Can Erectile Dysfunction Cause Depression?

Erectile dysfunction is when a man has difficulty to get or maintain an erection which is firm enough for sex and this can affect their ability to have sexual intercourse. The condition currently affects up to 1 in 5 men which is equivalent to 4.3 million men in the UK. It is estimated that half of all men over age 50 will experience erectile dysfunction from time to time but it is important to note that the condition is not limited to older men. Many young men have been diagnosed with erectile dysfunction too. There can be a negative impact on the man both physically and psychologically and can ultimately put a strain on relationships. It is, therefore, no surprise that a person suffering from the disorder can develop depression. A feeling of low confidence, embarrassment and depression are common feelings associated with erectile dysfunction.
Having an understanding of the causes of erectile dysfunction in the first place can potentially help to stop the problem if it is dealt with appropriately. It is fair to expect that erectile dysfunction will probably not go away on its own because there is usually a cause for erectile dysfunction which does not typically happen without a reason.
Common causes of erectile dysfunction include (but not limited to):

  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Heart attacks
  • Stroke
  • Vascular disease
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Side effects of some medication such as beta blockers
  • Depression

Some of these medical conditions such as diabetes and heart disease can cause damage to the blood vessels and effect nervous stimulation. As a result, there is a reduction in the supply of blood going to the penis which affects a man from getting and maintaining erections.
There are some lifestyle choices which can also affect erectile function such as over-consumption of alcohol (especially if over a long period of time), having a high-fat diet, smoking and being under stress from work or family problems. Sometimes, all that is needed it to make simple changes in your lifestyle such as stopping smoking and relaxing which can have a positive effect on sexual performance. Consider finding ways to relax, see what you enjoy doing most and this may help with improving mood as well as erection problems.


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Erectile Dysfunction and Depression

A survey carried out showed that 27% of men said they would rather break up with their partner than talk to their GP about being unable to get an erection. This sense of embarrassment can play a role in developing depression. The sense of inability to express emotions can certainly contribute to low mood.
So the question of: ‘can erectile dysfunction cause depression’? – can be answered with a yes, it can. Depression and erectile dysfunction often co-exist. Studies show that 35 to 47 % of people with depression have problems with their sex life, 61 % of people with severe depression have sexual problems, and up to 40 % of people taking common antidepressant medications report a decline in sexual satisfaction. One study even found that 82 percent of men with erectile dysfunction also reported symptoms of depression.
It is not uncommon for men with erectile dysfunction to feel angry, frustrated, sad, or even unsure of themselves. While there are many medical causes of ED, studies have shown that men with erectile dysfunction may be twice as likely to develop clinical depression as compared to those without erectile dysfunction.
Depression causes certain brain chemicals to get out of balance, and that can mean you have less desire for sex and you cannot perform well as a result. It is a cycle that links the two problems together – depression causing erectile dysfunction which then causes the person to be more depressed due to the inability to perform well in sex.

Warning Signs of Depression and Erectile Dysfunction

  • You have lost the desire for sex, and sex no longer feels pleasurable.
  • You start to experience erectile dysfunction after a stressful life event, such as the loss of a job or a family member or friend
  • You have erectile dysfunction along with strong feelings of anxiety, frustration, and stress.
  • Erectile dysfunction is associated with feeling negative about yourself.
  • There may be feelings of guilt which are associated with depression


How to Get Help for Depression and Erectile Dysfunction

It is important to acknowledge the problem and not assume that erectile dysfunction is related to ageing. Feel confident enough to ask for help for erectile dysfunction and depression and do not be embarrassed by them. In many cases, there are medical causes of depression and erectile dysfunction, and in most cases, both issues can be treated successfully. Always speak to your doctor about your problems and they can recommend treatments which are available to treat both conditions. Your doctor may also recommend counselling with a mental health professional.
Having support from your partner is really important too. Be open in communication and talk honestly about the situation. Approach the problem together and do not be afraid to talk about your feelings. It is no hidden fact that erectile dysfunction can damage your sex life and self-esteem. The depressive episodes that you may experience alongside it can be expected so it is important not to ignore it and seek help as soon as possible, ideally with your partner too.

Symptoms of depression with erectile dysfunction

The most common symptoms of depression include (but not limited to):

  • Low self-esteem
  • Loss of interest in formerly pleasurable activities
  • Fatigue
  • Changes in appetite
  • Sleep disturbances

Treating Depression and Erectile Dysfunction

Cognitive behavioural therapy sessions are quite useful particularly if someone does not want to be put on medication straight away to treat depression. There are some treatments that can be prescribed by your doctor if needed, for depression. Antidepressants such as Sertraline, Fluoxetine and Citalopram can be prescribed for depression – but be aware that some anti-depressants can cause or worsen erectile dysfunction, so the doctor will select the most appropriate treatment to prescribe.
Treatment for erectile dysfunction is well known and there are several medications available. These include Viagra, Cialis, Levitra, Spedra. Viagra is probably the most well-known type and was the first to be licenced on the market for the treatment of erectile dysfunction. Let us look at Viagra for the treatment of erectile dysfunction as a common treatment given. Please note that your prescriber will always decide which treatment option is best for you.


Viagra blocks the action of an enzyme which usually causes blood vessels to narrow. By blocking this enzyme, the blood vessels are widened which increases the blood being supplied to the penis, therefore, helping with getting and maintaining an erection. It is important to note that sexual arousal needs to take place – without it, there will be no erection even if you take a Viagra tablet.

How do I take Viagra?

Viagra is available in strengths of 25mg, 50mg and 100mg oral tablets and usually, only one tablet is to be taken in 24 hours, on an empty stomach and with a full glass of water. A maximum of one tablet in 24 hours should be taken since Viagra will last in the body for 24 hours. When taken, its effects will usually last up to 5 hours and most men notice the effects within 2 or 3 hours but there are factors that can affect how well it works. For example, taking Viagra with food (in particular a high-fat meal) can delay the absorption of the tablet in the body and this means that it will take longer to work.
You can feel a little light-headed, maybe experience nausea and some headache too. These are generally mild side effects and they will go on their own.
So overall, if you are experiencing any of the symptoms of depression mentioned above with erectile dysfunction (which can happen), speak to your doctor and discuss possible options to manage both conditions.


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