Are men with anxiety disorders more likely to develop erectile dysfunction (ED)?
Yes, men with anxiety disorders might struggle with erections.
It is common to feel anxious at times. However, for a person with an anxiety disorder, these feelings interfere with everyday life and relationships and create distress. Some examples of anxiety disorders are:
- generalized anxiety disorder
- social anxiety disorder
- panic disorder
- phobia-related disorders
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) are closely related to anxiety. People with anxiety disorders are more at risk to suffer from depression.
A 2021 paper published in the International Journal of Impotence Research found that men with anxiety disorders were at higher risk for erectile dysfunction (ED) – the inability to get and keep an erection firm enough for sex.
ED might also be more severe in men with anxiety disorders, the authors said.
(Specifically, the study investigated men with PTSD, OCD, social phobia/social anxiety disorder, and panic disorder.)
The relationship between anxiety and ED is sometimes described as a vicious cycle. Anxiety about erections or other aspects of sexual performance may become distracting, to the point that a man cannot focus on the pleasures of intimacy in the moment. That distraction can make it difficult to keep an erection.
In turn, sexual problems may make him feel less masculine or unable to please a partner. His self-esteem may suffer, and he may worry about his relationship. These feelings can lead to even more anxiety.
Medications used to treat anxiety, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs – a type of antidepressant), can also have sexual side effects.
If you feel that anxiety is affecting your ability to be sexual, consider seeing a counselor or a sex therapist. Your healthcare provider can refer you to one in your area.
- Anxiety and Depression Association of America - “What is Anxiety and Depression?”
(Page updated: April 13, 2021)
- International Journal of Impotence Research - “Erectile dysfunction in patients with anxiety disorders: a systematic review”
Velurajah, Rajalaxmi, et al.
(Full-text. Published: February 18, 2021)
- International Society for Sexual Medicine - “What is the difference between sexual performance anxiety and erectile dysfunction (ED)?”
- National Institute of Mental Health - “Anxiety Disorders”
(Last revised: July 2018)