Psychology and ED

The Psychological Roots of ED

While physical factors are often the root cause behind erectile dysfunction, in 10% to 20% of cases there is an underlying psychological cause. Sexual arousal begins in the brain before it travels to the rest of the body and anything that short-circuits the beginning of the arousal process can have physical ramifications.

In some cases, childhood abuse or sexual trauma is the root cause of erectile dysfunction, but there are other, more common, psychological reasons for erectile dysfunction that should be considered.


Stress is one of the leading psychological causes of erectile dysfunction. If you're dealing with difficulties at work, money worries, or conflict at home, stress may be the root cause of your erectile dysfunction. In addition to inability to achieve or maintain an erection, stress has other warning signs. If you feel that stress may be leading to your ED, consider if you have these other leading symptoms of stress.

  • Anger
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Gaining or losing weight
  • Impulsiveness
  • Stooping posture

Stress can lead to many other serious health issues, so if you feel like stress is contributing to your erectile dysfunction, consult your doctor or therapist to determine the best course of treatment and stress reduction.


If you have experienced erectile dysfunction in the past, this may cause you anxiety in the future. While it is natural to worry about sexual performance, obsessing over your ability to achieve an erection can lead to a vicious cycle as the anxiety itself can lead to erectile dysfunction.

There is no single cure for performance anxiety, but the following may help sufferers overcome their difficulties.

  • Do not define your sexual experience by an inability to achieve an erection. It is possible to satisfy your partner and yourself without an erection.
  • Focus more on your partner and less on yourself. This can help you avoid fears of what might happen and keep you in the moment.
  • Keep your thoughts on what is happening in the present and not what has happened in the past or what might happen in the future.


Any type of depression, from chronic depression to major depressive disorder, can impact your sexual desire and performance. It is natural for depressed men to have a reduced desire for sex, which can naturally make achieving and maintaining erections difficult.

Symptoms of depression can include the following:

  • Insomnia
  • Excessive eating or sudden appetite loss
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Feelings of guilt, helplessness, or worthlessness

If you feel that you are experiencing depression, consult your physician immediately. If you are prescribed drugs for treating your depression, pay attention to how they affect you physically as well as psychologically. Some antidepressants can also lead to erectile dysfunction, so communicate with your doctor to find the right medicine and dosage to treat your depression and avoid sexual dysfunction.

A Passing Phase

In many cases, psychological causes for erectile dysfunction can and will resolve themselves. However, if you feel your erectile dysfunction is caused by underlying psychological issues, seeking treatment can alleviate not only your ED, but also make you feel better and healthier.

It is also important to discuss your ED with your partner. A strong, communicative relationship can help minimize episodes of erectile dysfunction and provide both parties with a healthier, more satisfying sex life.