blog · ERECTIONS

Erectile dysfunction and depression: speaking the unspeakable

It’s a catch 22.

Depression can cause erectile dysfunction (ED), and erectile dysfunction, in turn, can cause depression.

Many men find it difficult to talk about their depression. Fearing it makes them appear “weak”, men often silence themselves and shut themselves off from family and friends.

But this can have grave consequences.

In 2017, 5,821 suicides were recorded in Great Britain. Of these, 75% were men.

Thankfully, more people are becoming aware of the importance of men’s mental health.

Healthy discussion around the topic is burgeoning and even celebrities like Stormzy have openly spoken about their battles with depression.

In this article, we’ll contribute to the conversation by expanding on the links between erectile dysfunction and depression.

How does depression cause erectile dysfunction?

Depression can be defined as “a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest” in formerly pleasurable activities.

Symptoms include low self-esteem, hopelessness, worthlessness, fatigue, and sleep disturbances (such as insomnia or sleeping too much). Loss of libido can also be a sign of depression too.

Libido is your sexual desire. In the world of psychoanalysis, libido is defined as “the energy of the sexual drive as a component of the life instinct”.

And as we covered in the Book of Erections, sexual desire is important for healthy erections. So if libido is a kind of energy, then it’s easy to see how a condition that deprives you of energy (as depression does) can affect your erections.

The flip side: erectile dysfunction can trigger depression

As mentioned at the beginning of this article, erectile dysfunction can cause depression and vice versa.

Many men who experience erectile dysfunction feel “angry, frustrated, sad, unsure of themselves, or even less ‘manly’” (P.S. you’re not ‘less manly’ – ED in men is actually very common and its bearing on masculinity is purely subjective).

These feelings may lead to deeper feelings of low self-esteem, loss of interest in formerly pleasurable activities (such as sex), and apathy – all symptoms of depression.

Is there a way out of the erectile dysfunction and depression cycle?

Research suggests sildenafil is an effective treatment for erectile dysfunction in men with erectile dysfunction and depression.

However, although sildenafil is incredibly successful in directly treating erectile dysfunction and will allow you to achieve stronger erections, it won’t necessarily solve your depression.

That’s why you should consider combining sildenafil with treatment options that tackle the root cause of your depression-related erectile dysfunction.

Therapy is one such option. In its various modalities, psychotherapy can be an effective way to address the fundamental causes of your depression in a comfortable and confidential environment.

There are pharmaceutical options too, although these are best discussed with your doctor. It’s worth noting that some types of antidepressants (known as SSRIs) can cause erectile dysfunction. There’s a risk/benefit balance to be struck here, which should be properly discussed and supervised by a physician or psychiatrist.

The bottom line

Evidence suggests there is a link between erectile dysfunction and depression.

Although the exact causal relationship between the two is unclear, studies have shown that you’re more likely to have erectile dysfunction if you have symptoms of depression.

Sildenafil has been shown to effectively treat erectile dysfunction in men who have ED caused by depression.

However additional therapy is beneficial for addressing the root causes of depression-related erectile dysfunction.