Other Symptoms

How Anxiety Induces Impotence

Micah Abraham, BSc

Written by

Micah Abraham, BSc

Last updated October 10, 2020

How Anxiety Induces Impotence

It's hard enough to live with anxiety. Every day is spent worrying over issues that may not even be important, or spending time trying to quell the numerous physical symptoms that anxiety seems to cause.

So when anxiety also has a symptom that can cause more anxiety, that can be a tremendous struggle. Unfortunately, anxiety can cause several symptoms that increase anxiety, and one of them is impotence.

Anxiety Can Induce Impotence

Impotence, or erectile dysfunction, is a sexual disorder in which man struggles to get or maintain an erection. The cause of sexual dysfunction in men can be incredibly difficult to diagnose, so if you're concerned you do need to talk to a doctor. Yet anxiety - especially severe anxiety - can cause a host of different issues that affect your libido and erectile function is one of them.

The relationship that anxiety has to impotence is a complicated one, because each person experiences the effects of anxiety differently. Some people experience the opposite: premature ejaculation, where the man climaxes too quickly as a result of anxiety. Some men experience both. Sexually, some men are not affected by anxiety at all.

Ultimately, anxiety may trigger different changes that could induce impotence. Some of these include:

  • Overwhelmed Brain When you have severe anxiety, it essentially overwhelms your brain. Not just on a mental level either - it overloads your brain on a neurochemical level as well. Studies have shown that when you have severe anxiety, parts of your brain that are not linked to immediate physical survival may be less active, since they're not as important as the parts of your brain dealing with anxiety, which helps you to respond to a threat (this is the fight or flight response). For some people, therefore, the parts of the brain that are involved in helping one to get an erection may become less active or ineffective when a person is anxious.
  • Negative Emotions Anxiety also brings some profoundly negative emotions. Unfortunately, these emotions can become problematic when it comes to sexual energy. It's harder for many men to become sexually aroused when they’re preoccupied with negative emotions - and in fact there’s a close link between depression and erectile dysfunction.
  • Distracted Mind If you're too worried about your anxieties and the symptoms, then it becomes much harder to keep a focus on the present moment, which is necessary if you hope to also obtain physical arousal during intimate moments. Even if it feels as though you're paying attention to the person in front of you, you may be distracted without even realizing it.
  • Over Focused Mind Some anxiety - especially panic disorder - causes someone to become too focused on the moment, especially if the moment is also causing a bit of anxiety (which sexual arousal may do). If you're paying too much attention to the moment then you may not be able to experience the natural energy necessary to become aroused. This can also be referred to as overthinking a situation and paralyzing yourself with anxiety.
  • Cortisol and Hormones Cortisol is a hormone released during times of stress. Anxiety releases these hormones regularly. During stress, cortisol is released in excess, while testosterone decreases by a significant amount. Similarly, studies have shown that cortisol has an effect on both the brain and body that could lead to impotence and sexual dysfunction.

One of the ironies of impotence caused by anxiety is that it can be self-sustaining. Many men need pride in their sexual prowess to be confident in the bedroom. When they're impotent, that confidence decreases, and it can bleed into their personal life in other ways.

That's one of the reasons that this type of sexual dysfunction can be such a significant issue for men. It fuels anxiety further and can make it even harder to control your anxiety in the future.

How to Overcome Impotence From Anxiety

Overcoming this impotence is a two-step process. The first is to try to ensure that sex is natural for you again, and something that creates a positive emotion. This involves talking to your partner, and making sure they understand that you have anxiety and it's affected your libido.

Many men try to keep it to themselves and hope it doesn't happen, but that just creates more fear and, ultimately, makes it more likely that you'll experience impotence. You are going to need to be open with your partner about the problem, and explain that your anxiety has affected you. Once you've done that, there are several things you can try:

  • Try Other Forms of Sexual Engagement Try to engage in other forms of intimacy that you can still enjoy despite your impotence. Remember, there are many ways to sexually satisfy someone even beyond penetrative sex, and if you engage in these activities you won't worry too much about your ability to get aroused.
  • Have Intimate Non-Sexual Time Similarly, you should enjoy some time together where sex is completely off the table. In fact, you can make it a rule that you will not make love even if everything starts working smoothly. You can lay together, kiss, etc., but the rule is to not engage in any sexual activity. This way some of the pressure is off and you can focus on just being there with someone you care about.
  • Make It Light Hearted You can also consider just trying to lighten the mood a little. When you have anxiety, the seriousness of romance and courting can make you more focused on ensuring that you're able to get aroused. Instead, make it more comfortable. Turn on the TV, laugh, make jokes, have fun, and relax. Reducing some of the pressure of sex can improve how you feel when you're trying to be intimate.

This is the first step - to just enjoy activities that take some of the pressure of you so that you can get used to intimacy being more natural. It has to feel like something that isn't all about your impotence - a way that you spend time with someone else. It needs to also be something that doesn't cause significant anxiety every time, because even if you reduce anxiety you may still experience it in the bedroom.

The second step is simply reducing your anxiety. Since your impotency is the result of anxiety, reducing that anxiety can help you effectively stop the impotence from occurring. Ultimately, you may also want to consider consulting a sex therapist or a doctor, in order to assess whether your impotence is being caused by factors other than anxiety.

Questions? Comments?

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Where can I go to learn more about Jacobson’s relaxation technique and other similar methods?

– Anonymous patient


You can ask your doctor for a referral to a psychologist or other mental health professional who uses relaxation techniques to help patients. Not all psychologists or other mental health professionals are knowledgeable about these techniques, though. Therapists often add their own “twist” to the technqiues. Training varies by the type of technique that they use. Some people also buy CDs and DVDs on progressive muscle relaxation and allow the audio to guide them through the process.

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