Erectile Dysfunction And Stress: All You Need To Know
In this article, we’ll discuss whether stress can lead to Erectile Dysfunction in men.
Stress is the cause of many health problems. With evolving fast-paced lifestyles, stress has become a part and parcel of our daily lives. Some amount of stress is normal and is the natural reaction of our body to challenging conditions. It keeps us on our feet and nudges us to take action when needed.
However, when there is a lot of stress or if it seems to last indefinitely, it starts to take a toll on your mental and physical health. Chronic stress leads to the occurrence of many diseases such as depression, anxiety, cardiovascular problems, digestive problems, and various sexual disorders as well.
One of the many side effects of excessive stress in men is erectile dysfunction (ED), commonly known as impotence. ED is characterized by an inability to either get or maintain an erection. Although this sexual disorder has its roots in physical as well as psychological causes, both of these often appear together.
Continue reading this article to know how stress leads to erectile dysfunction, and how to manage it.
Causes of Erectile Dysfunction
The entire process leading to an erection involves nervous stimulation, the release of hormones, muscular contraction as well as an increase in blood flow. Since this is a multi-step and multi-dimensional event, erectile dysfunction can arise when a problem occurs in any of these.
Nevertheless, these causes can be grouped into two broad categories, physical and psychological.
1. Physical Causes
Common physical causes of erectile dysfunction include:
- Cardiovascular problems
- Hypertension (increased blood pressure)
- Sleep disorders
- Parkinson’s disease
- Multiple sclerosis
- Enlarged prostate
- Certain cancers
- Low levels of testosterone
2. Psychological Causes
Causes stemming from the brain also play a significant role in dysfunctions such as ED. These causes include:
- Depressive disorders
- Feelings of guilt
- Low self-esteem
- Lack of interest in sex or the relationship
How Does Stress Cause Erectile Dysfunction?
A healthy and fulfilling sex life depends on the fitness of the body as well as the mind. When either or both of these are under duress, it affects sex drive and sexual performance. Chronic stress is known to decrease libido (sex drive) and may even lead to sexual dysfunctions such as ED and premature ejaculation.
An erection occurs when, in the presence of sexual stimulation, the brain signals the body to increase the blood flow to the penis. However, stress alters the way the brain perceives arousal. If the brain is distracted by stressors (stress-causing factors), it might not send appropriate signals to the body, hence causing erectile dysfunction.
The entire sexual experience is a combination of physical arousal and mental sensations. Stress can interfere with it at all levels due to its negative impact on all systems in the body. Moreover, several types of stress can cause erectile dysfunction.
Different Types of Stress Leading to Erectile Dysfunction
The following types of stress can cause ED:
1. Psychological Stress
Psychological stress has causes originating in the thought processes of an individual. Usually, the person has performance anxiety, sexual repression, guilt, or self-esteem issues which can lead to erectile dysfunction.
2. Work/Professional Stress
This is a leading stress trigger in middle-aged men. Being under a heavy workload, having long work hours, or working under dangerous conditions are various causes of professional stress.
3. Stress Arising out of Major Life Events
Major life events such as losing a job or financial security, inability to repay a debt, getting married, getting a divorce, moving to a new location, or being diagnosed with a serious or life-threatening illness can cause significant stress.
Trauma caused due to the loss of a loved one, a major accident, sexual assault, or any violent event is a trigger for chronic stress.
All of these factors can contribute to stress, which can ultimately lead to sexual problems such as erectile dysfunction. Even the presence of sexual disorders or a history of having them can be a stressor, leading to the exacerbation of erectile dysfunction.
Often, an individual faced with such events or stressors starts to indulge in unhealthy habits such as smoking, alcoholism, or abusing drugs. These, in turn, become a cause for more health issues.
Managing Erectile Dysfunction Caused By Stress
ED caused by stress needs to be managed by focusing on relieving stress and removing stressors. This usually involves therapy, yet other treatment modalities exist. Let us take a look at what the management of stress-related ED involves:
Identifying the psychological stress-inducing factors is key to mitigating them. Once the cause of psychological stress is established, the therapist can tackle it accordingly.
2. Sex Therapy
This is a specialized form of psychotherapy in which a mental health professional talks you through your problems related to sexual function and performance.
Based on the results of a medical and psychological examination, a sex therapist suggests exercises meant to be performed at home or treatment regimens that need to be followed.
3. Couples Counseling
If the cause of stress is based on your dynamic with your partner, then you should go together for a relationship or couples counseling session. The counselor will help you gain clarity on the events causing friction in your sex life and also guide you in handling these events.
Antidepressants such as SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) are used to treat extreme and persistent stress as well as anxiety. These medications are generally prescribed to treat post-traumatic stress disorder or stress caused due to a major life event.
They can be used in combination with psychological counseling for quick and effective results. Once the effects of stress become minimal, ED usually gets better.
5. Alternative Therapies
Alternative therapies can act as adjuvants to psychotherapy or counseling. They can also be used as primary treatment options if the causes of stress leading to erectile dysfunction aren’t properly recognized.
These treatments include:
- Body massage
Certain herbal plants are recommended for treating stress and, by extension, stress-induced erectile dysfunction as well. These include:
Ashwagandha, an ayurvedic herb, is a relaxant and belongs to a group of plants called ‘adaptogens’. It helps in calming nerves and promotes adequate sleep. It also improves blood flow thus helping to treat ED at two levels, physical as well as psychological.
Chamomile is known to relieve stress and anxiety and is very popular to be used as a concoction or in tea.
This flowering plant is famed for its fragrance. It is said that the smell of lavender has a soothing effect and relieves an individual of stress and anxiety. The plant can be used in bath oils or as an ingredient in tea to alleviate stress.
Another famed tea-like beverage, kava is effective at busting stress and improving mood.
Ginseng or red ginseng
It is touted as a stress-reliever. As such, it can help treat erectile dysfunction caused due to stress and anxiety.
Supplements that can relieve stress, and hence ED, are L-arginine, St John’s wort, magnesium, and vitamin C.
Additional Ways to Manage Stress-Related Erectile Dysfunction
Along with conventional therapy and medication, you can try the following things to alleviate stress:
Exercise plays a vital role in improving the overall health of an individual, whether it is mental or physical. Regular exercise is a great way to distract yourself from stressors in your day-to-day routine. Additionally, the improved blood flow due to exercise can directly impact erections.
Medications such as sildenafil (Viagra), tadalafil (Cialis), and vardenafil (Levitra) are approved for treating ED through increased blood flow to the penis. Their positive effects on erections are not dependent on the cause of ED and therefore can treat stress-related erectile dysfunction.
Read: Best ED Medicines
Obese people tend to have stress and anxiety as a side effect of poor body image as well as health issues arising out of excess weight. Shedding some pounds and returning to healthy BMI levels are very important in keeping oneself free from stress and erectile dysfunction.
Stress is a major cause of many disorders. Its harmful effects pervade all aspects of mental as well as physical health. One of these health issues is erectile dysfunction. Hence, it is essential to know whether stress is the cause of your erectile dysfunction. If it is, you should then identify the stressor and work to eliminate it.
This article discusses the role of stress in causing erectile dysfunction and the various causes of stress-induced erectile dysfunction. Their proper understanding will lead you to seek resolution and management of these causes through any of the treatment options mentioned above.
February 3, 2021 Sam Bell