ED Basics

Can Stress and Anxiety Cause Erectile Dysfunction?

May 4, 2021

There are a wealth of misconceptions about erectile dysfunction. People sometimes associate the phenomenon with advanced age or a lack of testosterone, but this isn’t always the case. ED affects over half of guys over the age of 40, and some estimates are that for every decade of life, 10% of men will be affected: 20% of men in their 20s, 50% of men in their 50s, and so forth. 

In fact, younger men in perfect physical health can and do experience erectile dysfunction, often due to heightened stress or anxiety.

Stress and anxiety are both common occurrences in today's fast-paced world, as is erectile dysfunction, and they're often related. Stress and anxiety can significantly impact the way your body works and responds to certain stimuli. You may notice that anxiety makes you hyper-reactive, or that stress makes you less patient. Both of these feelings can inhibit your sex drive or cause your body to be less responsive in an intimate situation. 

Addressing both stress or anxiety and erectile dysfunction simultaneously will lead to the best outcome, while addressing erectile dysfunction in a vacuum – without seeking relief from stress or anxiety – isn't likely to improve your overall quality of life. In fact, some treatments to address stress or anxiety may exacerbate erectile dysfunction, necessitating further medical intervention for sexual wellness.

It can be a balancing act, but doctors are well-versed in dealing with stress- and anxiety-related erectile dysfunction. Here are the details.

Stress and Erectile Dysfunction

Stress isn’t something to minimize. If you’re feeling more stressed than usual, waiting for it to pass or shrugging it off is doing a disservice to your health. Stress affects your body just as much as it affects your mental and emotional state. 

Common Causes of Stress

People often find themselves in heightened states of stress as a result of careers, interpersonal issues, relationships, finances, or unexpected life circumstances. A breakup, a complicated project at work, the loss of a loved one, or unexpected financial circumstances can place a heavy burden on anyone. 

It’s normal to be stressed for brief periods of time until a situation reaches an inevitable satisfactory conclusion. But when a situation is more complicated or constantly evolving, this can lead to chronic stress. 

How Chronic Stress Affects the Body

Stress can raise blood pressure and increase muscle tension, and people who experience frequent or chronic stress may be more prone to adverse cardiac events or muscular injury due to the way that stress impacts the body. People living with constant stress often report headaches, trouble sleeping, stomach issues, weakened immune systems, persistent feelings of exhaustion, irritability, and difficulty having sex.

This sexual dysfunction can be due to diminished sex drive, true erectile dysfunction, or a combination of the two.

Anxiety and Erectile Dysfunction

Anxiety can sometimes be centered around an event or sudden circumstance, though this is not always the case. Some people live with generalized anxiety, which is essentially a heightened “fight or flight” response. They may become anxious in response to their own thoughts or have a tendency to overthink things. 

Causes of anxiety are wide ranging and varied depending on the person. Some people experience anxiety specific to their fears; someone who has a fear of flying may become anxious before boarding a plane. Someone with a fear of public speaking will experience anxiety before addressing a group of their coworkers or giving a speech at a friend’s wedding. 

In some cases, the expectation of sexual activity can be a source of anxiety. This is usually the case when a new or unfamiliar partner is involved. Some men fear that they, for one reason or another, will not be able to satisfy their partner. They may feel overwhelmed by their attraction to their partner, specifically if they have significant feelings for that person and hopes for a long term relationship. This stems from a fear of rejection or embarrassment that is completely normal. If you care about the person you’re with and you want to enjoy a fulfilling experience, it's normal to be concerned about satisfying your partner. The key is not to stop caring, but to manage expectations and approach while keeping things in a healthy perspective. 

How Anxiety Affects the Body

Anxiety often leads to increased heart rate, rapid breathing, feelings of nausea, an inability to sleep or even feel relaxed, and trembling hands. In this state, it can be difficult to comfortably sit still, let alone obtain an erection. It may take a while for the body to re-center and find its calm after anxiety reaches the peak of its “attack.”

Stress and Anxiety Frequently Occur Together

It’s not unusual for someone to face stress and anxiety simultaneously. You get anxious about the things that stress you out, and stressed about the things that make you anxious. It creates a constant negative feedback loop that desperately requires relief. 

Don’t take erectile dysfunction medication just to put a bandage on the problem. The entirety of the issue needs to be addressed for your overall health and wellbeing. You deserve to feel better in all areas of your life, and while sex is undoubtedly a great mood booster, it won’t change the circumstances that give you stress or anxiety symptoms.

Managing Stress and Anxiety

The treatment for stress and anxiety are similar, involving lifestyle changes, new habits, therapies, and sometimes medication.

Management Through Healthy Habits

Eating right, exercising, and getting enough sleep are all vital parts of helping your body manage stress or anxiety. Nutrient deficiencies, perpetual exhaustion, and a lack of endorphins will only further tank your mood. Start preparing healthier meals at home and aim for a 20-minute leisurely walk daily. You don’t have to change the world all at once, and you can slowly integrate these changes to give yourself time to adapt.

Give yourself a bedtime and stick to it. You may find that natural sleep aids like valerian root, melatonin, passion flower, chamomile tea, or CBD help to relax you before bed. 

If your job is a constant source of stress or anxiety, consider making some career changes. If you’ll feel better and be happier working in a field outside of your current one – and a substantial group of Americans say they would – your constant stress and overall health may be final straw you need to make that transition.  

You also need to find a healthy outlet away from your stressors. Hobbies like martial arts, boxing, woodworking, journaling, writing fiction, painting, sculpture, hiking, fishing, or even weekly card games with friends can serve as positive avenues for releasing stressed or anxious feelings. As long as what you’re doing isn’t harming yourself or someone else and you feel good when you do it, it counts as a healthy outlet. 

Medications and Therapies

Many people find that therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy leave them better equipped to resolve feelings of stress or anxiety. Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, doesn’t always involve the use of medications. It involves talking and workbooks that help you explore your thoughts and feelings and learn to experience them in a way that’s less taxing. 

In some cases, a doctor may prescribe medications like sedatives or antidepressants to help you cope with these feelings. These medications are among the most commonly prescribed medications, and there’s no shame in the decision to use them. Many people do, and they experience am improved quality of life as a result. 

Resolving Erectile Dysfunction

Erectile dysfunction is a common symptom of stress or anxiety. If the circumstances causing the stress or anxiety are resolved and your erectile dysfunction naturally resoles, this is obviously a best case scenario.

But erectile dysfunction, stress, and anxiety are often intertwined. A healthcare professional can help you work through whether your stress or anxiety are causing your ED – or even the other way around – to determine the best course of action. For some men who experience ED, sexual intimacy can become a source of anxiety: "what if I can't get it up again?" can be a tremendous source of anxiety and reinforce a negative feedback loop, further exacerbating the problem. 

Working through whether your ED symptoms are a result of stress, or a result of other physiological conditions, is a key step in resolving the issue. Once you’ve spoken to a mental health professional or a doctor about your stress or anxiety symptoms, and you're making progress around these goals, it’s time to consider treating your erectile dysfunction. 

In cases where your treatment plan for stress or anxiety involves medication, things can get a little more challenging. 

Unfortunately, erectile dysfunction is a common side effect of some anxiety medications, which a good physician will be aware of in advance. If they're aware of your ED symptoms, they'll take steps to help you avoid or switch medications. A physician may also suggest an erectile dysfunction medication in conjunction with the medication treating your stress or anxiety.

The Takeaway: Stress and anxiety can both lead to ED, and they can also be a symptom of ED. Untangling anxiety and ED can be complex, but with improved habits and stress-reduction techniques, plus medical intervention in some cases, ED related to stress and anxiety can be quickly resolved.

Stress and anxiety can be difficult to live with, but erectile dysfunction doesn’t have to be. Rex MD helps guys get the assistance of a licensed physician for ED treatment from the comfort of their own home.

It begins with an online medical questionnaire, which a licensed physician uses to evaluate your situation and determine if ED medications are a good fit. If approved, the physician writes you a prescription for that medication, and it's sent with free 2-day shipping in discreet packaging right to your door.

Rex MD helps guys deal with sensitive topics from the comfort of home, but with the safety of a licensed physician. Get started today for as little as $2/pill, if prescribed, and see how easy ED treatment can be.