Can Depression Cause Erectile Dysfunction?

Causes and treatments for erectile dysfunction caused by depression

depressed man who suffers from depression induced erectile dysfunction sitting on his bed

Dealing with both depression and erectile dysfunction separately can be challenging for most. Fortunately, both of these issues can be successfully treated with the right approach.

In this article, we will discuss the causes of erectile dysfunction caused by depression and the possible treatment options.

How does depression cause erectile dysfunction?

Depression can lead to erectile dysfunction in the following ways:

Stress, anxiety, and performance anxiety can lead to erectile dysfunction

Depressed men tend to be more stressed and anxious, and usually feel badly about themselves. When you view yourself negatively, you are more likely to experience performance anxiety, which is one of the leading causes of psychological ED.

Performance anxiety is a specific type of anxiety centered around the fear of not being able to perform sexually.

When it comes to the bedroom, stress and anxiety can create a high-pressure environment, making it challenging to relax and enjoy the moment.

It’s a bit of a cycle: Depression can trigger performance anxiety, and performance anxiety can, in turn, worsen feelings of stress and anxiety.

Picture it like this: You start feeling the weight of expectations, and the fear of not meeting them becomes a source of stress. This stress, in turn, contributes to anxiety, and the cycle continues. Unfortunately, this cycle can interfere with your ability to get and maintain an erection.

It’s like your body’s natural response system gets caught up in the whirlwind of negative emotions, making it difficult for everything to function as it should.

Breaking this cycle often involves addressing the root causes, whether it’s through therapy, lifestyle changes, or a combination of approaches.

Depression hurts arousal and libido, which are needed for an erection

Depression can lower libido and sexual desire, and without desire and arousal you cannot become erect. Research shows that depressed men are much more likely to have decreased libido.

One of the key symptoms of depression is an inability to enjoy fun activities, and this includes sex. And if you can’t bring yourself to enjoy sex, you won’t be able to have an erection.

Depression can lead to chemical imbalances that hurt erections

Depression can lead to chemical imbalances that affect erections. Research on depression suggests that it can influence various hormone levels and neurotransmitters (the chemicals that transmit signals in the brain), subsequently impacting the ability to have an erection.

For example, high levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which are common in men with depression, can constrict the blood vessels in the penis, preventing an erection. Being stressed and depressed can also make it difficult to become aroused enough to engage in sexual activity.

Different neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine, are known to affect mood, arousal, and sexual function. If arousal is difficult to achieve, even for physically healthy men, getting an erection may prove challenging.

Some depression medications have a side effect of erectile dysfunction

Certain antidepressant medications can have the unwelcome side effect of erectile dysfunction.

One of the main culprits is a class of antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). These include medications like fluoxetine (Prozac), sertraline (Zoloft), and paroxetine (Paxil).

The way these medications work in the brain to alleviate depression can inadvertently affect other systems in the body, including those involved in erectile function.

Two other classes of antidepressants that can lead to erectile dysfunction are serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) such as venlafaxine and duloxetine, and tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) like amitriptyline, imipramine, and doxepin.

It’s important to note that the impact can vary from person to person. Some individuals may experience these side effects, while others may not be affected in the same way.

Can erectile dysfunction cause depression?

Unfortunately yes – erectile dysfunction can cause depression, which in turn can worsen erectile dysfunction, creating a vicious cycle.

When you’re facing challenges in the bedroom, it’s not just about the physical aspect but the emotional and psychological impact too. The frustration, disappointment, and maybe even a sense of inadequacy can start to creep in. Over time, this can wear you down and erode your self-esteem.

Your sex life is often intertwined with your sense of masculinity, confidence, and overall well-being. So, when erectile dysfunction becomes a recurring issue, it’s understandable that it can trigger feelings of sadness, frustration, and even depression.

Treatment for erectile dysfunction caused by depression

Luckily, there’s light at the end of the tunnel, and several effective treatments can help address erectile dysfunction rooted in depression. Here’s an overview:

Mindfulness meditation-based therapy

Mindfulness meditation has emerged as a valuable tool in addressing a variety of sexual concerns, including erectile dysfunction (ED) caused by depression.

Erectile dysfunction linked to depression often involves a complex interplay of psychological factors, such as sexual performance anxiety and heightened stress levels.

Mindfulness has been shown to help men overcome both performance anxiety, stress and depression, which makes it a perfect tool for erectile dysfunction that is caused by depression.

1. Combatting Sexual Performance Anxiety: Mindfulness encourages individuals to cultivate a heightened awareness of their thoughts and emotions without judgment. By practicing mindfulness, you can learn to observe and understand sexual performance anxiety without getting entangled in a cycle of negative self-talk.

This awareness allows you to break free from the grip of anxious thoughts and focus on the sensations and experiences of the present moment.

Mindfulness meditation teaches men to redirect their attention away from performance-related concerns and toward the experiences of intimacy.

By fostering a non-judgmental attitude towards one’s sexual performance, you can gradually reduce the anxiety that contributes to erectile dysfunction.

We created the Performance Anxiety Program – an online mindfulness meditation program, especially for men who are struggling with performance anxiety and erectile dysfunction.

2. Stress and Depression Reduction: Depression often accompanies erectile dysfunction and exacerbates the challenges associated with sexual intimacy. Mindfulness meditation has been extensively studied for its positive impact on stress reduction and the management of depressive symptoms.

Mindfulness practices, such as focused breathing and body scan exercises, help individuals develop a heightened awareness of bodily sensations and emotions.

This increased awareness allows men to identify and address the root causes of stress and depression.

By integrating mindfulness into their daily routine, individuals can create a mental space that promotes relaxation, emotional balance, and resilience in the face of life’s challenges.

Mindfulness meditation offers a comprehensive approach to overcoming erectile dysfunction rooted in depression. By addressing sexual performance anxiety, reducing stress, and alleviating symptoms of depression, individuals can cultivate a healthier mindset that positively influences their sexual well-being.

Therapy and Counseling

Talking to a mental health professional can be incredibly beneficial. They can help you explore the emotional aspects of depression, anxiety, and performance anxiety, offering strategies to manage these issues.

Therapists can use different therapeutic tools, such as mindfulness-based therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, or talk therapy. A therapist can match the best therapeutic method to your specific needs and help you explore the deep causes of your depression.

Medication management

If antidepressant medications are contributing to the problem, your healthcare provider might adjust your prescription or explore alternative medications with fewer sexual side effects.

If you’re noticing any changes in your sexual function while on antidepressants, it’s crucial to have an open conversation with your healthcare provider.

Sometimes, adjusting the dosage, switching to a different medication, or exploring additional strategies can help mitigate these effects while still effectively addressing the underlying depression.

Does psychological ED caused by depression go away?

Psychological erectile dysfunction (ED) caused by depression doesn’t necessarily always resolve on its own, but its trajectory can vary among individuals. Here are a few factors to consider:

The severity of depression plays a significant role. If the depression is mild or situational, addressing the underlying psychological issues through therapy, lifestyle changes, or other interventions may lead to improvements in both mental health and erectile function.

Understanding and addressing the root causes of depression often contribute to improvements in erectile function.


Navigating the intricate link between depression and erectile dysfunction can be challenging. Fortunately, by understanding the psychological cycle that impacts sexual well-being and exploring practical solutions such as mindfulness meditation and therapy, we discover there is hope. Addressing the root causes can lead to positive changes.

Remember, with the right approach, there’s light at the end of the tunnel.

About The Between Us Clinic

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The Between Us Clinic is an online sex therapy clinic that aims to help both men and women overcome a variety of sexual disorders by bringing the proven and trusted methods used in traditional, in-person sex therapy to a wide audience via the Internet.