiety to Treat Erectile Dysfunction

In the American Urological Association Erectile Dysfunction guidelines, referral to a mental health professional should be considered for men who are being treated for ED to reduce performance anxiety, help in adherence to treatment, as well integrate treatments into a sexual relationship.

Since stress not only is a factor in erectile dysfunction it is the cause of many other health issues.  There are options to help ease the stress and anxiety that causes ED. One of the options is therapy which can help you break out of the stress and anxiety and psychological erectile dysfunction cycle. Therapy options: 

Counseling: You’ll work with a therapist to identify and address major stress or anxiety factors so you can manage them.

Psychodynamic therapy: This usually involves addressing a subconscious conflict to help find the root cause of your erectile dysfunction.

Sex therapy: This therapy focuses on sensational pleasure rather than arousal and sexual activity. It aims to reduce the stress factor by building more a secure and reliable sex life.

Sexual anxiety therapy: Your doctor will explain erectile dysfunction to you in full detail. This can help reduce problems and worries caused by a lack of knowledge. Then your doctor will address the emotional issues and help you find a solution. Solutions may vary from trying to achieve relaxation to reactivating imagination.

De-Stress for Better Sex Life

The good news is psychological impotence can be treated with good results. One of the best ways to treat stress-induced erectile dysfunction is to de-stress.

Different people respond differently to different approaches. Finding what works for you to decrease stress will likely help achieve less erectile dysfunction and sexual satisfaction. Some approaches to decrease stress:

  • Meditation

  • Yoga

  • Exercise (150 minutes of moderate intensity)

  • Progressive muscle relaxation
  • Reduce Caffeine

  • Reduce Alcohol intake

  • Reduce Nicotine

  • Dance

  • Laugh

  • Socialize

  • Acupuncture

Other Treatments for Erectile Dysfunction

Research and advanced technology continue to provide a variety of medically reviewed treatments for erectile dysfunction.

  • ED Prescription medicine
  • Injections
  • Penis suppository
  • Testosterone replacement
  • P-shot
  • Penis pump (vacuum erection device)
  • Shockwave treatment
  • Penile implant
  • Blood vessel surgery

Options Available

The good news is there are lots of options to help prevent and treat erectile dysfunction. From living a healthy lifestyle to focusing on stress management to taking medication, testosterone replacement or shockwave therapy they are aimed at providing optimal results and reducing chances of experiencing erectile dysfunction. Talk with your healthcare provider for professional medical advice to find the very best treatment plan or alternative treatments.

If you have Erectile Dysfunction , call us for a consultation so we can carefully walk you through the treatment options best for you. Please see Our Services or call us at (916) 245-3043 to schedule an appointment!