Is it the Erectile Dysfunction or the Depression?

Depression and erectile dysfunction are often associated with jokes and negative stigma, but the reality is these conditions are more common than we think and can be distressing for those who suffer from them. Recognizing the symptoms of erectile dysfunction and depression and seeking help can lead to successful treatment for these conditions.

What is Depression?

Depression is the most frequently diagnosed mental health disorder. It is often associated with a variety of symptoms, although the type and degree of symptoms experienced by each person with depression can differ drastically. Some people may experience a lack of energy, feelings of hopelessness, appetite and weight changes, changes in sleep habits, or a lack of interest in things they used to love. To be diagnosed with depression you typically must experience symptoms for at least two weeks, although depression symptoms can persist in some people for years.

What is Erectile Dysfunction?

Erectile dysfunction, commonly referred to as ED, is a condition that causes a man difficulty in getting and/or keeping an erection for sex. While it is not abnormal for all men to have instances where they may have trouble getting or maintaining an erection, it is when this problem persists that you should see your primary care provider to address it. If left untreated, it can have a large impact on mental health, self-confidence, and relationship health.

Are My Problems Physical or Psychological?

Depression and erectile dysfunction are complex disorders than can either be caused or exacerbated by physical and psychological components.

Depression can be genetic in some cases, while in other cases it can be caused by traumatic life events. Depression can also be caused by significant stress. In some instances, depression can occur as a complication of another medical condition or medication.

Erectile dysfunction can be associated with depression or can be the cause of depression for some men. Similar to depression, erectile dysfunction can be caused by stress or anxiety. It can also be a complication of a number of medical conditions or a side effect of some medications. Erectile dysfunction also occurs more frequently in men who smoke or drink alcohol.

Stats About Depression

Depression affects a lot of people, and it can be challenging to diagnose as it presents differently in different individuals. Depression is thought to be more common in women than men, although that may be related to symptoms being harder to identify in men. Some have estimated up to 25% of women and 12% of men will experience depression in their lifetime. These stats are important, because while many people feel embarrassed about their feelings the prevalence of depression shows that this condition is fairly common.

Stats About Erectile Dysfunction

Erectile dysfunction can impact men of any age, although it becomes more common as men get older. It is estimated that 10% of men 40-70 years old experience severe erectile dysfunction, while up to 25% of men that age can have moderate erectile dysfunction. Although it becomes more common after age 40, up to 10% of men under the age of 40 are also affected by this disorder.

What are the Traditional Treatments for Depression?

There are a variety of treatment options available for depression. Treatment can be aimed at symptom management or at treating the root cause of the depression.

Therapy for Depression

There are many forms of therapy that can be helpful in treating depression. Therapy sessions can be in a group or individual setting. These sessions can help you identify sources of your depressive symptoms, develop coping skills, and find support from others with the same condition. There are different kinds of therapy that can be beneficial for people with depression, and you should talk with your therapist to determine which type might work best for you.

Medications for Depression

Medications for depression continue to be developed to help people manage their symptoms. With the large variety of symptoms individuals can experience, having a multitude of medications available is beneficial for treatment.

The use of SSRIs, a class of medications that increase serotonin levels in the brain, is the first-line treatment recommendation. Adjustments or changes to therapy are often made if a medication does not work well or the side effects are not tolerable.

An important point about medication use in depression is that it can take up to two months to see their full effect, which can be frustrating or discouraging for people who are anxious for relief. Make sure to surround yourself with a supportive group of family or friends to help you through these challenging first stages of treatment.

Home Remedies for Depression

There are some lifestyle changes that can also help improve depression. Incorporating an exercise regimen into your daily routine can be helpful. Making an effort to spend time with close friends can help prevent feelings of isolation. It is also important to stay educated about your disorder and informed about resources in your area.

SSRIs and Erectile Dysfunction

SSRIs are a type of medication commonly used to treat depression. While these medications are often effective for people and well tolerated, they can occasionally cause sexual dysfunction, which can include erectile dysfunction.

Fortunately, there are many other medication options to treat depression if you experience this side effect. However, if an SSRI is effective at treating your depression, you may be hesitant to completely change therapy. Medications used to treat erectile dysfunction can be prescribed to treat this side effect. Another option would be buproprion, which is another antidepressant that can be added to your current therapy to minimize sexual side effects of other antidepressants and aid in a further decrease in your depression symptoms. If you are experiencing this side effect with an SSRI, or any medication, talk to your doctor about your options.

Erectile Dysfunction, Low Testosterone, and Depression

Low testosterone may contribute to erectile dysfunction and mood disorders in some men. As men age, their testosterone levels can decline leading to changes in body composition and sexual function. This can potentially lead to problems with depressive symptoms and erectile dysfunction. The evidence to treat these conditions with testosterone replacement is currently not substantial, but there are some studies that suggest testosterone may help improve sexual desire and erectile dysfunction in men who have low testosterone. There may also be a potential improvement in mood when testosterone is given to men with low levels, although low testosterone has not been clearly associated with depression.

What Can I Do About Erectile Dysfunction and Depression?

There are many ways to treat erectile dysfunction with or without depression. Talk with your primary care provider to determine the most appropriate options for you.

Home Remedies

There are some strategies you can implement at home to try to improve your erectile dysfunction. Erectile dysfunction can be related to smoking or excessive alcohol intake, so trying to reduce or stop these activities may help improve your symptoms. Obesity can cause or worsen these symptoms, so losing weight through diet and exercise can benefit overweight people who suffer from erectile dysfunction. Increasing exercise in general can improve symptoms for men regardless of their weight.


There are some over-the-counter supplements and herbs that are marketed to improve erectile dysfunction symptoms. Some of these treatment options include vitamins B3 and D, L-arginine, and horny goat weed. However, it is important to talk to your healthcare provider before starting any of the potential supplements. Some over-the-counter medications are not certified by any regulatory agency, which means they may contain ingredients that are not listed on the bottle or incorrect amounts of active ingredient. Another important thing to remember is although they are considered “natural”, they may interact with other medications you take or be unsafe based on your other medical problems. If you are thinking about starting a supplement, you should consult with your doctor or pharmacist before starting this therapy.


The most common medications used in the treatment of erectile dysfunction include phosphodiesterase-5 inhibitors, such as sildenafil (Viagra), tadalafil (Cialis), or vardenafil (Levitra). These medications work by increasing nitric oxide levels that help open the blood vessels to the penis to aid an erection. They work well to help initiate and keep an erection, however they should not be used in combination with nitrates that are used for chest pain or in certain medical conditions.

The biggest barrier to obtaining these medications can be feelings of embarrassment. However, it is important to remember this is not an uncommon problem, and your primary care provider can offer you medication and other resources to help you manage your symptoms. There are also telemedicine companies that allow you to see a physician via video chat to discuss your problem and receive therapy options or get prescribed medications. If you choose this route, be sure to keep your primary care provider informed about any changes that are made to your medications.


If there are mental health or relationship problems that are contributing to your erectile dysfunction symptoms, therapy may be beneficial to address these issues. Depression can be managed with medication and therapy. If there is anxiety or tension surrounding your relationships, this may also prevent you from being able to get or maintain an erection. Seeking therapy to help resolve these issues can help you overcome your erectile dysfunction.

Erectile dysfunction and depression can go hand-in-hand and oftentimes can be ignored due to shame or ignorance. If you or a loved one are experiencing symptoms of erectile dysfunction or mood changes, do not be afraid to reach out to your primary care provider or therapist in your area. These disorders have a multitude of treatment options available, and when managed appropriately, you can experience minimal to no symptoms and have improved quality of life.


author avatar
Angel Rivera
I am a Bilingual (Spanish) Psychiatrist with a mixture of strong clinical skills including Emergency Psychiatry, Consultation Liaison, Forensic Psychiatry, Telepsychiatry and Geriatric Psychiatry training in treatment of the elderly. I have training in EMR records thus very comfortable in working with computers. I served the difficult to treat patients in challenging environments in outpatient and inpatient settings

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