Opinion

The Psychology Behind Erectile Dysfunction: What’s Really Causing It

By now you know erectile dysfunction (ED) refer to men with an inability to gain or maintain an erection — but did you know that the problem can run deeper than just the physiological? It’s true that the organic causes of ED are usually related to the blood vessels, meaning blood can’t properly flow to fill the penis; a problem that can be easily be treated with proper intervention. Psychological causes of ED, on the other hand, are frequently overlooked and harder to treat.

Mental health issues can have adverse effects on a person, including one’s sense of well-being, so it makes sense that these problems can also impact their sex life. The reason being mental health problems tend to cause chemical and structural changes in the brain, as explained by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Because sexuality is partially controlled by certain brain regions and their neurotransmitters, any changes in these structures can result in sexual problems. And at the end of the day good sex requires both partners be in good physical and psychological health.

Mental health and mood

Most mental health disorders cause unfavorable changes in mood. For instance, depression is generally a disorder whose primary features are low mood and a negative outlook on life. These changes in mood can have a negative impact on desire and libido, which, in extreme cases, could lead to ED. Depression also happens to be the most common cause of ED in young men, while one study published in the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy found that vasomotor disorders — the nerves and muscles that cause blood vessels to constrict or dilate — are more likely to cause ED in older men. Not to mention depression can negatively impact a person’s relationship, further escalating intimacy issues and consequently sexual problems.

Stress and erectile dysfunction

Stress is another contributing factor in the development of ED, according to some studies. Most, however, link stress to less severe problems in the area of sexual functioning. As far as men are concerned, daily stress is more likely to cause premature ejaculation than ED.

Nevertheless, one study found that stress management was a successful treatment option for ED. Why? Stress leads to an overactive fight or flight response, which can negatively impact your overall health from cardiovascular functioning to mental health. Some men tend to cure ED with the help of top male enhancement pills when stress management could be a more helpful and successful option.

Erectile dysfunction Some men need to go below the surface to understand the root cause of erectile dysfunction. Photo courtesy of Pexels

Severe mental health issues

Men suffering from the most severe types of mental health problems, such as schizophrenia and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), are very likely to experience ED not just as a result of their stressful illness but as a side effect of their medication. Antipsychotics were found to cause ED in men with schizophrenia. Furthermore, sexual impairment in severe mental illnesses results from impairment in interpersonal functioning common in schizophrenia patients.

Antidepressants such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) can also cause sexual problems in some people as well. A study on PTSD patients even found that sexual functioning was worse in men taking antidepressants.

While ED and overall poor sexual functioning is a known side effect of psychiatric medication, the benefits of such treatments such as improvement in mood and functioning cannot be overlooked. Talk with your doctor first before making any decisions regarding medication.

Anxiety and ED

Another mental health problem that could cause poor sexual functioning is anxiety. Anxiety is a state causing nearly constant inner turmoil and fear that has no direct cause. Chronically anxious men could experience ED due to performance anxiety. This, in turn, could lead to a vicious cycle where this anxiety leads to avoidance of intimacy and sex altogether due to feelings of shame and guilt. Panic disorders can also lead to poor sexual functioning in which case talk therapy and anxiolytics could help decrease the symptoms of anxiety and help improve sexual functioning.

Conclusion

In most cause, the causes of erectile dysfunction have an organic cause such poor cardiovascular health. However, ED can also be a result of underlying psychological disorders. The mind-body connection cannot be overlooked when treating sexual disorders such as ED, and scientists are becoming more aware of the impact mental health has on sexual functioning. Men who can’t find a way to treat their ED may look for supplements like Nugenix to boost testosterone levels — but if the problem is of a psychological nature, they may be just throwing money away and slip further into despair. Try asking your physician if the causes of your ED may be due to underlying mental health issues, and you may finally solve your problem.

David Gomes in Oakland, Calif. He received his master of science from the California Institute of Technology. He loves to write on a variety of topics such as joint health, weight loss, beauty and skin care for blogs and online publication sites. He also loves latest technology, gadgets. You can connect with him on Google+ and Twitter.

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