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What are the Psychological Effects of Erectile Dysfunction?

Laura M. Sands
Updated May 17, 2024
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The effects of erectile dysfunction on a man’s psyche are numerous. In most cases, concerns about this issue only intensify the problem by adding to levels of performance anxiety and producing depression, as well as social withdrawal. Physically, impotence can be cured by performance enhancing drugs, but the psychosocial effects are a lot harder to treat.

Once believed to be purely psychological, researchers now know that the causes of erectile dysfunction may also be rooted in biology. While this fact is most commonly associated with age or illness, any man at any age can suffer from erectile dysfunction. This is because it is often a combination of factors that decrease a male’s sexual performance. Some of the main causes include high blood pressure, heart disease, depression, stress and diabetes. Certain medications can also hurt a male’s sexual performance.

When help is needed to understand and treat erectile dysfunction, psychological factors can sometimes impede these efforts. This is particularly true in men who are in denial about their condition or who are too ashamed to notify a medical professional. Even when the effects of impotence begin due to an organic cause, with time, the psychological effects can become as much of a hindrance and, therefore, require more intense treatment options.

The effects of dysfunction almost always include some level of psychological discomfort. Even in cases where the causes are completely physical, a man is likely to feel damaged or experience a sense of loss. These feelings are quite commonly reported as one of the many side effects of erectile dysfunction. Such feelings not only affect a man’s self-esteem, but they may also create ill-feelings within his relationship with a spouse or significant other.

When men feel stressed or overly anxious about sexual performance, unsatisfactory encounters can cause him to feel depressed and he may even begin to emotionally and physically withdraw from or reject his partner. In some cases, a man may even become so depressed as to withdraw from regular social activities and other hobbies that he previously enjoyed. As a result, research has shown that partners involved with men with this condition also suffer emotionally and psychologically.

Experts find that the negative effects of erectile dysfunction often require a man to undergo additional intervention beyond regular medical treatment for impotence. Such treatment includes psychotherapy, relationship counseling, and may even require antidepressant medications. Experts further recommend that intimate partners of men suffering from the effects of impotence also seek counseling in order to help understand and heal from the emotional pain suffered due to a male partner’s reaction to this condition.

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Laura M. Sands
By Laura M. Sands , Former Writer
Laura Sands, the founder of a publishing company, brings her passion for writing and her expertise in digital publishing to her work. With a background in social sciences and extensive online work experience, she crafts compelling copy and content across various platforms. Her ability to understand and connect with target audiences makes her a skilled contributor to any content creation team.

Discussion Comments

By anon316673 — On Jan 30, 2013

I think ED has major psychological effects but the truth is, something like 60 percent of men over the age of 60 will have ED so in reality, this is nothing to be shamed of.

We are making "mountains out of molehills", so to speak. The current age allows for internet shopping, and stores can deliver vacuum therapy devices discreetly. Asking your doctor if he thinks vacuum therapy is a good idea. Make sure you don't have heart problems underlying ED and then you don't need to fear walking into a drugstore buying a pump when you can simply order online.

A final note about talking to your doctor: chances are he's already heard your problem four times today, so you're nothing special, just another client to him!

By anon303081 — On Nov 13, 2012

@anon27190: There is great variation in men. I'm 60 and many of the things you list are absolute baloney in my case. I can still have 10 orgasms a day, pretty much like when I was 20.

And psychogenic erections over at 30? Completely wrong for the majority. Some lose it in their 40's, more in their 50's, and many in their 60's according to Dr. Ruth (from one of her books). Again, I'm 60 and I still have fantasy erections, and even unwanted ones at times, though not as often as when I was 20.

Some men's sexuality is nothing like the feeble (in my opinion) picture you paint.

By anon300853 — On Nov 01, 2012

I believe scientists should start thinking broadly regarding ED. ED is being reported more widely around the world now than ever before. Scientists need to ask the right questions!

They need to look at lifestyle changes, young generations under pressure to perform sexually, Internet faster access to porn, and the effect of porn on men. I really believe porn is linked to ED. Others' thoughts? --Mango

By robert01 — On Oct 16, 2012

Actually stress and depression are also a cause for erectile problems.

By anon271901 — On May 28, 2012

Early information can offer better psychological health in later years.

After much research I have discovered the following:

1)Men should be informed very early that their sexual orgasmic peak is 14-18 years of age.(Kinsey)

2)Men should be informed that their sexual orgasmic potential begins to lessen after maturity (about 18 years.).

3)The angle of erection begins to change in the mid 20s.

4)Nocturnal emissions are over for most men in their late 20s.

5)At the age of 30, a man can have about 50 percent of the orgasms he could at 18 years.

6)Multiple orgasms are over for most men in their early 30s. (Kinsey).

7)Psychogenic erections are very much over for men in the early 30s. (Dr. Ruth).

8)Male levels of testosterone declines by 1-2 percent per year after age 30. (Mass Male Study).

9)By age 40, 52 percent of males have some level of male sexual dysfunction. (Mass. Male Study).

10)Orgasms lessen, sensation lessens, erection capability lessens, refractory period dramatically lessens, one orgasm not guaranteed in early 40s.

The real truth, never clearly stated, is that the only way sexual aging is communicated is dishonest.

It should be clearly stated that: a)Orgasm frequency lessens very early. b)Orgasm sensation erodes early. c)Erection firmness lessens in the 20s. d)Testosterone diminishes from late 20s. e)By age 30, males are only 50 percent orgasmic capable. f)Refractory period is problematic in the 30s.

Cold, difficult facts are avoided. This does a great disservice to males and does not allow them to cope from an early age (16 years). Instead, they are told that is is "normal" or this "may" occur or they "never lose interest" (just capability, frequency, sensation, hardness, and length of refractory period. This is dishonest.

If men knew right from the start that their sexual ability is a fleeting moment (compared to females) and that the only way they can deal with it is through psychological strength development and clear recognition that the decline starts before age 20, then this strength can be profitable maturity.

Males should be informed that their sexual orgasmic capability/performance will clearly decline very very soon.

Honesty, instead of avoidance and commiseration, and avoiding the natural sexual aging progression is the better approach.

Just a thought. Please do your research. I have. --Solly

Laura M. Sands

Laura M. Sands

Former Writer

Laura Sands, the founder of a publishing company, brings her passion for writing and her expertise in digital publishing...
Learn more
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