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Can Depression Cause Erectile Dysfunction: Exploring The Relationship Between The Two

UPGUYS > Blog > Sex > Can Depression Cause Erectile Dysfunction: Exploring the Relationship Between the Two
The person who wrote this article

Written by the UPGUYS Editorial Team
Published on March 16, 2022

In Canada, almost half of men have experienced erectile dysfunction in their lives and most of them have used Canada Viagra pills. On the other hand, according to the Ministry of Health of Ontario, 1 in every 4 people in Canada suffers from some degree of depression severe enough to seek treatment. 

Based on the facts and numbers mentioned above, depression and erectile dysfunction (ED) are both very common, despite social stigma.

This article looks at the relationship between depression and erectile dysfunction. We want to see if depression can cause erectile dysfunction and more.

In this article, we talk about:

- Can depression cause erectile dysfunction? 

- Do depression medications cause erectile dysfunction? 

- What are the signs of depression and erectile dysfunction?

- How to treat erectile dysfunction caused by depression? 

- Final words

Almost half of the men in Canada experience ED at some point in their lives. Moreover, 1 in every 4 people in Canada suffers from some degree of depression.

Can Depression Cause Erectile Dysfunction? 

Depression has a direct effect on sexual desire and performance. In fact, the relationship between depression and erectile dysfunction (ED) is biological. 

There are chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are the chemicals transferring the messages of the brain to sexual organs. When your brain is thinking about sex and desire, due to these chemicals, more blood flow goes to the penis, and erection happens. 

Now, if a person is depressed, the chemicals in the brain are no longer balanced, including sex-related chemicals. When the messages of desire are not properly transformed to the sex organs, sexual desire decreases or vanishes altogether.  

Based on a study published in American Family Physician, 70 percent of adults facing depression had problems with libido. Of course, most people who seek treatment, or find other ways to bring joy to their lives, can reverse this feeling and get back on track.

Brain chemicals get imbalanced due to depression, causing sexual desire to decrease or vanish.

Do Depression Medications Cause Erectile Dysfunction? 

We have covered the fact that depression can cause erectile dysfunction by now. But it gets even more complicated than that. There are also anti-depressants drugs that address depression effectively, but they also come with sexual side effects.

An excellent example of that is selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). SSRIs increase the level of chemicals called serotonin in the brain. Serotonin helps boost the mood. But it also disrupts the messages between the brain and the sexual organ, causing erection and ejaculation harder to achieve for men. It also prevents orgasms in women. 

Following are the names of some of the drugs used for depression that affect sexual desire and sexual performance are:

  1. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs): Like citalopram (Celexa), sertraline (Zoloft), escitalopram (Lexapro), fluoxetine (Prozac), and paroxetine (Paxil, Pexeva).
  2. Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs): Like desvenlafaxine (Pristiq), venlafaxine (Effexor XR), and duloxetine (Cymbalta).
  3. Tricyclic and tetracyclic anti-depressants: Like amitriptyline, nortriptyline (Pamelor) and clomipramine (Anafranil).
  4. Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs): Like isocarboxazid (Marplan), phenelzine (Nardil) and tranylcypromine (Parnate). However, selegiline (Emsam), an MAOI that you stick on your skin as a patch, has a low risk of sexual side effects.

There are, at the same time, some anti-depressant drugs that have a lower risk of causing ED. These drugs include:

  1. Bupropion (Wellbutrin XL, Wellbutrin SR)
  2. Mirtazapine (Remeron)
  3. Vilazodone (Viibryd)
  4. Vortioxetine (Trintellix)

If you are using any anti-depressant drugs and have developed problems with sexual desire and sexual performance, talk to your doctor if you see signs of depression related to erectile dysfunction. Your doctor will prescribe a proper replacement for you. The signs and symptoms of sexual issues related to depression are discussed in detail below. 

What Are the Signs of Depression and Erectile Dysfunction?

Low self-esteem, physical fatigue and anxiety can lead to lower libido. They can also cause Anorgasmia, meaning trouble having an orgasm. As mentioned above, depression can cause erectile dysfunction. But you can always seek treatments if you notice the symptoms. If you notice these signs and symptoms, the cause of ED can be related to depression:

  1. Lack of sexual desire or ability to enjoy sex
  2. Experiencing ED after a devastating life event
  3. Having ED alongside feeling anxious. stressed, hopeless, or frustrated
  4. Low energy levels
  5. Lack of self-esteem
  6. Having been prescribed anti-depressants

If your erectile dysfunction happened at the same time as any of the symptoms mentioned above, there is a high chance your problem is related to depression. 

Read more: Sexual Stressors Causing ED: Can Men Get Anxiety-Blocked

If you started experiencing erectile dysfunction (ED) at the same time as feeling stressed, anxious, frustrated, or after a sad and devastating life event, there is a high chance that your depression and erectile dysfunction are correlated.

How to Treat Erectile Dysfunction Caused by Depression? 

Before going any further and mentioning how erectile dysfunction caused by depression can be treated, let's look at the symptoms of depression.

Depression can be caused by changes in hormones, genetics, or any sudden loss or drastic change in life. The followings are some of the most common symptoms of depression:

  1. ongoing sadness
  2. lack of interest in work, family, and activities you used to like
  3. guilt 
  4. hopelessness
  5. physical fatigue
  6. insomnia or too much sleep
  7. irritability and anxiety
  8. anger and aggressiveness
  9. weakness, aches, and pains
  10. sexual dysfunction
  11. concentration difficulties
  12. weight loss or gain
  13. suicidal tendencies

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you need to talk to your healthcare provider or psychologist. Regarding sexual challenges due to depression, you need to be open to your doctor and tell them whatever change you see in your sexual desire and performance. Your doctor might give you anti-depressants with a low impact on your sex life or change the one you're already taking.

Apart from an honest, explicit talk to your doctor, you can take other steps as well:

  1. Take your anti-depressant after you have already had a sexual encounter with your partner if the timing does not interfere with its effect.
  2. Talk to your partner about your stress and anxiety and how it has impacted your sexual relationship. Sharing takes a lot of the pressure away, and your partner might have a solution that hadn't occurred to you.
  3. Make changes to your lifestyle, especially what you eat and exercise. Exercise makes a massive difference in your mood and general health.
  4. Ultimately, there are many medications out there to help with erectile dysfunction. Contact your doctor today and ask about those medications.
Talk to your doctor, share your thoughts and worries with your partner, exercise, eat healthily, and enjoy the benefits of erectile dysfunction treatments.

Final Words

Depression is very common nowadays, and it's on the rise. It has an enormous impact on your sexual desire and sexual performance. You need to know the symptoms of erectile dysfunction and the symptoms of depression and if you are experiencing them, talk to your doctor. 

Erectile dysfunction can be caused by depression due to stress and anxiety or anti-depressant pills. Whatever the reason, there are things you can do to make things better. Exercise, talk to your partner, seek medical help, and enjoy the benefits of erectile dysfunction medications.

This article is written for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information provided in the articles cannot and should not replace advice from a healthcare professional. Talk to your healthcare provider about any physical or mental health concerns or the risks and benefits of any treatment or medication.