Can Stress Cause Erectile Dysfunction? Understanding the Link Between Mental Health and Sexual Performance


As a man who has had few if any problems in the bedroom over the years, suddenly finding yourself suffering from erectile dysfunction can be scary and embarrassing. While there are many physical problems that can lead to ED, being under constant stress can also play a significant role. To help you gain a better understanding of the link between your mental health and your sexual performance, here are some facts to remember about stress and ED.

The Slow Burn of Stress

When you get stressed, you may think its impact on your mind and body may only last a few minutes. However, you need to realize that when you are dealing with stress, your body is releasing adrenaline and cortisol simultaneously to help with your “fight or flight” response. However, while the adrenaline will release and peak in a few seconds, the cortisol will continue to flow throughout your body for several more hours. As a result, you’ll stay stressed much longer than you may think, which in turn can make it difficult for you to get or maintain an erection.

Message Disruption Between Your Brain and Penis

As you try to deal with stress and anxiety, they are hard at work disrupting the messages going back and forth between your brain and penis. When the messaging process is disrupted, many body systems and processes start having trouble doing their jobs. These can include your nervous system, muscles, hormones, and blood vessels. When you are stressed and want to have an erection and your brain’s messages to your penis are being disrupted, this impedes the extra blood flow to your penis that allows you to have an erection. In many cases, erectile dysfunction medication can alleviate this problem.

Lifestyle Changes from Stress and Anxiety

When the stress and anxiety in your life start to feel overwhelming, you may begin making various lifestyle changes that will actually just make your problem that much worse. Some of the most common changes include:

  • Increased use of alcohol or drugs,
  • Increased smoking or use of other tobacco products,
  • Lack of exercise,
  • Lack of sleep,

Unfortunately, all of this can add up to what becomes a vicious cycle of actions and emotions that prolong your ED. This leads to increased performance anxiety, which often becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy in the bedroom.

Causes of Stress-Related ED

You need to realize that there can be many sources of stress and anxiety in your life that can result in you developing erectile dysfunction. The most common ones include money worries, a job loss or issues on your job, relationship issues, the loss of a loved one, a sudden change in your health, or even worries you have about growing older.

How to Cope with Stress-Related ED

The worst thing you can do when you are under a great deal of stress or anxiety is to ignore the problem and assume it will go away with time. Not only does this rarely happen, but most men find their ED problems only worsen as they fail to implement stress management techniques into their daily routine. The best ways to manage your stress and anxiety include counseling sessions, becoming involved with a hobby you truly enjoy, staying active with a fun exercise program, and using practices such as meditation, yoga, or tai chi to help you cope with your stress.

Mental Health and Physical Health

Chronic stress and anxiety can not only hurt your mental health, but also your physical health. In fact, as you struggle with your mental health while dealing with ED, the stress on your mind and body can also lead to a number of health conditions that can prolong or worsen your ED, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Generally, the more depressed you become about your ED, the greater likelihood you will make poor lifestyle decisions that can worsen your ED.

Bottom Line

No matter how much stress you have in your life, there are ways to cope with it and make erectile dysfunction a thing of the past. By working with your doctor and taking things one day at a time, you can see your sexual performance return to normal.