When dealing with ED, there’s more to it than just medication. Building mental strength is key as stress and anxiety can play a major role in erectile dysfunction. The Mayo Clinic points out:
“Male sexual arousal is a complex process that involves the brain, hormones, emotions, nerves, muscles and blood vessels. Erectile dysfunction can result from a problem with any of these. Likewise, stress and mental health concerns can cause or worsen erectile dysfunction.” (1)
Stress can affect how your brain sends messages to your penis to increase blood flow. That increased blood flow is what makes your penis get and stay hard for sex. If you’re stressed out and your brain doesn’t send the right signals, you won’t be able to get and keep an erection. (2)
Typical causes of stress that can cause or worsen ED include:
- Nervousness and performance anxiety about having sex
- Relationship issues
- Job problems
- Health concerns
- Fear of aging
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
For younger men, stress-related ED is often caused by performance anxiety. With middle-aged men, personal and professional stress like relationship issues and trouble at work is the most common cause. And while physical issues from the basic reality of getting older are most typically the cause of ED for older men, losing a partner or loneliness can introduce a lot of stress into the mix. (2)
One study of combat veterans who had served in Iraq and/or Afghanistan found that vets with PTSD were 3 times more likely than their fellow vets without PTSD to suffer from sexual dysfunction like ED. (3)
Here are 8 ways to help you with building mental strength to combat stress and anxiety. Not only can this help with your ED, but lowering stress levels will improve your mental and physical well-being
1: Understand your ED
Since stress contributes to ED, it’s very easy to get caught in a cycle where:
- Your ED causes a disappointment when having sex
- The memory of that letdown creates stress about sex
- The next time you have sex, the stress increases your ED symptoms
- Back to 1
When ED affects your love life, it’s important to remember that sexual arousal is complex. If your ED prevented you from getting an erection, it’s not your or your partner’s fault. It does not mean you’re not a good lover, that you’re not attracted to your partner, or that every time you try to have sex the same things will happen.
Remember that you’re taking steps to build mental strength and treat your ED and you can feel proud of that. Everyone has a disappointing sexual experience occasionally, so there’s no need to feel bad about it.
2: Understand your stress factors
If you feel worried and anxious, take time to figure out the causes. Look at the list of typical causes of stress and take an inventory. Is it stress about ED? About your job? Your relationship? Something else? Knowing the cause is going to be a big part of the solution.
3: Make sure you’re taking care of yourself
One of the most frequently recommended ways to deal with stress and anxiety is to go back to basics. Basic healthy habits, that is. Remember to:
- Eat a balanced diet
- Drink plenty of water
- Get plenty of rest
These are simple things, but they’re easy to forget, especially when you’re busy and stressed out. By keeping yourself well-nourished and well-rested, you’ll be in the best shape to fight stress (4)
4: Get Expert Advice
Talk to your doctor or a mental health professional about symptoms of chronic stress or anxiety. They can provide personalized advice on the right solutions for you. Mental health is as much a part of well-being as physical health, so don’t be scared to talk about your mental state with your doctor.
5: Don’t self-medicate
One of the worst things you can do for stress and anxiety, especially if you’re trying to treat ED, is to abuse alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs. All these things can contribute to ED symptoms or be the root cause. (5)
6: Find time for yourself
Is being busy and on the go all the time the cause of your stress? Find a way to slow down, even for a little while. Relax with a favorite hobby or remember to catch the game on Sunday. Take some time to be you.
7: Try meditation or mindfulness
It may sound strange at first, but meditation can provide another way to deal with stress. (6) All you need is a few minutes on your own to practice basic meditation techniques. For ideas on how to get started, check out this list of 23 different methods (7)
If you’re stressed or anxious, try getting some exercise. Hit the gym, go for a walk, or head to the driving range after work or during the weekend. Exercise makes you feel better and can take your mind off whatever is stressing you out. And getting some exercise will get you in better shape for sex too.
It’s easy for guys to blow off mental health issues. But mental toughness doesn’t mean ignoring problems – it means facing them and building mental strength. Take time to understand how stress can affect you, both for your ED and for your overall well-being.