Mental health problems, especially common ones such as depression and anxiety, can affect our daily lives; and for men, this might mean their sexual health and erectile problems. Studies have shown that there is often a definitive link between stress, anxiety, other mental health issues, and erectile dysfunction. This is because erections involve blood flowing into the penis in response to signals from the brain – but stress interrupts signals between the brain and body. You might be psychologically aroused, but your brain isn’t getting the message to produce an erection for one reason or another.
Stress can cause various physical symptoms affecting a range of body parts and systems; in fact, chronic stress can even weaken your heart and immune system. Given that, it’s no surprise that stress can affect the quality of your erections.
Stress and erectile problems
Stress is the result of our response to a stressful event or change. Our reaction to change requires us to adjust or respond. We can’t control the stressful event, but we can control how we react to the event.
Stress can be caused by any type of event or situation, both good and bad. Your body reacts to these changes and events with physical, mental, and emotional responses. We all have ways of coping with change, so the causes of stress are different for each person.
Chronic anxiety may lead to erectile problems
Anxiety can affect how our body reacts to different conditions. The brain can respond to anxiety by interrupting the blood flow to the penis resulting in ED. Continued anxiety and stress about ED can create a cycle of ongoing ED.
When your brain is under unhealthy stress, your body typically releases a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol constricts the blood vessels throughout the body, and when blood can’t flow properly, it can cause erectile problems. Over time, chronic stress (chronically high cortisol levels) decreases the amount of testosterone your body makes. Low testosterone is common in men with mental health issues like depression and anxiety who experience erectile issues.
What can help with erectile difficulties?
More often than not, your healthcare provider will recommend a noninvasive course of action. It’s always a good idea to ask your doctor about the different potential side effects that could result. A few common options include:
- Oral medications (phosphodiesterase type-5 inhibitors)
- Vacuum pumps
- Testosterone therapy
- Penile injections
If stress, anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues are contributing to your ED, there are a number of strategies you can take to help, including:
- Talk therapy
- Regular exercise
- Lifestyle changes
- Yoga, meditation, or acupuncture
It’s important to remember that you aren’t alone if you’re experiencing erectile difficulties due to stress or other mental health issues. Once you and your healthcare provider determine the possible causes of your erectile difficulties, you can work on finding a solution to help with your symptoms and get back to a healthy sex life.
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