The Independent Pharmacy

Psychological Erectile Dysfunction: What Is It And How Do You Treat It

Andy Boysan
Andy BoysanBPharmDirector & Superintendent Pharmacist

Reviewed on 5 Feb 2024

Psychological erectile dysfunction happens when a man has issues getting or maintaining an erection due to emotional or mental health problems, not a physical issue. In fact, around 40% of ED cases are considered to be psychogenic. Stress, anxiety, depression, relationship issues, and unrealistic expectations about sex can all cause this condition.

Psychological erectile dysfunction can often be treated successfully with talk therapy, lifestyle changes to reduce stress, and sometimes medication. With professional assistance, men can identify the psychological issues impacting their bedroom performance and learn strategies to regain sexual function and confidence.

In this guide, we will discuss the signs, causes, and treatments for overcoming this common but manageable sexual health challenge.

Key Takeaways:

  • Psychological erectile dysfunction has emotional roots like stress, poor mental health, or relationship problems that disrupt sexual functioning - but can be improved through treatment.
  • Therapies, especially cognitive-behavioural, equip men with healthy mindsets and coping strategies that target anxiety and communication gaps impacting intimacy and arousal.
  • Lifestyle upgrades to nourishment, relaxation habits, and exercise build resilience against demanding life responsibilities that can hamper sexual satisfaction if left unchecked.
  • Medications can help manage symptoms when used together with therapy. Also, having a good support system can make these struggles feel more normal, helping to restore a satisfying sex life as part of overall health.

What Is Psychological Erectile Dysfunction?

Definition and Key Differences from Physical Causes

Psychological erectile dysfunction is when difficulties in achieving or maintaining an erection are caused by mental health problems or emotional issues, not by physical problems that affect blood flow or nerve function in the body. For example, performance anxiety, stress about work or family life, depression, and relationship conflict can all trigger sexual dysfunction by interfering with a man's mental arousal process.

With a physical cause of ED, an underlying bodily factor makes healthy erections difficult. But with psychological ED, struggles in the bedroom stem from emotional barriers to arousal and sexual excitement. Negative thoughts and emotions can interfere with the intricate way the brain and body work together to create an erection during intimate moments.

Common Psychological Triggers

There are a few key mental health concerns and emotional circumstances that often trigger psychological erectile dysfunction:

Stress - High general stress or specific stress about sexual performance can both contribute to sexual difficulties. When someone feels constantly overwhelmed, the body diverts focus away from non-essential functions like arousal in order to handle primary worries.

Anxiety – Particularly, performance anxiety about satisfying a sexual partner can make getting an erection difficult. Feelings of nervousness and tension interfere with the body's natural arousal process. Specific anxieties around body image can also play a role.

Depression – Coping with sadness, grief, and hopelessness can understandably hamper sex drive and enjoyment of intimacy. The stress of daily life can become even more challenging during times of depression, making it harder to experience sexual arousal.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

The symptoms of psychological erectile dysfunction involve struggling to get or maintain an erection during sexual activity. It's important to remember that occasional weak erections are normal for everyone. When these difficulties become repeated and persistent, it may indicate a condition like ED, and it's okay to seek help.

It’s important not to self-diagnose as the cause could be complex. By seeing a doctor, men can get an accurate diagnosis via questions about symptoms, medical history checks, and sometimes brief physical exams or blood tests. Doctors need to rule out potential physical factors first.

Some myths about psychological ED include the mistaken beliefs that it’s very rare, means a man is no longer attracted to his partner, only happens to older adults, or that it’s untreatable. Professional assessments are key to sorting facts from fiction.

Managing Psychological Factors

Stress and Anxiety Reduction Techniques

Because high stress and nervousness can clearly disrupt sexual functioning, managing tension levels is key for men struggling with psychological ED. Helpful stress relief techniques include:

  • Deep breathing exercises to tap into the body's calming response
  • Daily moderate exercise like walking, which eases both mental and physical tension
  • Muscle relaxation practices to unwind tightness from stress
  • Setting reasonable work goals and priorities to avoid burnout

Building leisure time, proper sleep, and social connection into lifestyles also helps lower everyday anxiety. This can relieve some pressure men feel to perform sexually, enhancing comfort and enjoyment of intimacy.

The Role of Therapy and Counseling

Seeing a therapist is highly recommended for gaining control over psychological ED, as mental health professionals are experts at uncovering root causes and providing effective coping strategies tailored to the individual.

Cognitive-behavioural therapy is especially helpful. It teaches men to replace thoughts that cause anxiety about sexual performance with more realistic and less stressful views. Reframing worries and perfectionistic expectations can relieve bedroom pressure. Discussion sessions also guide men through stress management and self-care techniques. Couples counselling allows partners to improve intimate communication and reconnect emotionally.

Through counselling, men can address negative thought cycles, manage external life stresses, and build confidence in enjoying sexual intercourse - rather than focusing on erections as the singular goal. Professional support equips guys with healthy mindsets and tools for overcoming psychological barriers interfering with arousal.

Importance of Communication in Relationships

For men experiencing psychological ED partly due to relationship problems, improving intimate communication with partners is extremely helpful alongside counselling.

Being vulnerable about sexual insecurities allows partners to understand situational pressures and offer encouragement. Couples can work together to foster relaxation rather than friction around sex. Communication also enables couples to set reasonable sexual expectations of one another moving forward.

Sexual intimacy relies on deep comfort levels and trust between partners. Restoring emotional connections weakened by poor communication, disagreements over intimacy changes, or broader life pressures can get psychological ED recovery heading in a positive direction.

Psychological Erectile Dysfunction Treatment and Recovery

Lifestyle Modifications and Self-Care

Making positive changes to daily habits and self-care can aid psychological ED treatment by lowering stress levels, anxiety, and depressive feelings that interfere with sexual function.

Beneficial lifestyle measures include:

  • Eating healthy meals and avoiding too much smoking or alcohol can improve both your physical and mental health
  • Setting aside relaxation time to decompress from work demands
  • Getting regular exercise to reduce tension and release endorphins
  • Limiting technology use at night to improve sleep quality
  • Engaging in enjoyable hobbies can boost your mood and help counter the negative effects of ongoing stress

Building in restorative lifestyle factors enables the body and mind to become more resilient against the rigours of demanding life responsibilities. This facilitates natural arousal pathways.

Medical Treatments for Psychological Erectile Dysfunction

In addition to counselling and positive lifestyle changes, some medications can assist with achieving and maintaining erections by increasing blood flow to the penis. These include:

Sildenafil (Viagra) – This commonly known medication works by relaxing and widening blood vessels, which increases blood flow during sexual arousal. Sildenafil (Viagra) does not spontaneously produce erections without sexual stimulation. Common side effects are headache, flushed skin, mild dizziness or upset stomach for a short period after taking.

Sildenafil Tablets (25mg, 50mg & 100mg)
Sildenafil Tablets (25mg, 50mg & 100mg)
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Tadalafil (Cialis) – This longer-lasting tablet enables erections for up to 36 hours after ingestion rather than just 4-6 for sildenafil. Tadalafil (Cialis) also minimises back or muscle aches, which are sometimes seen with other options. Headaches, indigestion or stuffy nose are potential side effects to discuss with doctors.

Tadalafil Tablets (10mg & 20mg)
Tadalafil Tablets (10mg & 20mg)
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Vardenafil (Levitra)- This alternative starts working within just 25-60 minutes, enabling sexual ability on demand rather than needing to pre-plan around medication onset timing. However, Vardenafil may produce more vision-related side effects like light sensitivity or colour tinge, which doctors monitor closely.

Vardenafil Tablets (5mg, 10mg & 20mg)
Vardenafil Tablets (5mg, 10mg & 20mg)
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While medications like these can be beneficial, it's important to remember that everyone's experience is unique, and finding what works best for you is a journey that deserves patience and understanding. Before starting any new treatments for erectile dysfunction, make sure that you consult a medical professional.

Professional Support and Resources

It’s vital for men struggling with psychological erectile dysfunction to avail themselves of professional assistance options rather than remain silent or try to push through sexual symptoms alone.

In addition to one-on-one counselling with a therapist or psychologist, some find peer support groups helpful for candidly discussing personal sexual experiences among others facing similar intimacy obstacles. Online forums can also connect men with empathy and ideas from the shared wisdom of group members further along in confronting sexual performance anxiety or low desire tied to mental health issues.

Preventative Measures

Proactive Mental Health Practices

Since psychological erectile dysfunction often sneaks up on men as life stress accumulates, preventative mental health strategies are useful for maintaining sexual resilience:

  • Self-check-ins to gauge internal tension levels before they reach critical mass
  • Carving out daily stress relief intervals to preempt overload
  • Not allowing minor relationship disagreements to fester unresolved
  • Openly communicating with partners to intercept brewing pressures
  • Following through on reasonable lifestyle health efforts like proper sleep and exercise

Remaining self-aware and responsive when managing life’s common mental strains can sustain healthy sexual functioning before dysfunction sets in.

Lifestyle and Relationship Awareness

Preventing psychological erectile dysfunction also relies on men remaining in tune with lifestyle balance challenges and relationship needs that can gradually enable ED triggers before they realise it.

It’s important to check in on nutrition, activity levels, sleep quality, alcohol consumption and smoking habits that collectively impact sexual health. Substances, exhaustion and bodily neglect, can decrease arousal resilience even without conspicuously poor health.

Likewise, deficiencies in intimate relationship quality - lacking engagement, affection, and sexual focus amid busy daily responsibilities - can slowly cascade into psychological obstacles under the surface.

Staying ahead of insidious lifestyle and relationship gaps provides a degree of ED protection before problems fully surface. Discussing any mild changes in functioning early is wise.

Take the Next Step With The Independent Pharmacy

If the information presented throughout this guide on grappling with psychological erectile dysfunction connects with your personal situation, take comfort knowing professional resources exist - including tailored support from specialised pharmacies.

The Independent Pharmacy aims to help men address ED roots, including those tied to common anxiety, life demands, and communication gaps, placing strain on sex lives and self-confidence. Our online assessment provides insights into the psychological factors likely influencing your erectile function.

Based on your confidential results, our compassionate team provides personalised suggestions combining therapeutic interventions, lifestyle changes, supplementation if applicable, and medication options that sensibly align.

Getting back the intimacy lost due to psychological issues is a process. At The Independent Pharmacy, we aim to provide information and support at every step without judgement. Reach out today to start your journey towards better sexual health.


Can psychological ED be cured?

While there is no instant “cure” in the traditional sense, the underlying mental health or emotional issues triggering erectile dysfunction can be effectively managed through therapies, medication, lifestyle changes, and communication with partners. This enables the restoration of healthy sexual functioning and satisfaction over time.

Can emotions cause erectile dysfunction?

Absolutely. Performance anxiety related to sex, everyday life stresses, sadness, lack of connection in a relationship, and false expectations around arousal can all profoundly disrupt normal erection ability that relies on a complicated interaction of mental and physical factors.

Does Viagra work for psychogenic ED?

Medications like sildenafil (Viagra) that increase blood flow can assist in achieving erections during sexual activity but do not treat root psychological causes. Viagra works best alongside therapy (such as sex therapy) and stress reduction tactics that address the origin of emotional contributors to ED, such as anxiety or exhaustion from overwork.


Psychogenic erectile dysfunction. Classification and management - PubMed (

10 stress busters - NHS (

Psychological consequences of erectile dysfunction - Sheng - 2021 - Trends in Urology & Men's Health - Wiley Online Library

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