Childhood trauma, stress, poor sleep, anxiety, or fear of failure during sex are common causes of psychological-induced erectile dysfunction.

Around 10% of the problems getting an erection come from some emotional or mental disorder, being even more common in young men.

A curious fact about erectile dysfunction is that it was thought that all were due to psychological problems in the past. Today, just a small percentage of EDs are due to emotional problems. The rest consist of physical problems such as high blood pressure or diabetes.

In general, diseases or contexts that interfere with the brain's erection, the transmission of "neurological orders" through the spinal cord or the penile vascular and structural system can damage erectile function.

Learn more next about psychogenic erectile dysfunction and why, although uncommon, it is quite important.

Basics of erectile dysfunction

Erectile dysfunction (ED) is the inability to get an erection firm enough to have sex. Medications, illnesses, accidents, and even smoking or heavy drinking are among its main causes.

Symptoms include:

  • Finding it difficult to have an erection

  • Finding it difficult to maintain an erection long enough

  • Impotence, anxiety, or sex avoidance due to the above

  • Loss of self-confidence when having sex

All men find it difficult to get an erection from time to time because of anxiety, worry, or countless other reasons, and it may not be a big deal. But when you can't get an erection or if your erection doesn't last long enough most of the time, you probably have ED.

Many men are so traumatized by experiences of erection failure that they engage in denial and avoidant behaviors without being able to take any action to fix it. Only 18% of them seek medical help, and 33% share it with their partners. This leads to great reluctance to face the problem and delay consultation and treatment, worsening the already impaired quality of life.

Erection and its psychological influence

Normal sexual function and erection depend on the coordination of different aspects, including psychological, hormonal, vascular, and neurological, involving several phases such as sexual desire, arousal, and orgasm. Erectile dysfunction occurs when one of them is affected.

Most physical causes lead to erection problems because they damage some of the structures involved, be it the blood vessels crucial for the erect penis, the cavernous muscle, or direct damage to the penile nerves.

And you may be wondering, how do stress or my emotions cause erectile dysfunction? The answer is a bit complex, but we will make it easy to comprehend for you.

The penis needs chemicals to start an erection. These chemicals are released when there is sexual stimulation and thoughts. Images, sensory stimuli, and the spicy game before intercourse are decisive for a proper erection.

Sensory information travels from your body to your brain and then to your penis, where dilating substances are released to induce penile blood inflow and the cavernous muscles to relax, leading to an erection.

If your brain or mind is not in the moment, or you are simply not enjoying it, it is possible that 1) chemicals are not released, or 2) chemicals with opposite effects are released.

The chemical required for your penis to lengthen is nitric oxide, a strong dilator of the blood vessels plenty released when there is sexual stimulation and arousal.

When you are stressed, not enjoying the moment, afraid, or do not like your partner, it is likely that the situation makes you very uncomfortable, and norepinephrine is released instead of nitric oxide, leading to blood vessels shortening.

Sexual performance anxiety: a common cause of psychology-induced ED

First described by Masters and Johnson, sexual performance anxiety is a common cause of erection problems in young men, especially the inexperienced.

It is about the new fear of failure after experiencing some erection failure. This experience leaves a kind of "trauma" that produces fear and a complete loss of confidence regarding the next sexual intercourse.

The traumatic response is clear:

  • Looking excessively at your penis

  • Question yourself

  • Focus your entire attention on your penis

  • Loss of sexual desire because of the above

Sex goes from relaxing and pleasant to a stressful event where you lose penile rigidity due to your own emotional and mental influence, mainly because of the fear of failing again.

So sexual performance anxiety can be both a cause and a consequence for erectile dysfunction, leading to even more erection problems.

What exactly are the psychological causes?

This is probably the question you have been asking yourself during the article and the answer you have been waiting for the most.

There are so many psychological causes that we probably fall short:

  1. Problems in the current relationship

  2. Social or work problems

  3. Affective problems

  4. Stress

  5. Lack of sleep

  6. Low self-esteem

  7. Depression

  8. Sexual inhibition

  9.  Lack of arousability

  10. Performance-related issues

  11. As a result of childhood sexual abuse or trauma

  12. Religious or cultural taboos

  13. Different sexual preferences

  14. Fear of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases

  15. Neurosis, psychosis

  16. Wrong sexual beliefs

  17. Result of other sexual disorders such as premature or delayed ejaculation

Something typical of psychological ED is that it is more situational and specific than organic. It appears in the moment, but the erection works well when self-induced or in other contexts.

Unlike organic-induced erectile dysfunction, the problem in getting an erection is immediate and not gradual, and there are spontaneous erections such as morning erections.


Psychology-induced EDs require psychotherapy and lifestyle changes to improve. They have a very good prognosis and respond well to treatment.

Self-esteem, confidence, and manly satisfaction are directly related to his masculinity. If it is not properly treated in time, it may significantly impair your quality of life and that of your partner.

Seek help. You are not alone. Take early action without fear before it's too late.


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