We’re here today to explore the link between erectile dysfunction and anxiety.
Erectile dysfunction (ED) is when you can’t get or maintain an erection. It can happen during masturbation or when you’re having sex with another person.
Anxiety is a feeling of worry, fear, or unease. Everyone feels that way from time to time. But some people with anxiety feel intense, excessive, or near-constant worry, which can impact their day-to-day lives.
Both ED and anxiety are pretty taboo topics for men, but they’re both extremely common.
- 1 in 5 men will experience anxiety in the course of their lives (but we’re guessing the numbers are much higher than reported)
- the pandemic triggered a 25% increase in anxiety and depression globally, so we wouldn’t be surprised if even more men are dealing with anxiety now
- ED affects almost half (43%) of men aged 18 to 60
So, medical doctor Matthew Chan and psychosexual therapist Amanda Barge are here to help us dive into erectile dysfunction, anxiety, and how the two are linked.
We’ll be covering:
Can anxiety cause erectile dysfunction?
Absolutely. Your erections rely on a harmonious balance of feel-good brain chemicals, relaxation, and top-notch communications between your brain and your body.
Anxiety-induced ED is a kind of psychological ED, which means your mind is throwing off this harmonious balance and stopping you from getting hard.
“Not every guy who has anxiety will have ED. But if the anxiety gets to a certain level, our bodies and brains can buckle under the pressure – and erection issues could be a real sign that you’re suffering.”
Amanda Barge, psychosexual and relationship therapist
How does anxiety cause erectile dysfunction?
There’s an evolutionary brain response to blame. We’ll let Dr Matt explain the science:
“Anxiety can cause a spike in adrenaline. This is the ‘stress hormone’ and it makes your sympathetic nervous system switch to a state of ‘fight or flight’.
This bodily response was useful for cavemen who needed to get ready to either fight a predator or run from it. But for us, especially when it comes to sex, it can be a spanner in the works.
Relaxation becomes impossible when you’re in this state, and the messages from your brain instructing your penis to get erect are shut down. Instead, your brain is sending messages to your body to help you defend yourself. This could involve a faster heart rate, lots of sweat, and even shakiness.”
Dr Matthew Chan, medical doctor
We should also point out that anxiety and ED can exist in a vicious cycle.
You might be struggling with your erections because you’re dealing with anxiety, or you might be dealing with anxiety because you’ve got ED. One can trigger the other and they can make each other worse.
This might all sound very doom and gloom – but anxiety and ED are both treatable. And we’ve got loads of ideas to help you calm your mind and strengthen your erections.
Types of anxiety that could cause ED
There are five main types of anxiety disorders:
- generalized anxiety disorder is when you suffer from chronic anxiety and intense worry or tension, even when there’s no objective reason to feel that way
- panic disorder is characterized by unexpected episodes of fear alongside intense physical symptoms, like heart palpitations and shortness of breath
- post-traumatic stress disorder develops after you’ve been through a traumatic experience
- social anxiety disorder (also known as social phobia) is when you feel overwhelming anxiety about everyday social situations
- obsessive-compulsive disorder is characterized by persistent, unwanted and unpleasant thoughts (obsessions) and specific repeated behaviors (compulsions)
Each one has its own challenges, and because they all involve intense feelings of worry and a ‘fight or flight’ response, they can all cause erection issues.
Another type of anxiety is ‘performance anxiety'. This where you’re worried about carrying out (or successfully completing) a specific task.
It might be that your performance anxiety only flares up in sexual situations. If this sounds like you, head over to our dedicated sexual performance anxiety guide.
Can anxiety medication cause erectile dysfunction?
This is a complex one. Some people find that common anti-anxiety meds lower libido and make it harder to get an erection, but for others, medication can be key to helping with ED. We know it’s confusing, but hang in there.
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) like duloxetine, fluoxetine, and paroxetine are the go-to when it comes to anti-anxiety medication. They make serotonin (the happy chemical) stick around longer.
“Some people might find that SSRIs help them with their anxiety and they don’t have sexual dysfunction side effects, so their psychological ED improves. On the other end of the spectrum, some people might find that SSRIs don’t improve their anxiety, they get worse libido, and their ED gets worse. So there’s huge variation in how people can react’.”
Dr Matthew Chan, medical doctor
If you think your medication is interfering with your erections, go and have a chat with your doctor. Remember, your mental health comes first, so don’t stop taking your medication suddenly or without the advice of a healthcare expert.
How to cure erectile dysfunction caused by anxiety
‘Erectile dysfunction due to anxiety’ isn’t an official medical diagnosis, so we usually avoid words like ‘cure’.
However, there are plenty of techniques that are effective for reducing anxiety and strengthening erections (toot toot).
To get the ball rolling, we’ve listed a few key ways to treat anxiety-induced ED below.
Anxiety-induced erectile dysfunction treatment
Psychological treatment for anxiety-induced ED
Take an all-around approach to anxiety
Getting stress-free erections will start with reducing your overall level of anxiety. For some people, reducing anxiety could be all about talk therapy or meditation, and for others the answer will be cognitive behavioral therapy. Healing will look a bit different for everyone, but to get started, you might want to:
- Talk to someone: opening up to a friend or family member can immediately lighten the load, and it could help you practice talking about your feelings if you’re worried about going to see a professional
- See a therapist: we know it’s not always an accessible option, but therapists are trained to help you get rid of your anxiety and they’ll help you create a therapy plan to feel better
- Visit your doctor: if anxiety is impacting your day-to-day life or your relationships, you should talk to your doctor
Get some erection action: all the best erectile dysfunction anxiety tips
You can build the ability to get anxiety-free erections by using a few specific practices, exercises, and learning resources.
- Get erectile dysfunction anxiety tips from real guys: our anonymous online community is the perfect place to open up and get advice from real guys who have been where you are now. This is an incredible way to share your feelings and get answers in a totally anonymous, stress-free way
- Mindful masturbation: this technique is clinically proven to reduce anxieties and strengthen erections. Through practice, you can learn to fully experience sexual sensations without distracting anxious thoughts and feelings
- Watch or listen to our real sex therapy sessions and podcasts: you’ll hear advice direct from top experts as well as first-hand stories from other guys who have dealt with anxiety and ED. Just understanding exactly how your anxious thoughts work – and how they impact your boners – can be a total game-changer for your mental and sexual wellbeing. Plus, this can be a more affordable option than one-on-one therapy, and there’s no wait list
- Mojo connect: our live video calls give you the opportunity to talk openly with other guys who really get it, and you’ll hear all their best tips for overcoming anxiety-induced ED. Don’t worry, your webcam can stay off the whole time
Find out more about these techniques via a trial with Mojo.
“If I had to say anything it would be take a big breath and just open up, the anxiety slips away once you share your feelings and worries”
Anonymous Mojo user
Lifestyle choices that could help with anxiety-induced ED
- Getting active: we know you’ve heard it all before, but exercising regularly really can make a difference – even 10 to 15 minutes daily could reduce anxiety levels
- Cutting down on drinking and drugs: drugs and alcohol can make you feel more relaxed or happier for a few hours, but getting rid of hangovers and comedowns could seriously help with your anxiety in the longer term
- Eating well: foods or drinks that contain high levels of caffeine or sugar can make you feel more anxious – by eating better, you can help fuel your brain with everything it needs to stay calm. Plus, certain foods have been proven to boost your erections
These sound obvious, but better lifestyle choices really can lead to greater erections. We can’t think of any better reason to embark on a bit of a health kick, can you?
Can viagra help with anxiety-based ED?
If you’ve got anxiety and erectile dysfunction, ED pills like Viagra (Sildenafil) can seem like a quick fix. And it’s true that these little blue pills can help you achieve a one-off erection on demand.
But ED pills are primarily designed to overcome physical issues, like poor blood flow, not mental roadblocks. You have to be naturally aroused for Viagra to work. So, if you’re anxious and not feeling in a super sexy mindset, Viagra isn’t the best solution.
It’s a better idea to treat the root cause of the issue: the anxiety itself. That way, you’ll be able to fully relax, knowing you can count on reliable, strong, natural boners.
The upside is that we know how to treat anxiety-induced ED without pills – and our trial is here to get you started.
How to overcome anxiety-induced erectile dysfunction
We believe you can have a lifetime of great sex. Throughout your life, anxiety might pop up at different times. But you can turn to our expert-designed techniques any time, and these will help ensure that you can get hard and stay relaxed in the long run.
Mojo aims to provide useful wellbeing resources to its users; however, you should not solely rely on opinions or advice available on the Website or given by the Community. Always seek advice from a qualified medical doctor or other healthcare professional before acting.