Erectile Dysfunction

Stress and ED: Why the Two Never Go Well Together

August 16, 2022

Erectile dysfunction happens for a variety of reasons.

Strong erections rely on strong and consistent blood flow. Medical conditions that impact blood flow and cardiovascular health frequently result in ED, commonly later in life. The most common are hypertension, atherosclerosis, obesity, and diabetes

However, not all causes of erectile dysfunction are physical in nature.

Psychological conditions frequently contribute to difficulties achieving or maintaining an erection, too, and chief among them is stress.

What Is Stress? 

Stress is how your body responds to real or perceived threats. Stress or the feeling of stress operate as one facet of the body’s defense system, sometimes referred to as a “fight or flight” response. 

Although stress can be harmful, it’s intended to protect you.

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. 

However, frequently getting stressed or living in this “fight or flight” state constantly can do real and lasting damage to your physical and mental health.

Man sitting at his computer stressed out

What Does Stress Do To You?

Stress has a negative impact on your body, mood, and behavior, especially when elevated consistently. 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 over-eat or under-eat, abuse substances, sleep too much or too little, procrastinate, withdraw socially, and exercise less often when under stress.

How Does Stress Contribute to Erectile Dysfunction? 

Stress contributes to dozens of physical and mental health issues that can lead to erectile dysfunction. 

For starters, stress contributes to several of the medical conditions mentioned previously, including heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity. Each is commonly associated with stress, and they all have a strong association with erectile dysfunction. 

Another way that stress can disrupt sexual function in men is by impacting the production of testosterone in your body. Low testosterone can have a significant impact on your libido and sex drive. 

Stress also has a negative impact on your emotions and mental health. Anxiety and depression are two of the most common psychological causes of erectile dysfunction. Many people with chronic stress will develop one or both of these comorbidities. These issues can often result in hormonal imbalances, a loss of interest in sex, and an inability to get adequately stimulated. 

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, though 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.

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

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

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 anti-convulsants.

Prescription Medications for ED

Viagra® (sildenafil), Cialis® (tadalafil), and Levitra® (vardenafil) 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 ED caused by stress.

The Takeaway 

Stress is a crucial element of human survival through evolution, and your body depends on this process to some extent daily; however, stress can be dangerous when elevated consistently or frequently.

High levels of stress are known to cause a variety of health issues that can lead to erectile dysfunction. The best thing for you to do is to find ways to manage your stress more effectively. Talking with a therapist and making some lifestyle changes can help reduce your stress and even improve your erections. 

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


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