Stress and Erectile Dysfunction

Erectile Dysfunction:

What's the connection between stress and sexual difficulties? Because it raises blood pressure and cholesterol, stress contributes to a greater risk of erectile dysfunction (ED). Under pressure, people tend to smoke, overeat and abuse alcohol, behaviors that also place men at higher risk for ED.

The brain is the key player in the physical process of creating an erection. If the part of the brain responsible for sending the necessary impulses to the penis receives negative and positive messages, it will respond by releasing chemicals that constrict the blood vessels in the penis and inhibit the natural process that causes an erection.

The debate about the underlying causes od ED finally seems to be over. It's now generally agreed that organic problems account for approximately 80% of cases of ED, whereas psychological factors alone are responsible for up to 20%. Organic factors include :

- Vascular disease
- Diabetes
- Abnormal nerve function
- Hormone deficiencies/abnormalities
- Surgical procedures
- Medication use
- Peyronie's (a condition causing curvature of the penis)
- Lifestyle factors such as smoking, alcohol use and poor diet

But having a chronic illness can cause psychological stress, which in turn may further increase a man's vulnerability to erectile difficulties. For example, studies suggest that roughly 20% of diabetic men with ED have symptoms consistent with a primarily mental or emotional origin. One study found that roughly 38% of ED cases in a sample of 75 diabetic men could be attributed primarily to psychological causes. Men and their partners who are able to cope effectively with the stress of disease are less likely to develop sexual difficulties, regardless of the presence of medical problems.

Although physiological damage is usually the source of impaired sexual responsiveness in diabetics, one study showed that this can improve spontaneously even in patients with diabetic neuropathy (nerve damage caused by diabetes), usually when they form a new realtionship or when marital conflict decreases. Rates of spontaneous remission of erectile dysfunction in men can range from 9% to 36%.

These examples point to the complex interplay between psychological and physiological factors. One thing is quite certain : even when the cause is a physical condition or medical illness, most men with ED feel psychological vulnerable and all men feel that their masculinity is threatened.

Women can pretend to be aroused, even they are not. Whether worried, distracted or stressed, women can often fake arousal and even orgasm, chances are that few men can honestly tell the difference. On the other hand, it is impossible for a man to fake an erection. Erectile dysfunction is obvious and repeated negative experiences can lead sex to become embarrassing and humiliating for men. A host of psychological problems such as anxiety, fear and even depression may follow.

Stress is virtually everywhere and no one seemms to be immune to its influence at one time or another. While it can take various forms and has different implications for individuals, it is clear that it has a huge impact on our quality of life and our sexual health. Hera are some key strategies to work on to help you take charge of your sexual life and keep stress at a manageable level for you :

- Better manage your time and do not cram your schedule
- Take time to talk to others
- Slow down!
- Do things that give you pleasure
- Seek solitude when needed
- Engage in relaxation exercises
- Maintain a healthy lifestyle, including exercises and proper diet

Proper management of your stress level is important. The benefits are immediate : you will feel more relaxed and experience an improvement in your sex life.

Marc Deschamps is the editor of, a free online publication dedicated to the sexual health of the modern man. Click here for more information on Causes of Erectile Dysfunctions.

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