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The Relationship Between Mental Health And Erectile Dysfunction


by Jane Grant

Photo by Ethan Sykes on Unsplash

It is estimated that up to 20 percent of erectile dysfunction cases are caused by psychological factors. The connection between mental well-being and penile performance is therefore far from speculative; the link is strong and accounts for many cases. Researchers have identified a multitude of triggers for ED. At least once these triggers are identified, men can be treated, and a happier sex life will result.

Unresolved Trauma

Erectile dysfunction occurs at a higher rate in people with unresolved mental trauma. Such traumas can occur in childhood or adulthood and be of a sexual nature or unrelated to sex. For instance, in a study of age-comparable combat veterans, ED was present in 85 percent of those who lived with post-traumatic stress disorder, compared to 22 percent of those who didn't. Moderate to severe ED was present in 45 percent of veterans with PTSD but only 13 percent of non-PTSD veterans. Therapy may be the best treatment for traumatized individuals who wish to quash erectile dysfunction, since ED can be a side effect of certain PTSD medications. 57 percent of the studied PTSD patients were on psychotropic medications.

Stress And Depression

For most people, it doesn't take a serious stress disorder like PTSD to cause erectile dysfunction. General life stress - financial instability, job performance, marital conflict, etc. - can reduce the power and frequency of erections. Stress can lower testosterone, increase cortisol, and distract the brain from sexual stimuli, all of which result in erectile dysfunction.

Depression does the same thing. In multiple studies of young males, researchers found a correlation between erectile dysfunction and depression. 800 North American medical students with a mean age of 25.7 had an ED rate of 13 percent. Depressive symptoms were found to have a "significant association" with this rate. Like PTSD, stress and depression can be treated with therapy and/or medication, but one has to be careful in choosing the latter so as to avoid those whose side effects include ED.

Performance Anxiety

The simplest and most treatable, yet likely the most overlooked psychological trigger of erectile dysfunction, is performance anxiety. When men desire to impress their partner to such an extent that it becomes pathological, the opposite result can occur: they cannot maintain an erection. In such an event, nervousness overpowers sexual desire.

Although at best annoying and at worst psychologically devastating, performance anxiety happens to nearly everyone and tends to go away on its own. Becoming more comfortable with your partner is one of the best treatments for ED caused by performance anxiety. This takes time and communication. Another treatment is strengthening your self-esteem so you don't feel so pressured to prove your worth in or outside the bedroom.

Often erectile dysfunction is caused not by age or physical ailments, but by psychological issues. Trauma, stress, depression and performance anxiety can contribute to ED. Thankfully, these can all be effectively treated, and some, like stress and performance anxiety, can go away on their own.

This article was written by Jane Grant who is a freelance writer. We thank Jane for this work.


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