Depression and erectile dysfunction

According to the National Institutes of Health, individuals suffering from a mental health disorder such as depression are highly likely to experience erectile dysfunction (ED). The erection function is a combination of both physiological as well as psychological responses. If one of these is not in good order, then the individual develops difficulties with their erection function.

What is depression?

Depression, according to the American Psychiatric Association, is a serious mental illness that has a negative impact on the way you generally feel, think, or act. It is a common problem that is treatable. It can trigger feelings of sadness, and grief and make someone lose interest in some activities that they once used to get excited about. It can have a major impact on all areas of one’s life.  

How does depression affect sex life?

Individuals having depression struggle because of low self-esteem, low confidence, lack of social life, feelings of hopelessness, and fatigue. This fatigue can make them physically weak and impact their sex drive or libido. Depressing thoughts and emotions can interfere with arousal and the individual may fail to attain erections or get orgasms.

Arousal happens when the mind and body are involved. It is a function of brain chemicals or neurotransmitters. However, due to depression, the individual may not feel excitement because of the imbalances in the neurotransmitter chemicals, which makes it difficult for them to engage in sexual interaction. This affects their sex life big time.

The inability to perform well in the bedroom can in turn give rise to stress, anxiety, and frustration, which can exacerbate erectile dysfunction. Therefore, to improve their erection function, such individuals must get the appropriate treatment for depression symptoms. The treatment can be a combination of medical prescriptions and positive lifestyle habits. 

How does depression cause erectile dysfunction?

The type of erectile dysfunction caused by depression or any other mental illness is termed psychogenic erectile dysfunction. Erection occurs when the brain senses sexual arousal and signals it to the nerves in the penile to respond to the arousal. The signal will be carried by the neurotransmitter chemicals, which conduct expansion and dilation of the penile arteries to increase the flow of blood inside the penile.

As more blood is allowed inside the penile, it gets trapped under high pressure inside, which makes the penile erect. But, in individuals with depression, the neurotransmitter chemicals get completely out of balance, which affects arousal. Lack of arousal fails to trigger the physiological response, and thus such individuals experience impotence issues.

Ways in which depression interferes with erection function

Biology plays a pivotal role here. When your mind senses arousal, your body responds. Depression can trigger various factors or symptoms that contribute to psychogenic erectile dysfunction. Depression symptoms include:

  • Lack of energy and stamina
  • Sudden mood changes
  • Inability to feel pleasure
  • Lack of interest in sex and other activities
  • Low self-esteem

How to treat depression and erectile dysfunction?

Erectile dysfunction induced by depression can be treated by treating depression. Depression can be managed with the help of prescription antidepressant medications. Your healthcare provider will prescribe antidepressants to overcome the symptoms of depression. As your condition improves and you successfully overcome depression, your ability to become sexually aroused will be restored.  

Moreover, erectile dysfunction can be a side effect of certain types of antidepressants. Therefore, before using any antidepressant you must inform your healthcare provider about your sexual difficulties. They will prescribe you the type of antidepressant that does not lead to erectile dysfunction.

Besides, you can manage your depression without any antidepressants. This can be achieved by adopting some positive lifestyle changes such as physical activities or regular exercising, meditation or deep breathing mindful exercises, performing yoga, no alcohol, and no smoking. Apart from that, one can also opt for acupuncture and psychotherapy, which will speed up the recovery from depression.

Tips to prevent the worsening of erectile dysfunction during depression

  • Exercising daily helps you stay fit and healthy. Your mind becomes refreshed when you move and sweat. Engaging yourself in physical activity alleviates depressive thoughts and boosts the blood flow to your reproductive organs, which ensures optimal health.
  • Give up smoking and alcohol and stop drug abuse. This can worsen the symptoms of erectile dysfunction.   
  • Open up and talk to your friend or someone you trust. This will provide an outlet for detrimental thoughts and feelings.
  • Ask your healthcare provider to prescribe you antidepressants that have minimal side effects regarding sexual function.   


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