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Home / Erectile Dysfunction / Can erectile dysfunction impact men’s mental health?

Can erectile dysfunction impact men’s mental health?

Learn more about the link between sexual and mental health

Discussions of mental health are often not taken seriously, despite 1 in 4 people experiencing mental health issues each year. However, it is a topic that is even more stigmatised in men’s health. Societal gender roles have set this expectation for men to be strong and silent. However these traditions, whilst antiquated, have still left a huge mark on society and can really damage men’s quality of life.

It means men are less likely to seek help or treatment for their mental or physical issues as they feel like they should just deal with it on their own. This can be particularly damaging when it comes to intimate health problems such as erectile dysfunction.

Unfortunately because they are less likely to speak out, men are statistically more likely to indulge in unhealthy habits to cope with their depression or, in the worst case, commit suicide. However, there is plenty of help and treatment available, you don’t have to struggle with ED or depression alone.

Keep reading to find out about how erectile dysfunction affects mental health and what you can do to get help.

What is erectile dysfunction?

Erectile dysfunction (ED) or impotence is a common condition where men struggle to achieve or maintain an erection. It is caused by insufficient blood flow to the penis and, whilst most common in middle aged men, can affect men at any age. In fact, evidence suggests that an estimated 322 million men will have been affected by ED by 2025.

This obstruction of blood flow has been linked to several risk factors such as your lifestyle; whether you have a condition like heart disease or diabetes; the medications you take and your mental wellbeing. Regardless of cause, it significantly affects the daily lives of many both mentally and physically.

Man sad on bed next to woman on the bed

What is depression?

Depression, sometimes known as major depressive disorder or major depression, is a mental health disorder that is characterised by a persistent feeling of sadness. Whilst it’s completely natural to feel down from time to time, people with depression feel that way the majority of the time.

Symptoms of depression vary from person to person, but most will experience feelings of unhappiness and worthlessness or lose an interest in the activities they enjoy. Others may experience more extreme symptoms and have distressing thoughts of harming themselves.

Depressed middle aged man sitting on sofa

How does erectile dysfunction cause depression?

There is no one single cause for depression, and the root of people’s depression may be difficult to pinpoint. However, for some people, it is linked to their sexual health and physical health.

A big misconception about depression is that it is just caused by an imbalance of brain chemicals. This is only part of the story and can be an unhelpful notion when it comes to treating depression. In fact, research shows that this hypothesis promotes self-blame and an overall negativity about one’s mental health. It also means people are less likely to seek therapy for their mental health issues because they believe it can’t be fixed.

In addition, this hypothesis removes any influence from environmental and psychological factors in your life. This is because it promotes the idea that it’s just a problem with your brain chemistry which you have no control over. However, we know that past trauma, relationships, your current situation and your physical health all play a significant role in your mental wellbeing.

This is equally true for people experiencing sexual dysfunction. Men experiencing erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation, delayed ejaculation, lack of sexual desire (low libido) and other sexual problems are at a particularly high risk of depression. Research has found that sexual dysfunction can double your risk of having depression. In the case of impotence, depression prevalence has been found to be as high as over 40% in patients with ED.

This is because these conditions can cause embarrassment and low self-esteem that other chronic conditions may not cause.

Can depression cause erectile dysfunction?

Depression affects sexual function and ED can become a cyclical problem for that reason. Sexual dysfunction causes depression and then the depression can exacerbate the symptoms of the original issue. One study found that 67% of men diagnosed with depression reported symptoms of a sexual disorder.

Whilst hormones and brain chemicals aren’t solely responsible for depression and mental wellness, they do play a massive role in the erection process. This means many men with depression will struggle to achieve or maintain an erection. In addition, one potential sexual side effect of antidepressants like SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) is ED.

It’s a multi-faceted and delicate problem that requires care and monitoring from a psychological health professional.

What does depression look like in men?

Men experiencing major depression can look quite different than it does in women. Due to societal pressures to be strong and ‘toughen up’, many men don’t seek help for their mental or physical health.

That doesn’t mean they’re any less susceptible, however. According to the Mental Health Foundation, about 1 in 8 men suffer from a common mental health problem but only 36% of referrals to NHS talking therapies are men.

Men are also statistically three times more likely to cope in destructive ways such as through doing illegal drugs and alcohol. Finally, the 2014 Adult Psychiatric Morbidity found that 9.7% of young men admit to having self-harmed at some point in their lives.

Man looking sad next to half full bottle of alcohol

Men and suicide

Unfortunately, the statistics don’t end there. Many men feel like they can’t get help and take their own lives.

According to a 2020 report by Office of National Statistics in the UK (ONS), just over 3 out of every 4 suicides are committed by men and it is the leading cause of death for men under 35. Moreover, men aged between the ages of 40 - 49 have the highest suicide rates in the UK.

Suicide prevention is a serious topic, and mental health in men is not a trivial matter. So all men should speak up and seek treatment if they’re struggling.

How do I get help?

If you’re struggling with ED, there are many treatment options available. Medications such as PDE-5 inhibitors such as Sildenafil citrate, the active ingredient in Viagra, improves erectile function by relaxing the blood vessels and allowing more blood flow to the penis.

In fact, recent research from Sweden has found ED treatment was a significant factor in protecting older men from suicide. They found that once Viagra was more widely available in Sweden, there were over 60 fewer suicides, a finding that couldn’t be explained by chance or other trends.

Viagra is now widely available, including online. Here at euroClinix, you can buy Viagra and other ED treatments online. That means no embarrassing doctor appointments and you can order a prescription securely from the comfort of your own home. All you have to do is fill out a quick and confidential medical questionnaire which will then be reviewed by one of our UK registered doctors.

In need of treatment?

Find out more here

If you’re looking for depression advice, your GP can refer you to a free talking therapy on the NHS. If you need more specialised psychological help, you may benefit from psychiatry from a private clinic.

Alternatively if you need urgent help or are having extreme depressive thoughts you should contact the emergency services.

Young men talking on the stairs

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