Role of Anxiety in Erectile Dysfunction

Libby Gilbertson

Posted by: Libby Gilbertson

Understanding the Role of Anxiety in Erectile Dysfunction

A lot more men have trouble getting or maintaining an erection than you would expect. Erectile dysfunctions can occur during a variety of sexual activities including masturbation and with a partner. An erectile dysfunction may be connected to certain situations or overall sexual exploration. Erectile dysfunctions can occur as a result of a medical condition and/or psychological, and social issues. Typical emotional reactions that a person struggling with erectile dysfunction may experience include, but are not limited to anxiety, fear, embarrassment, discomfort, low self esteem, and shame along with the thoughts of being inadequate and not good enough.

Erectile problems can take over your brain’s experience of the pleasurable things to do with your penis through consuming your thoughts only about its hardness and ability to perform. With your brain only focusing on the worries around the erection and the importance of your penis in pleasing a lover, you are taken out of the moment and out of your body’s amazing ability to give and to feel pleasure.

Questions to consider

A first step to helping yourself overcome your struggles with erectile dysfunction is to reunite yourself with your body and work towards being more pleasure focused in the moment. The brain has a difficult time focusing on feelings of pleasure when preoccupied with the stress from work, the relationship, and especially worries about being able to perform sexually.

The next step is to become more aware of the points where your anxiety level starts to increase.

  • Does this only happen with certain partners?
  • Under particular situations?
  • Have you had trouble in your solo sexual adventures?
  • What happens for you before a sexual encounter?
  • What are you thinking about during sexual activity?
  • What physical signs do you notice?
  • How do you feel afterwards? What is your partner's reaction? How does your erection and the sexual encounter impact your relationship?

Exercise

Begin to think about your anxiety level on a scale from 1 to 10. Everyone has unique baseline levels of anxiety and symptoms that they are able to manage. The anxiety you experience in everyday life may be more useful for you than it is in the bedroom.

  • What level is your anxiety at currently?
  • How about when you start to think about sex?

Pay attention to your body's signals.

  • What do you feel change when thinking about your erectile problems?
  • What thoughts are you having?

If you're struggling to put a number to your experience, an example could be where the number 1 indicates the most calm and rested that you have felt, 5 being alert and motivated, with a 10 being unable to breath and think about anything else besides what it making you anxious.

The following are signs of anxiety that go against feelings of arousal:

  • Mind racing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Heart rate increase
  • Stomach aches
  • Tense shoulders or hands

Once you are more aware of how your brain is interrupting your experience of pleasure, you are ready to stop feeding into it.

A myth that many people assume is that using pornography or sexual fantasies would be beneficial to overcome erectile issues. However, it is counterproductive and actually maintaining the erectile problem. Using a fantasy can spice things up in other situations, but when you are already up in your head instead of focusing on the head of your penis it isn’t helping you.

Sexual arousal requires relaxation so blood can flow to the genitals and other erogenous zones. The brain’s parasympathetic nervous system can only be active when you are not anxious or feeling threatened.

Positive use of anxiety in sex

While erections require a certain level of relaxation and blood flow, using the energy that anxiety serves you in other ways can help build excitement in more satisfying ways. Acknowledging that anxiety is part of sexual experiences can help you accept it for what it is and channel it into the pleasurable effects instead. You can try exploring other body parts that feel good and read other tips on our site that give you ideas for focusing your energy in more positive ways.

Start to get into your body and really observe what feels good to you without worrying about how hard you get or how long it will take to orgasm. I recognize that this is a lot easier said than done when you may have looked at sex for years with the goal in mind. Once you get into your body and identify how good different things feel for you, you get the joy of awakening your sexual playfulness and the opportunity for better sex with yourself or partners.

Many people struggle with arousal troubles and they get help! It is possible that the issue stems deeper from unresolved relationship dynamics or symptoms of mental health. If this fits for you and you are still struggling with erectile dysfunction, a consultation with a sex therapist can help you move forward to a more pleasurable future.