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The Psychological Impact of Erectile Dysfunction

  • Tuesday 13 April 2021
  • 4 minute(s) read

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Who Gets ED? 

It is now well understood by doctors and researchers that physical and psychological factors can cause erectile dysfunction. Older men are more associated with ED because many conditions that occur later in life (heart problems, high cholesterol, etc.) significantly increase the likelihood of ED. Yes, older men are more likely to get ED, but men of any age can experience sexual dysfunction.

In younger men, ED is usually related to symptoms of performance anxiety and other psychological factors. If you have stress and anxiety surrounding sex or pleasing your partner, you are as likely to experience problems achieving an erection as an older man with physical conditions affecting their blood flow1 There are several ED meds online to help you overcome these symptoms, and while the use of medications is all fine and good, ED may continue to occur if it is related to anxiety or other psychological factors. It is essential to get these issues under control for a mentally and physically fulfilling sex life.


a man holding his hands in front of his face

Performance Anxiety

Almost every young person experiences some form of performance anxiety surrounding sexual activity. This is not an uncommon occurrence, but you may have to make a conscious effort to tame your stress and anxiety around sex to reduce ED symptoms. Some common factors that may influence feelings of performance anxiety include:

  • Relationship issues
  • Body image
  • Penis size
  • Perceptions of virility
  • Ideas about gender roles 1

Those are just a few examples that may cause ED, but other life issues may also creep their way into the bedroom. These factors include family issues, stress at work, and financial concerns. 

Low Self-Esteem

Coping with erectile dysfunction can take a severe emotional toll on a man. It can make men feel insignificant and lower their self-esteem. 2 This is compounded by the fact that men are less likely to seek help from a doctor than women, which can prolong these feelings for years. This can be an incredibly isolating experience and can affect all aspects of a man’s life, especially his relationship.

If a man has had ED for a long time, they may develop anticipatory anxiety. This condition occurs when you face something that scares you. It can become chronic if you find yourself worried about something for months at a time. If you experience this anxiety over and over, you may feel irritable, guilty, hopeless, and moody before you participate in sex. 3 Experiencing these feelings over and over can lead you to withdrawal from people and things you may enjoy.

a man standing in front of a window


If the above feelings of low self-esteem continue for long periods, it may develop into depression. Depression is a common but serious medical condition that negatively affects how you feel, act, and think. It is treatable, but it is essential to determine any possible triggers of your depression. In ED patients, sexual dysfunction may spur on depression, but depression can cause ED as well.

Depression that accompanies ED is very treatable, but you have to do a lot of work in being open with yourself, your doctor, and your partner. Once you identify the problem and bring your issues out into the open, a successful treatment plan can begin.

ED and Relationships

Experiencing ED is difficult for a man, but it is often detrimental to both people in a relationship. If you discuss feelings of guilt, low self-esteem, and embarrassment with your partner, you can avoid the distress of keeping your emotions to yourself. One study cites that 94 percent of men felt that their partner’s support was important in dealing with their ED symptoms. 

two people sitting on a rock

If you discuss your struggles with your partner, you can clear up any misunderstandings. This is helpful for the man experiencing ED and also helps the partner dispel any feelings of rejection. Partners of ED patients may need to reassure their partners that:

  • They are willing to work through this time in life.
  • Sex is not the end all be all to a person’s health and well-being.
  • ED symptoms do not make a person less masculine or desirable.

Talk Therapy and Couples Counseling 

Seeking therapy for sexual dysfunction can be beneficial to those experiencing the psychological effects of ED. Sex therapy can be a short-term form of counseling that includes five to 20 sessions with a sex therapist once or twice a week. These sessions can help a person identify any mental blocks causing their ED. Counselors can help create coping mechanisms and identify triggers that may bring on symptoms.

Studies show that sex therapy is the most successful when couples participate in the sessions together. If both partners participate, problems are resolved 50 to 70 percent of the time. 4 Talk to your doctor about addressing your ED on both fronts with counseling and erectile dysfunction pills. Counselors can help couples improve their communication and provide other intimacy options until a man resolves his ED symptoms.

The content in this article is intended for informational purposes only. This website does not provide medical advice. In all circumstances, you should always seek the advice of your physician and/or other qualified health professionals(s) for drug, medical condition, or treatment advice. The content provided on this website is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

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