Is your mental health causing erectile dysfunction?

Erectile dysfunction can be embarrassing but treatments like counselling are available

Is your mental health impacting your sex life? Can stress cause erectile dysfunction (ED)? Erectile dysfunction and mental health can leave you in a cycle that doesn’t seem to end.

Many men suffer from depression and anxiety, with erectile dysfunction being potentially triggered by different psychological and mental health issues. Thankfully, we are here to help you get a better understanding of mental health issues and ED.

Mental health conditions that can cause ED

Mental health issues can lead to sexual problems in many men. The psychological causes of ED are just as important as the physical ones. Depression, stress and anxiety are all linked to erectile dysfunction. These mental health issues shouldn’t be ignored.


Stress that comes from relationship issues is the main reason for erectile dysfunction in middle-aged men.

To get an erection, you need to be sexually aroused. If you’re suffering from stress, you might find that your sex drive decreases. Even if you do get an erection, maintaining an erection might be tricky.

Stress can be temporary. You might notice that once this stressful period has passed your ability to get an erection returns to normal.


Anxiety can also lead to erectile dysfunction. Mental health problems such as anxiety put men at a higher risk of developing erectile dysfunction. Anxiety and ED affects around 90 percent of teenagers and young men. 

Your brain plays a big role in the ability to feel aroused. If you’re feeling anxious, it will be difficult to get aroused as a result. Thankfully, experiencing erectile dysfunction that’s caused by anxiety is usually short-lived.

Performance anxiety happens when you’re worried about your ability to please your partner during sex. If men feel pressured into pleasing their partner, this can lead to performance anxiety and ED.


Depression has the ability to lead to sexual dysfunction. ED and depression can feel like a never-ending cycle for people with depression.

Men who display symptoms of depression usually struggle with ED. The sexual urges that lead to an erection begin in your brain. Depression causes the chemicals in the brain to get out of balance, meaningless desire for sex and poor sexual performance.

The warning signs of depression and erectile dysfunction can include:

  • Losing the desire for sex and it no longer feels pleasurable.
  • Antidepressants affecting your sex life.
  • Experiencing ED after a traumatic life event.

Other psychological causes of erectile dysfunction

Relationship problems and guilt

If you’re experiencing relationship issues, they can interfere with sexual feelings and cause or worsen erectile dysfunction. Relationship issues that can lead to ED include:

  • Arguments with your spouse/partner.
  • A partner with sexual dysfunction or trauma.
  • Loss of attraction to your partner.
  • Boredom in the relationship.

Low self-esteem

Low self-esteem is a similar feeling to guilt. Having low-self esteem can affect sexual function, with this often leading to erectile dysfunction.

Excessive pornography use or addiction

Excessive use of pornography might change the way the brain reacts to arousal. This, in turn, might make a man feel less aroused by a real-life partner. Additionally, too much pornography is a known cause of ED.

Treating ED caused by mental health problems

Counselling and talking therapies

Counselling and talking therapies can help with erectile dysfunction if it’s caused by a mental health condition.

Sex therapy involves counselling partners about their relationship or dealing with any sex-related issues and concerns.

Cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) helps to manage your problems by changing the way you think. It’s most commonly used to treat anxiety and depression, however, it can also be used for other mental health problems.

Mindfulness therapy can be used for issues related to erectile dysfunction and mental health. It focuses on increasing a person's awareness of the thoughts, actions and feelings that are hindering them.

Medical treatments

Medical treatments for ED are available, like Viagra. The active ingredient used in Viagra is Sildenafil. It works by relaxing the muscle tissue, allowing increased blood flow to cause an erection.

There are also other medications such as a self-injection, urethral suppositories and testosterone replacement.

Penis pumps and penile implants are recommended if medications are not effective or you cannot take them.

Telling the difference between physical and mental causes of ED

Erectile dysfunction is not always caused by mental health issues; an underlying medical condition can cause it, too.

A mental cause of ED happens when the brain fails to send a signal to cause the erection and can happen at any point during sex.

A physical cause would be when something is wrong in the body. Medical conditions such as heart disease or high blood pressure would be a physical cause. Additionally, problems like a damaged blood vessel or something that restricts blood flow can also be a culprit.

We hope that we have given you some insight into how mental health issues can cause erectile dysfunction. Again, it’s important to remember that you’re not alone. In fact, it’s more common than you might realise!

If you’re worried about the causes of your erectile dysfunction, it’s important to visit your GP. Alternatively, if you’re struggling with your mental health, you can learn more about which charities can help you here.

Olivia Malone - Medical Content Writer
James O'Loan - CEO & Superintendent Pharmacist
James O'Loan , CEO & Superintendent Pharmacist on 07 June 2023
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