Can Psychological Problems Cause ED And Libido Problems?
By Johnathan P Cumberwell
Yes, psychological issues can indeed cause erectile dysfunction and a reduced libido.
These mental problems can take on many forms such as anxiety, fear, depression, guilt, low self-esteem, bipolar disorder, etc., but they all have something in common:
They occupy your mind and fill it with negative thoughts.
Which means less space remains for normal thoughts and desires. Such as healthy sexual thoughts.
Psychological problems can also cause hormonal or chemical imbalances, which can directly cause erectile dysfunction and libido issues.
Let’s understand the most common psychological problems.
The Most Common Psychological Problems
A psychological problem is characterized by a disturbance in an individual’s thinking process, mental functions or emotions, which in turn causes a ‘dysfunctional’ behavior.
An example of ‘dysfunctional’ behavior can be a situation where you have difficulties living a satisfactory social life.
Or it can be a situation where you cannot maintain family relations. Or where you are unable to perform your tasks at work.
In other words, it is first when your behaviour becomes distorted, that a psychological problem arises.
Let’s take a look at some of the most common psychological problems.
Severe Stress Disorders
A little bit of stress is not a psychological problem, neither is the stress you may experience at work from time to time.
But there are certain severe forms of stress that can be classified as psychological problems. Because they become so intense that they distort your normal behaviour.
Acute stress disorder is one. This is classified as severe stress after exposure to a traumatic event. A traumatic event can be an accident, loss of a loved one, loss of income / wealth, etc.
When suffering through acute stress disorder, you will often experience vivid flashbacks, selective memory, overwhelming sadness and overthinking.
This disorder is closely linked to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
However, post-traumatic stress disorder is often a more severe disorder. It normally happens after you have experienced actual or near death, serious injury, or sexual violence.
When struggling with PTSD, you often play the episode in your mind over and over again. As you do, your perception of the event may grow in intensity. You may also start shutting out certain memories, emotions and try to avoid anything that reminds you of the stressful incident.
Another stress disorder is called adjustment disorder. This normally occurs as a response to a sudden change in your life. Such as loss of a partner, family member, breakup, loss of job or similar.
When suffering from adjustment disorder, you will normally feel intense sadness. You will typically cling to the past and yearn for it to come back. And you normally feel that your current situation is far inferior to the old one.
These are just a few of the several severe stress disorders.
We are all anxious from time to time. This is normal. However, when you feel excessive and persistent anxiety, fear and worry that is impeding your daily life, we are talking about a disorder.
This anxiety often arises as a result of a potential future threat. This can be a real threat, or it can be imaginary.
Anxiety can come in many different forms. One form is social anxiety disorder, which is intense anxiety or fear of being judged, negatively evaluated, or rejected.
Other forms are fear of heights, fear of certain animals or insects (spiders for instance), separation anxiety (fear of being separated from a certain person for instance), and obsessive-compulsive disorder (recurrent, unwanted thoughts (obsessions) and/or repetitive behaviors).
Sexual Performance Anxiety
Sexual performance anxiety is also a form of anxiety. But in this context, it deserves its own section because it is a common cause of erectile dysfunction.
What is sexual performance anxiety?
It is anxiety or fear that you will: 1) not ‘get it up’, or 2) ‘go soft’ during sex.
Let’s say you are with your partner and you are getting intimate. You sense that this may lead to sex. If you now start thinking: “Am I getting hard.. or no? I wonder if I will be able to get an erection if we try to have sex..?”
Or if you during sex start thinking: “I’m I still hard..? Or am I about to go soft..?”
Then you are causing yourself problems..
Because you are now taking focus away from enjoying the moment. You stop enjoying the foreplay or the sex.
Instead you start to worry. And this normally almost instantly kills your erections.
In other words, if you fear that you will not ‘get it up’ (erectile dysfunction), this can by itself lead to erectile dysfunction.
By the way, I have been guilty of this many times.
It can be difficult to get out of this spiral. But the key is to get your mind and body towards balance, so that you start to function better sexually. Then as you demonstrate to yourself that you improve, you will normally gain confidence, and this anxiety often fades away.
Your behaviour therefore often changes.
When you are depressed, you may also also have less interest in, as well as be less capable of, forming bonds with other people.
This can easily lead to you having a low self-esteem. You may then feel you are not worthy of a girlfriend, friendships and other aspects of life.
This sense of being out-of-place can be useful as it motivates you to search for something better. However, if it takes over your mind and you think about it almost constantly, it becomes a problem.
Jealousy is when you compare what you have to what you wish you had, and this produces emotional discomfort.
You may compare your house to the amazing house of your neighbor, and feel jealous. Or you may compare your career to that of your boss, and feel sorry for yourself.
You can also be jealous of your partner, thinking that your partner is being unfaithful because he or she spends time with certain people.
You can also be jealous of another person’s sexual past. There are many forms of jealousy.
You experience guilt when you do, or have done, something you ‘know’ you shouldn’t do / have done.
Let’s say you are a married family man, but you also have a secret lover. This is likely to produce the sensation of guilt.
Or perhaps you some time ago committed a serious crime. This will probably do the same.
This guilt will normally be present in the back of your mind as a negative emotion. When it become so intense that it changes your behaviour, it has become a mental problem.
This will often take up a significant amount of mental space. It will often make you worry, think twice, be on guard, and make you feel dishonest.
This will often be a result of your trust being severely abused in past. And particularly so if this happened more than once.
This can happen if your partner had a sexual affair, your best friend betrayed you, or someone you trusted stole from you.
When you experience severe distrust, you will normally be suspicious, doubt, not open up to people, overthink, second-guess, worry extensively, analyse, etc.
And when you are spending an unusually large amount of mental energy on this process, it can alter your behaviour.
It has then become a psychological problem.
A person suffering from a personality disorder, has a rigid and unhealthy pattern of thinking, functioning and behaving.
This will often cause substantial problems and limitations in relationships, social activities, work, etc.
Some of the most common personality disorders are: Paranoid disorder, antisocial disorder, narcissistic disorder, dependent disorder, bipolar disorder, multiple personality disorder, schizophrenia, and attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder.
The two most common eating disorders are anorexia (restricted food consumption) and bulimia (self-induced vomiting or use of laxatives and diuretics).
Similar to other mental disorders, eating disorders also hi-jack your mind and fills it with thoughts that should really not be there.
Gambling Disorders And Addictions
Addictions can be similar. There are many ‘things’ that can cause addiction. You can be addicted to drugs, alcohol, sugar, sex, porn, etc.
When this desire gets so strong that you keep satisfying these desires despite negative consequences, this has become a psychological problem.
How common are these psychological problems? Maybe a lot more common than you think.
Let’s take a quick look at how common psychological problems are worldwide.
The Prevalence Of Psychological Problems
How Psychological Problems Can Cause ED And Libido Problems
Although you physically have sex with your penis, your brain is the most important sexual organ you have.
Therefore, if there are problems in your brain, your sexual functions may start to work less well. Or may even stop working all together.
There are 3 main reasons why psychological problems can cause erectile dysfunction and a weak libido:
- Crowding out of positive thoughts
- General imbalances in your brain and body
- Changes to key sexual agents such as dopamine, testosterone, prolactin, etc.
Psychological Problems Can Crowd Out Positive Thoughts
If you suffer from a psychological problem, let’s say depression, your mind will typically be preoccupied with negative thoughts.
You will probably spend a large amount of time thinking these negative thoughts. You may even go in circles, repeating the same dark thought process over and over.
As a result, there will be less space for happy and healthy thoughts.
And therefore also for healthy sexual thoughts.
Let’s look at an example:
Let’s say you’re depressed. And that you walk down a street on a warm and sunny summer evening. A gorgeous woman passes you on the sidewalk.
In normal times, she would have probably gotten your attention. You probably would have looked at her, maybe even turned around. You might have even started undressing her in your thoughts.
But since you are depressed, chances are that you already think about something negative as she walks by. Hence your brain probably doesn’t care about her. Your brain has other priorities.
Therefore, you will probably continue your negative thought process as she passes by.
That’s how psychological problems can dampen, or even extinguish, your sex drive.
The same can happen to your ability to get and maintain erections.
Because in order to get erections, your mind needs to be interested in sex. And if your mind is not interested, the whole erection process may simply not commence.
Let’s look at an example:
Imagine you’re in bed with an amazing woman. You are kissing and about to get naked.
But you are depressed and your thoughts are somewhere else. You think about how you will pay your endless bills.
Since your thoughts are somewhere else, you are likely to have problems getting an erection.
And even if you are able to focus on the sexual process at this very moment, it may still be difficult to ‘get it up’.
If you are in a negative state over time, this may cause several imbalances in your brain and body.
Psychological Problems Can Cause Chemical Imbalances In Your Brain
Let’s say you struggle with anxiety. And let’s say you have struggled with this for several months.
This lengthy struggle is likely to cause several imbalances in your body and brain.
Scientific research has shown that this may result in hormonal imbalances. Meaning, you may produce more of some hormones than you should, and less of others.
Research has also shown that psychological disorders can make your body produce more of what is called free radicals.
And research has demonstrated that a psychological disorder can also change the composition of neurotransmitters in your brain.
The body is an incredibly delicate and fine-tuned system of millions of parts. And if you have any of these imbalances, this may cause certain systems or functions to stop working optimally.
We don’t always understand which imbalances impact what functions. Because we simply don’t have full understanding of the human body.
However, it is possible that such imbalances may provoke erectile dysfunction and libido issues.
Psychological Problems Can Directly Impact Sexual Agents
Because these chemicals are all crucial in the sexual process.
Let’s say you were to suffer from a mental disorder, which caused your dopamine level to fall.
This is very likely to make you struggle with erectile dysfunction and a weak libido.
This is simply so because dopamine is essential in order to get erections, and also to have a healthy sex drive.
The same goes for testosterone:
If your testosterone production falls because of a psychological disorder, this is also likely to have a negative effect on your sexual functions.
Because testosterone, as the primary male sex hormone, is simply necessary in order to get erections and to have a sex drive.
Btw, if you want to learn how to increase testosterone naturally, you can read this guide.
Also, if your prolactin level is out of balance, this can disturb your normal sexual function.
Prolactin is the hormone released immediately after you have an orgasm. This is what brings you back down to planet earth.
Prolacting makes you no longer be interested in sex, nor capable of getting an erection.
Now that we understand the 3 key ways in which mental problems can cause erectile dysfunction and libido issues, let’s look at what percentage of ED cases is caused by psychological disorders.
What % of ED Cases Are Caused By Psychological Problems?
So we have just learned that approximately 1 out of 5 men and women currently struggle with some kind of psychological disorder.
Which leads me to the following question:
Out of 100 erectile dysfunction cases, how many of these are a result of psychological problems?
Let’s look at what the researchers say.
If we look at this research report, and also the research studies that this report cites, we find that approximately 10-20% of ED cases are caused by psychological disorders.
Meaning that up to about 20% of all men that struggle with ED, have a psychological problem as the underlying reason.
Let’s switch gears. Time to get personal.
Let me share two episodes of my life where I struggled mentally, and how this impacted my libido and my ability to function sexually.
My Experience With Psychological Problems
Let me tell you about two of these episodes and also share how this impacted me sexually.
Let me first say that it normally doesn’t take much psychological stress for me to start struggling with erections and sex drive.
All it takes is 2 or 3 days of significant worries or anxiety.
I also don’t think I am special in this regard. Meaning, I would think there are lots of men out there that are just as sensitive to this as I am.
On to my encounters:
The first episode was a period of severe sexual performance anxiety. The other was a time in my life when everything important to me failed at the same time.
My Story With Sexual Performance Anxiety
And often during sex, I would often ask myself: “Am I still hard?” or “Am I about to go limp again?”
Needless to say, having these thoughts did not help me! It made it much more difficult to get erections in the first place. And it also made it more challenging to keep my erections.
Because it took my mind away from enjoying sex, and instead put my mind through worries.
When I had these thoughts, it was almost impossible to have sex.
But at the same time, it was very difficult not to have these thoughts. Because I was worried.
My Story With Overwhelming Anxiety
As a result, I was suffering from extreme anxiety and probably clinical depression.
It was horrible.
Normally when there is one serious problem in my life, I can deal with it.
If there are two, I can normally also handle it but my mood tanks. When there are three, I suffer.
At this point I had five big problems hitting me at the same time. It almost felt as if I got punched in the stomach every day from multiple angles.
It was beyond painful.
My girlfriend and I had just broken up and I felt incredibly alone. I had lost my best friend.
Two days later, I got kidney stone. It’s the absolute worst physical pain I have ever had in my life.
So at this time, I was an emotional wreck after the breakup, and I was in intense physical pain from the kidney stone.
But there was more:
I lost about half of my financial wealth. Hence, all of a sudden I felt a lot less financially secure.
But there was even more financial trouble:
Because I also lost practically all my income. Not just my wealth, but income as well.
And I lost about three months of very hard work. Deleted. Gone.
Now I stood face to face with five big, intense and negative forces pulling me apart.
It was difficult. I cried.
Even though I am a grown-up, independent and see myself as being relatively strong emotionally, I cried a lot. Not just for a day or two, but for about three months.
And it was particularly over the loss of my girlfriend.
It was an immensely tough and challenging time. Three months of total agony, and then another five months of emotional rollercoasters.
I was broken, beaten and in pain in so many ways.
Many days, after I had woken up and had breakfast, I just put on my shoes and went walking. For hours. To try to walk off the pain.
During this time, I hardly ever thought about sex. I had close to no sex drive. I just didn’t want it much.
And my erections were nowhere near what they used to be.
Instead I felt guilty, sad and lonely.. These emotions occupied my mind.
But I got out of the rut in the end.
How did I get out of it?
I spoke to a lot of people. Not necessarily about my problems, but I found that having conversations gave my mind a lift.
And I tried as best as I could to be appreciative for the good things that I still had in my life.
And in the emotional chaos, I also tried hard to think logically.
Easier said than done, I know. But it did work.
So what is my approach to these problems today?