Psychological erectile dysfunction – Is it all really just in your head?

Erectile dysfunction is a condition that affects many men—and not only those advanced in age. It has two primary causes: physical and psychological.

Physical erectile dysfunction is the most prevalent, caused by aging or medical conditions, such as hypertension, coronary artery disease, and diabetes. Psychological erectile dysfunction is when psychological factors hinder a man’s ability to achieve and maintain an erection.

Despite being lesser known, psychological ED accounts for up to 20 percent of all erectile dysfunction cases. Erectile dysfunction, mental health, and emotional well-being are intricately linked. Most erectile dysfunction cases among men under 40 begin with their mental state.

Man drowning out noise pollution holding pillow over his head in bed

What is Psychological Erectile Dysfunction?

The inability to achieve or maintain an erection firm enough to perform in bed can further debilitate and stress men because it affects their self-esteem in such a visceral way.

A myriad of factors cause erectile dysfunction, including stress and anxiety, low self-esteem, performance anxiety, guilt, pornography addiction, depression, relationship problems, and sexual indifference.

For an erection to happen, a man’s nervous system, blood vessels, muscles, hormones, and emotions must all be in sync. A glitch or disruption in any of these, due to the factors mentioned above, can result in psychological ED.

Erections fall into three categories: reflexive, psychogenic, and nocturnal. Physical stimulation elicits reflexive erection, recalling stimulating visual imagery triggers a psychogenic erection, and erections that occur at night, during sleep, are known as nocturnal erections.

The symptoms of erectile dysfunction are pretty straightforward – the failure to achieve an erection and the inability to maintain an erection. Other issues like premature ejaculation, impotence, and low sexual libido are not erectile dysfunction symptoms, per se. These are other forms of sexual dysfunction.

Man sat at edge of bed stressed while partner is in bed using laptop

Factors That Cause Psychological ED

Facing sexual trauma at a young age can psychologically affect future sexual situations in adults. Succeeding experiences will be associated with negative feelings and relate to that memory from their early life.

In these cases, the brain tries to bar one from ever experiencing the same; hence, the difficulty of the abused person in future sexual experiences. However, sexual trauma usually stems from childhood, and in this article, we will mainly focus on psychological factors that happen later in life and cause mental erectile dysfunction.

Stress and Anxiety

Stress and anxiety are related in that stress triggers anxiety, which can then cause more stress resulting in more anxiety – a vicious cycle that can be hard to escape. Stress can be work-related, financial, due to relationship pressures, or due to a massive life change.

When we are stressed, the brain releases stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline into the bloodstream. These hormones primary function is to prime us for imminent danger. They work by clenching the body muscles and prioritizing evading said danger.

When the brain prioritizes keeping you safe, it will not send the right signals needed to have an erection. To the brain, it isn’t a priority.

Performance Anxiety

Usually caused by feelings of inadequacy about penis size, ejaculatory control, or a failure to satisfy your partner, mental erectile dysfunction can create anxiety. The irony is, the more you think about your perceived inadequacies, the higher the likelihood of it manifesting during sex.

Once that manifestation transpires, it can create additional performance anxieties based on that sexual experience. Having already underperformed aggravates the situation and brings about the worry of a future repetition—which will increase the odds of it happening again—another vicious cycle.

Low Self-Esteem

Low self-esteem is a complete lack of confidence in one’s capabilities or worth. Negative and demeaning self-talk and thoughts perpetuate low self-esteem. One might see themselves as not sexy enough or not capable of pleasing their partner.

These doubts, just as with performance anxiety, can create the very issue you are trying so hard to avoid – psychogenic erectile dysfunction.

Sexual Indifference

This lack of sexual appetite is more common in romantic relationships marked by boredom, routine, and dissatisfactory sex. Interestingly, science does have an explanation for this condition. Dopamine is the hormone responsible for excitement, motivation, and pleasure.

Whenever we experience arousal, bursts of dopamine are released into the blood to facilitate physical responses that cause happiness. So, if you are not in the least interested in intercourse, the chances are low that you will become sexually aroused, and an erection will be far from achievable.

Relationship Problems

Whenever you and your partner go through rough patches in your relationship, it can be challenging to feel safe and trust each other. Getting into that mental and emotional headspace needed for satisfactory physical intimacy can be extremely difficult, and can prevent either of you from responding to each other’s sexual advances.

Couple stood back to back annoyed with each other

Guilt

Guilt can stem from having an illicit affair or from strict cultural and religious rules. If, for instance, you are involved with another partner aside from your life partner, that unfaithfulness can create a strong enough emotional response that you cannot achieve or maintain an erection.

Going against cultural and religious beliefs is another cause of psychological erectile dysfunction. If you come from a religious background, yet engage in sex in a way that would not be allowed in that context, that too can affect your sexual ability. It’s as if your mind punishes you, and does not allow you to enjoy sex with your partner freely.

Addiction to Pornography

Research has shown that the consistent viewing of pornographic material while masturbating affects the way your brain responds to sexual stimuli. Over time, the brain learns to respond to stimuli from pornography only because that’s what it has come to expect.

So, the brain can, with time, fail to take its cue and physically respond to the sexual advances of your partner. The reason? Pornographic material becomes the dominant sexual stimulus.

Another problem is that what most men masturbate to is a stark contrast to the real experiences with their partners. This mismatch affects how the brain responds to the understated arousal stimuli, assuming you masturbate more than you have intercourse.

Read more on porn-induced erectile dysfunction here.

Depression

When it hits, depression affects both the physical and mental aspects of your life. It can be overwhelmingly paralyzing, marked by feelings of frustration, hopelessness, guilt, unworthiness, irritation, lack of concentration, and lack of energy.

Depression can drive changes in your nervous system and brain chemistry. Some of these changes affect sex drive and the ability to maintain an erection. Science aside, it is challenging to engage in sexual relations when you are feeling guilty or as if you are underperforming in all aspects of life.

Depressed man sat at home looking at the floor

How Do You Know You Are Suffering From Psychological ED?

First, you must have been experiencing consistent failures in achieving and maintaining erections. It is important to note that failure to maintain an erection once in a while is not unreasonable.

Almost all men experience this at some point in their lives, regardless of their physical experience or sexual health. Erectile dysfunction becomes a problem when the frequency of its occurrence increases and recurs over time.

If you think you’re experiencing erectile dysfunction, you must visit your general practitioner to check if you have any underlying medical condition or if you are taking any reactive medication. Your doctor is best placed to ascertain this. Medical conditions known to affect sexual performance include:

  • Coronary artery disease
  • Hypertension
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • High cholesterol
  • Alcoholism
  • Hormonal disorders
  • Other cardiovascular diseases

If you’re not ailing from any of the above conditions, you might be suffering from psychological ED. Ask yourself the next two questions to establish for sure that you are:

  1. Do I still get a morning erection?
  2. Can I achieve and maintain an erection when I am masturbating?

If the answer to both these questions is yes, yet you still face erection problems, your dysfunction is likely psychologically-induced. The fact that you can achieve and maintain an erection alone and when masturbating means that your body is physically capable of holding an erection.

Psychological erectile dysfunction generally only arises when with your partner, probably due to the above-mentioned psychological factors.

Young couple looking away from each other in bed

What Can You Do to Improve Psychological ED?

Addressing the issue at its core is the best treatment method. Focus on treating the cause rather than the symptoms, is more likely to lead to success. In addition to that, we advise that you:

Speak To Your Doctor or Therapist

Your doctor or therapist will first carry out a test to rule out erectile dysfunction-related medical conditions. This test helps them determine for sure that it is psychological factors causing your erectile dysfunction.

They will also ask questions about your sex life, sexual libido, your satisfaction level during intercourse, and your ability to hold and maintain an erection. Your doctor might carry out a psychological evaluation as well. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT might be prescribed to treat any underlying psychological factors.

Other Alternatives to Try at Home

In the meantime, you can try some options to help with your mental erectile dysfunction at home — these aid in treating underlying psychological factors that cause erectile dysfunction.

  • Guided Imagery

Guided imagery restores self-esteem, reduces stress, performance anxiety, and anxiety in general. It involves slowing down your breathing while creating beautiful visual imagery in your head to calm your mind.

The visual imagery function is meant to replace negative thoughts you have been harboring and generate positive ideas that help your thought process.

Reciting positive affirmation and blocking negative thoughts are all encompassed in this therapy. Your therapist can lead you, or you can listen to pre-recorded guide tapes in the comfort and privacy of your home.

  • Meditation

Meditation is famed for alleviating stress and chaotic minds. It brings about calmness and serenity, reducing stress and anxiety. Remember that anxiety and stress are underlying psychological factors of psychogenic erectile dysfunction. Try to set aside 10-15 minutes daily to meditate or whenever you are feeling overwhelmed.

Office workers sat in the park meditating on sunny day

  • Exercising

Getting 20-30 minutes of exercise per day reduces stress levels. It also reduces depression and anxiety. Over time, physical activity raises self-esteem, considering that more exercise results in a fitter individual. Kegel exercises help in preventing erectile dysfunction.
They strengthen the muscles accountable for pumping blood to the penis. Clench your muscles responsible for controlling urination, and consider doing some other erectile dysfunction exercises as well.

  • Rhythmic Breathing

Rhythmic breathing restores calmness and peace. Concentrate on slow, long breaths. Slowly count of five as you breathe in, hold your breath for five seconds, and then exhale slowly to the count of five. Do this until you feel that you have entirely de-stressed.

  • Talk to Your Partner

Talking to your partner is one of the best ways to deal with Psychological ED. Chances are, your partner is just as frustrated with the situation as you are, and who could understand your situation better if not them?

Acknowledge the issue at hand and openly explain to your partner the root cause. Is it the stress at work, or is it finances? Could it be the friction between the two of you two? Maybe you’re undergoing a depressive episode? Be open and lay it all out. More often than not, your partner will be ready and receptive to help you work through the situation.

If relationship problems are bleeding into your sex life, couples counseling or sex therapy is a viable option. What’s more, openly talking about such a profound issue strengthens emotional intimacy, and emotional intimacy goes a long way toward improving your sex life.

Mature couple gazing into each others eyes

  • Take Viasil

Another alternative, and one that has helped many is to take Viasil. Viasil contains all-natural nutrients that have been used since ancient times to cure erectile dysfunction.

These ingredients include zinc, citrus fruit extract, ginseng, pomegranate, and gingko biloba, all known to enhance male performance and treat erectile dysfunction.

With Viasil, you’ll experience a natural boost to your erection. Once you start performing well, confidence in your abilities is boosted, thus reducing performance anxiety, stress, and anxiety related to sex.

The advantage of Viasil is you can take it at the confines of your home without having to discuss it with anyone except your doctor.

Final Thoughts

Psychological erectile dysfunction can put a considerable strain on your relationship. Deciding to get it treated is the right step to boost your ego and mend your relationship. Many options exist to help you get rid of psychological ED.

If you are among the many men who brood over opening up to a doctor, alternatives like Viasil, exercising, and meditation are a valid option. Viasil can help you reclaim your sexual prowess by enhancing your performance.

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