ED After a Breakup – Can a Breakup Cause Erectile Dysfunction?

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The answer is yes: a breakup can cause erectile dysfunction. For many people, ED can be caused or worsened by stress, sadness, or anxiety. Given the emotional toll that a breakup often has, it’s no surprise that this may be enough to trigger erectile problems. In this article, we will help you understand why men might develop erectile dysfunction after a breakup, with a focus on some strategies and tools that you can use to address this problem.

Why would a breakup lead to erectile dysfunction?

There are several common explanations for the link between breakups and erectile dysfunction. These include:

1. Stress and Anxiety

There’s no doubt that a breakup is one of the more stressful experiences that a person can have. The end of a relationship can trigger grief, feelings of crippling self-doubt, pain, trauma, damage confidence, and lowered self-esteem, to name a few. These are inherently difficult experiences and for some, this can cause or worsen existing anxiety disorders.

For many, a relationship ending might bring with it practical implications, such as sorting out joint bank accounts and renegotiating living arrangements. Research shows a close link between stress levels, anxiety and erectile dysfunction; and it is likely that stress hormones impact the brain and body in a way that triggers erectile issues.

2. Performance anxiety

When entering a new relationship following a breakup, erectile dysfunction can happen as a result of performance anxiety. Erectile dysfunction in a new relationship is actually quite common, even if it is not followed by a difficult breakup. Performance anxiety is a fear that you are in some way inadequate and are not able to satisfy your partner. Ironically, performance anxiety increases the chances of erectile issues occurring, due to the way in which the brain’s communication with the genitals gets hijacked.

Suffering from erectile dysfunction after being cheated on is also a common problem. Being cheated on can inevitably lead to self-doubt about your sexual skills. Thoughts like “did she cheat on me because I wasn’t satisfying her in bed?” can come up, and ultimately lead to performance anxiety and erectile dysfunction.

If your partner or girlfriend broke up with you because of erectile dysfunction, it is likely to make the condition more severe. Men in this situation are more likely to experience an ongoing cycle of performance anxiety and erectile dysfunction. Performance anxiety can also make erectile dysfunction that is caused by a physical condition worse,  also making it harder to treat using ED medications. Therefore, it is always important to treat performance anxiety, even if the cause of ED is physical.

3. Depression

Depression is a common and debilitating psychiatric condition that can have a negative impact on a person’s thoughts, feelings, and neurology. We know that depressive disorders are linked to low testosterone and general fatigue, so it’s no surprise that men with depression tend to experience problems related to sex drive and erections. The reason here is most probably in part biological and linked to the fact that a person may experience low testosterone after a breakup. The depression triggered in these incidents can make a person feel they can’t get turned on after a breakup, or that they have lost mojo after a breakup.

How to overcome erectile dysfunction after a breakup

If you experience erectile dysfunction following a breakup (especially if this is your first time suffering from it), the cause of your difficulties is likely psychological. Nonetheless, erectile dysfunction can also be caused by certain medical conditions and it’s always a good idea to see a doctor when you experience this symptom for the first time.

When the cause is not medical, though, a psychological approach, such as mindfulness meditation, is likely to be useful. Research has shown that mindfulness can assist in managing many of the factors that underlie erectile dysfunction, such as stress, depression, anxiety disorders and sexual performance anxiety.  More specifically, a recent study found that a month of mindfulness practice helped men to address their erectile problems and improve their sex lives overall.

Aside from mindfulness, speaking to a clinical psychotherapist can help, to the extent that this can assist you in understanding the cause of the breakup and moving forward from the grief and trauma. Other psychological approaches, such as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, are exceptionally useful for regulating stress and overcoming trauma. What about medications? Products such as Viagra and Cialis may not work because of the fact that underlying stress or psychological difficulties can block arousal.

What to do if the breakup was caused by erectile dysfunction?

If you and your partner broke up because of your erectile dysfunction, it’s always a good idea to speak to your doctor.

A medical consultation can help rule out physical causes of the problem, such as heart disease, hypertension, high cholesterol or type 2 diabetes. Your doctor might then recommend psychological treatment, lifestyle changes, erectile dysfunction medication, or a combination of these approaches. Never neglect or ignore your erectile dysfunction: it may be a symptom of a serious underlying illness and getting the right diagnosis can be a lifesaver.


It is not at all uncommon for men to experience erectile dysfunction following a breakup. This is to be expected: breakups tend to be stressful; and we know that stress can hijack the brain’s communication with the genitals. We also know that breakups can increase anxiety, depression, and performance anxiety – all of which are known culprits when it comes to ED. At the end of the day, though, erectile issues following a breakup should represent a call to action for you: this is the time to see a doctor and to get the right support in order to move forward.

About Daniel Sher, MA

Clinical Psychologist and Sex Therapy Expert

Daniel is a registered clinical psychologist and a sex therapy expert practicing in Cape Town, South Africa. He is the creator of the Between Us Clinic’s Performance Anxiety Program, an online mindfulness meditation program for erectile dysfunction.

He gained his master’s degree in clinical psychology from the University of Cape Town (UCT) in 2014. A component of his training and practice involves working in the context of sexual and sex-related issues.

Daniel also treats patients at his clinic for male sexual dysfunctions including, premature ejaculation, erectile dysfunction and sexual performance anxiety.