Erectile dysfunction is getting younger: the percentage of young men (up to 40 years old) diagnosed with ED is rising. Can erectile dysfunction be caused by chronic stress and anxiety instead by physiological reasons? Medical specialists have a few points of view on this problem.
Stress, nervousness, and erectile dysfunction
According to recent statistics, ED to certain extend affects at least 18 million Americans over 20 years old. As ED is difficult to diagnose, and the diagnosis is mostly based on a patient’s evaluation, the actual number can be a lot more. ED usually develops with age, it may be caused by several health issues, but having trouble maintaining an erection is many cases has nothing to do with the abovementioned reasons.
Why does it occur?
Good news that today there are many healthcare providers that can help identify the cause of ED and work to eliminate it. Besides, pharmacies offer ED treating pills to help restore control over the situation.
The causes of ED can be divided into psychological and physical. The treatment plans for them differ a lot. Physical causes usually imply illnesses or health conditions that can be treated by a physician or a narrow specialist. To physical causes belong, for example, heart disease, hypertension, high cholesterol levels, excess bodyweight, and alcohol abuse.
Psychological factors are somewhat more difficult to find and they can’t be treated by a magic pill without serious involvement of the patient. The professional psychological aid is required. Good news is that most emotional and environmental factors are curable.
The most popular psychological reasons are stress and anxiety.
How can stress cause erectile dysfunction?
To learn more about psychology, it is necessary to get deeper into physiological processes of the body. Men can experience 3 types of erections: reflexive (caused by physical stimulation), psychogenic (caused by visual or mental images that are considered arousing), and nocturnal (uncontrolled erection during sleep). All three types of erections involve several systems and processes of an organism. A failure in any of these processes can cause ED.
These systems and processes include:
- Proper work of nervous system;
- Proper dilation of blood vessels;
- Reliable performance of muscles;
- Enough production of hormones;
- The ability to have certain emotions.
Mental health conditions (for example, chronic stress and anxiety; all list on NAMI website: https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-Conditions) can distort the reaction of the brain causing body’s physical response. If we talk about erection, then stress and anxiety can interrupt the channel that the brain uses to send signals to the penis and fill its vessels with blood.
Psychological causes of Erectile Dysfunction
To learn more about psychological reasons of ED, we should give a definition to the word “stress” as it is sometimes misused on everyday life.
Stress is a state of mental and psychological tension that arises as a normal reaction to any changes, complicated or dangerous situations. A combination of minor “stresses” lead to the occurrence of chronic stress: continuous anxiety and nervousness that depletes natural mental and physical energy of a person.As it is almost impossible to control the emergence of stressful situation, the only way to control stress is to change your respond to these situations and events. This may require working with a psychologist.
Another important notion, stress can be both negative and positive. Some people consider positive events requiring a lot of efforts, energy and nerves (such as a baby birth, wedding, job promotion) don’t have any relation to stress. But all that implies a lot of changes, and many changes happened at once lead to stress regardless of its reasons.Other common causes of stress are a loss of a loved one, constant quarrelling with a loved one, deadlines at work, legal problems, unemployment, new job, retirement, financial troubles, health troubles.
Stress warning signs
It is enough to listen to your body to be able to define stress and its physical, emotional, and behavioral warning signs. In case you feel angry with no reason, unable to concentrate of difficult tasks, suddenly feel worried or sad or suffer from dramatic mood swings – you brain is trying to say this is too much for you. Eating disorders are another major symptom of stress.
Constant stress symptoms can be found not only in a person’s emotional state, but it their physical characteristics. People suffering from constant stress are most likely to have ED symptoms, sweaty palms, serious weight fluctuations, arched upper back, sleep disturbance, hypertension, etc.
Anxiety connected to ED may have its own features and form a vicious circle: once a person experiences ED, most likely he is scared the same situation is going to happen again. This leads to so-called “performance anxiety” – a fear of failure in sexual relationship that arises from first ED symptoms and leads to severe cases of ED. In this case it is important to retain control over the situation and seek professional help if necessary.
Guilt can also be a reason for ED as a man cannot fully relax and feel satisfied with the process. A man may feel guilty for brining not enough satisfaction to the partner or feel guilty for being unfaithful, for watching porn or whatever. If the guilt is so serious and traumatic, it is recommended to use the help of a healthcare provider or consultant.
Indifference (emotional insensitivity)
If not appeared because of major problems within a couple (i.e. when a man doesn’t feel like having sex with anyone, not only with one woman), the lack of emotional involvement that impacts sexual performance may arise due to several reasons. It may appear with age as a subsequent loss of interest to sex, as the result of chronic stress (mentioned above) or because of taking anti-depressants or other medications.
Low self-esteem as a psychological reason that impedes with having a good erection can happen due to previous experience of ED symptoms or can arise from other spheres of life unrelated to sexuality. For example, financial problems can be decreasing sexual performance as well.
How to cope with stress and treat ED?
As mentioned above, while the stressful situations cannot be controlled, it is important to control your reaction to stress.
- Control your expectations. Grand expectations lead to chronic dissatisfaction with the result, the same applies to sexual relationship.
- Learn more about distressing emotions. Instead of anger or aggression you can show assertiveness.
- Eat and drink in reasonable amounts, try to incorporate regular exercising in your life.
- Try to find a partner or maintain existing emotionally supportive relationship.
- Learn relaxation techniques.
- Give up smoking and alcohol consumption.
If your case is complicated, seek help from healthcare providers and include therapy to break out of the cycle “stress-performance anxiety-ED”.
The professional therapy may include:
- Counseling: at this point it recommended to visit a therapist to identify major stress factors or anxiety reasons to start working on them.
- Psychodynamic therapy: this type of therapy includes working with a subconscious conflict to help find the key factor (or factors) caused ED.
- Sex therapy: helps to reduce stress by building romantic relationship and getting full sensational pleasure.
- Sexual anxiety therapy: this implies detailed work with ED mechanism to enhance awareness and find a solution. Many relaxation and imagination involvement techniques can be used.
- Alternative therapies: yoga, meditation, acupuncture and many other oriental practices.
Are there supplements to treat stress-related Erectile Dysfunction?
There are some herbs and supplements used to improve mental balance and minimize the symptoms of stress and anxiety causing ED. Also, they are beneficial for men’s health and promote libido.
Their active ingredients are:
- Panax ginseng, an Asian herb that exist in the form of tablets, capsules or cream for local use.
- Black maca, usually available powdered, is a herb root that helps to beat stress and improve male sexual attractiveness.
- Kava, another helpful herb that can help dealing with mood swings and anxiety.
- Chamomile, a flower to make infusions. Known for its healing properties and ability to comfort overstimulated nervous system. that helps reduce symptoms of anxiety.
Before using any herbal supplements, consult your healthcare provider about their safety for your health. Some of them may have side effects or provoke allergic reactions.
Are there any other Erectile Dysfunction treatments?
ED is not a disease itself, it is just a symptom of an underlying condition. We have discussed several psychological causes of ED. In many cases, stress is only a trigger factor of ED and not the cause. The cause may by physiological. Tell your healthcare provider about all the symptoms you noticed to help diagnosing the underlying condition for your case of ED.
The most common treatments for ED are:
- Medicines (PDE5 inhibitors) for oral administration;
- Penis suppository;
- Testosterone replacement therapy;
- Vacuum erection pumps;
- Surgery and installation of penile implants;
- Blood vessel surgery;
In any case, it is better to consult a doctor about your case. Looking for the ED causes can take time, during which patients can improve their sexual life by taking prescribed medications, known as PDE5 inhibitors (for example, Viagra, Cialis, Levitra and some others). The healthcare provider will give a prescription and specify the dose.