Can Stress Cause Erectile Dysfunction?

May 04, 2021
4 mins

Any man who has experienced erectile dysfunction knows how frustrating it is not knowing if you’ll be able to perform sexually. This can bring on a lot of stress in the bedroom, and stress can significantly impact the way your body works and responds to certain stimuli.

The connection between stress and erectile dysfunction is complex and it can form a vicious cycle. When you experience high levels of stress, it can have a direct impact on your ability to achieve and maintain an erection. It's a frustrating and discouraging experience that often compounds the stress further.

Picture this: You find yourself in a stressful situation – whether it's related to work, relationships, or any other aspect of life. As stress builds up, your ability to attain an erection may be compromised. This can lead to feelings of frustration, self-doubt, and anxiety about your sexual performance.

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Now here's where the cycle intensifies. The worry and stress about not being able to achieve an erection can create a psychological burden that further impedes your ability to perform sexually. It becomes a self-perpetuating loop, with stress causing difficulties in attaining an erection, and the inability to achieve an erection causing even more stress.

Breaking this cycle requires understanding the underlying factors contributing to your stress and developing effective coping mechanisms. By addressing and managing stress, you  may be able to significantly improve your overall well-being and potentially alleviate the negative impact of stress on your sexual function.

Common Causes of Stress 

Stress can be caused by a number of situations and disorders. There is no single cause of this condition – which makes treating it somewhat difficult. Identifying your stressor(s) can help you better-equip yourself in dealing with stress in a healthy manner. 

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, it can lead to chronic stress. 

Financial Instability

According to the 2020 APA Stress in America Survey, approximately 64% of Americans report feeling stressed about their financial situation. This is to be expected with a global pandemic that has negatively impacted the lives of so many people. Even if you disregard the pandemic, financial instability is typically on the top of the chart for top stressors people face. 

In modern society, financial stability is often seen in the same way that your ancient ancestors viewed food and shelter security. Today, everything from your housing to the food you eat requires money – and money insecurity is essentially directly linked to those basic essential needs. 

Relationship Strain

Another large contributor to stress is relationship strain. You have most likely heard the saying that emotional pain can feel the same as physical pain. This is true for many people, and when relationships with loved ones are strained, your body can perceive it as an immediate threat to your wellbeing and initiate a stress response. 


Trauma is a large contributing factor to stress. Unlike the other causes, trauma does not need to have happened in the recent past to affect you in the present. Even traumas that have been endured years prior remain with a person for several years. Some people may not even know that their stress stems from a traumatic event. 

Because of this, some psychological treatments of stress include trying to pinpoint that trauma to allow people to move past it and live a less stressful existence. 

How Does Stress Affect Your Body?

Stress has a negative impact on your body, mood, and behavior, especially when elevated consistently. Your body views stress as a potential threat, so it goes into defense mode. When appropriate, the stress response can save your life by forcing a quick reaction when driving, or giving you a boost in strength to lift something heavy through a rush of hormones like adrenaline. In non-life-threatening situations, it can help you to concentrate and stay motivated in completing important tasks. 

Your immune, digestive, and reproductive systems are all affected by stress, and you can even be at higher risk of heart attack and stroke with chronic stress. 

Some of the common physical symptoms of stress include rapid heartbeat, exhaustion, headaches, muscle pain, chest pain, nausea, dizziness, diarrhea, fatigue, and indigestion.

In addition to physical symptoms, stress has a significant effect on your mood and mental health. Not only does stress lead to anxiety and depression – two common causes of erectile dysfunction – but it also can cause a lack of motivation, irritability, and feelings of being overwhelmed.

Lastly, stress negatively influences your behaviors. It’s common for people to overeat or under-eat, abuse substances, sleep too much or too little, procrastinate, withdraw socially, and exercise less often when under stress.

What Does Stress Have to Do with Erectile Dysfunction? 

Surprisingly enough, all of the negative impacts stress has on your body are causes of erectile dysfunction. And it’s not a coincidence. Many people view erectile dysfunction as simply a physical inability to attain an erection. While this is a basic description of what ED is, it fails to take into account the psychological component in getting an erection. 

In order for you to have an erection, your body needs to be in the right mindset to view a sexual situation in a way that gets things moving. 

If you are suffering from stress, your body is so focused on protecting itself that it cannot physically function in the way it needs to for you to get an erection.

In addition to the psychological impacts of stress, the impacts of stress hormones like cortisol can also impact the ability to get an erection. Research seems to indicate that cortisol levels have an inverse association with testosterone levels. This means that when cortisol levels are elevated, testosterone levels decrease. This relationship can impact your ability to achieve an erection because testosterone is the primary male sex hormone that increases libido, sexual desire, and ability to have optimum sexual health.

Can You Treat Stress-Induced Erectile Dysfunction? 

Since stress is an emotional response, it can be difficult to treat. However, you can limit its impact on your sex life and physical health with some intentional stress-reduction tactics.

Therapy for Stress

If stress is causing you to experience any of the physical symptoms listed above, speaking with a therapist may be a good first step. A trained therapist can help you get to the root of what's causing your stress, help you discuss your stress in a safe environment, and give you tools to alleviate stress.

Whether your stress is due to your job, personal relationships, or life in general, a therapist can help you find ways to more effectively manage these stressors and emotions. 

Your therapist may suggest medications, too, but be sure to ask about side effects. Studies have shown that antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications can contribute to erectile dysfunction. 

Lifestyle Changes for Stress

Scientific evidence has repeatedly demonstrated that eating healthier, exercising, and losing weight can all provide a huge boost to sexual function. These activities can help to reduce stress levels as well. In particular, exercise has been linked with improving perceived stress and reducing stress symptoms.

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 everything in your life all at once. Start to slowly integrate these changes to give yourself time to adapt.

You'll also want to consider cutting back on your alcohol intake and quitting smoking cigarettes. These habits are commonly used to manage stress, but they're extremely bad for blood flow and erections. Both are common contributors to stress and ED. 

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 the 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.

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. 

Making these lifestyle changes can improve overall blood circulation and cardiovascular health. Stronger and more consistent blood flow can help to enhance the strength and duration of your erections. 

Prescription Medications for Stress

Several prescription medications are used to manage the symptoms of stress – including selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs. These medications are most commonly used in depression, but they're also prescribed for the treatment of stress and anxiety.

Unfortunately, SSRIs can also lead to ED. Erectile dysfunction is a known side effect of these common medications.

Other medications for stress or anxiety can include benzodiazepines and even anticonvulsants.

Prescription Medications for ED

Viagra® (sildenafil) and Cialis® (tadalafil) all have a long and proven record of success in treating the symptoms of ED, even when ED is caused by stress or anxiety.

While these tablets won’t specifically help with stress, they can help provide erections strong enough for sex. For men dealing with stress due to ED, getting a strong erection with the help of a prescription medication may help combat that performance anxiety or stress. In some cases, doctors may even use these medications in the treatment of erectile dysfunction caused by stress.

If you are experiencing ED, it could be a sign of an underlying medical condition. Schedule a visit with your personal doctor or work with the experts here at Rex MD for fast, affordable ED treatments delivered.


Viagra® is the most well known and one of the most utilized medications for erectile dysfunction. I

 It was the first of its kind to hit the market and has become a staple treatment solution for many that have ED. 


Cialis® came to the market shortly after the introduction of Viagra. It utilizes a similar mechanism of action to induce an erection, but slightly differs in its chemical composition. These slight differences offer some advantages over Viagra®

The most notable benefit of Cialis® is that it can be taken in a daily dose form that gives you the ability to be spontaneous and not worry about having to take a pill an hour before having sex. 

Another benefit of Cialis® is that it is authorized to help treat Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH). BPH is an enlargement of the prostate and is more common as you age. If you fall into the category of men with BPH and erectile dysfunction, Cialis® could be your saving grace.


Levitra is another alternative that acts as a PDE5 inhibitor. Levitra is a great option for those that have tried the above medications and are looking for better results. The slight variations in chemical compositions between the treatment options allows people with ED to find the option that helps them the best. 

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 an improved quality of life as a result. 

How Rex MD Can Help

Resolving the complex connection between stress and erectile dysfunction is achievable through adopting healthier habits, using stress-reduction techniques, and seeking appropriate medical intervention when necessary. Remember, this bidirectional relationship between stress and ED is common, and seeking guidance from specialized healthcare professionals can provide effective strategies to break free from this cycle. You're not alone in facing these challenges, and there are solutions available to address both stress and ED. 

Rex MD helps guys deal with sensitive topics from the comfort of home. Skip the inconvenient (and awkward) visit to the doctor’s office. Get started today for as little as $2/pill, if prescribed, and see how easy ED treatment can be.

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