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Performance anxiety is a completely normal reaction to stressful situational factors in life.

Due to its nature, this form of stress has the power to affect people in almost any aspect of their life, from a fear of public speaking, to stage fright, and even problems with sexual anxiety.

Can anxiety cause erectile dysfunction?

What is performance anxiety?


Peer reviewed studies from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) revealed that stress and anxiety disorders are now one of the leading health conditions, affecting almost 2 in every 5 Aussies in the past year, with around 13% of men reporting the condition of performance anxiety during 2021.

Although short term performance anxiety may not be a classified mental health disorder, if left untreated it can become a serious medical condition.

Performance anxiety symptoms

While the symptoms of general performance anxiety will vary from person to person, some of the most common symptoms include:

  • Increased levels of stress and anxiety, sometimes resulting in premature ejaculation or erection deflation

  • Nausea and tremors

  • Negative thoughts, leading to poor performance

  • Disruption to blood supply throughout the body, often resulting in elevated blood pressure and heart palpitations

Understanding erectile dysfunction


Premature ejaculation and erectile dysfunction are the two main conditions that cause sexual problems in the bedroom. Although it may not be the most popular conversation topic between mates, erectile dysfunction is more common than you may think.

Data collected by the Massachusetts Male Aging Study, a source reliably cited by industry experts, revealed that more than 50% of men experience erectile dysfunction, with this figure increasing by up to 15% for those aged between 40 and 70 years.

Are young men likely to experience situational erectile dysfunction?

Although the numbers do reveal age playing a factor in the increased likelihood of sexual dysfunction, peer reviewed studies from The Journal of Sexual Medicine show that more than 25% of young men aged under 40 experience some degree of erectile dysfunction.

Situational erectile dysfunction in young men

Alongside sexual performance anxiety, there are a number of other factors that may cause erectile dysfunction, such as; the use of nicotine products, negative thoughts, psychological factors, illicit drug use, medications, and health conditions like diabetes.


The link between performance anxiety and situational erectile dysfunction


Now that we better understand the psychological factors, the question is – can anxiety cause erectile dysfunction? The simple answer is yes, performance anxiety can lead to situational erectile dysfunction.

In 2021, more than 3.3 million people in Australia suffered from an anxiety disorder that lasted in excess of 12 months. To experience anxiety is a perfectly normal human reaction.

When we take steps to better understand anxiety, we are able to manage the condition and decrease its power to cause erectile dysfunction or become an ongoing sexual problem.

What causes sexual performance anxiety?


While there are a number of factors that may contribute to sexual performance anxiety, let’s take a look at some of the more common reasons, so that we know how best to treat it.

Relationship issues

Relationship issues, both in and out of the bedroom, can often result in sexual performance anxiety. On the other end of the scale, however, a lack of intimacy with your partner may also cause an absence of sexual activity within your relationship, leading to further stress and anxiety.

Research suggests that conflict within a relationship may increase the likelihood of self esteem issues, amplify stress and anxiety, lower sex drive and exacerbate underlying mental health conditions.

If you are experiencing situational erectile dysfunction, it’s important that both you and your partner feel comfortable talking about any relationship conflict that may be causing or occurring as a result.

Exaggerated sexual experiences

Feelings of low self esteem or the inability to perform sexually can also arise from exaggerated stories of conquests that you hear from mates. If you think you may experience performance anxiety due to these tales from friends, try not to be overly concerned with living up to their so-called standards, because in many cases, details may have been highly embellished.

Media representations of sex drive and body image

In addition to the exaggerated stories you hear from mates, unrealistic portrayals of body image and sexual activity, in both mainstream media and porn, have been known to play a role in performance anxiety and situational erectile dysfunction.

Stress and anxiety

Although problems in the bedroom may stem from relationship issues or those related directly to sex, it’s crucial to understand anxiety and stress from other areas of your life can easily contribute to your sexual performance. Psychological factors, such as a stressful work environment, don’t simply cease to exist when you leave the office – instead, if left unaddressed, these problems can lead to sexual difficulties.


Other causes of sexual dysfunctions

Whether you experience erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation or any other issues with sexual dysfunction, it’s important to understand the causes that may be contributing to your problems, in order to develop an effective treatment plan.

Unhealthy diet and lifestyle choices

Alongside the list of the most common causes of performance anxiety and situational erectile dysfunction is the condition of your overall health and wellbeing.

Everyday habits, such as smoking, vaping and alcohol consumption have all been known to increase the chance of developing erectile dysfunction. Not only can nicotine use impede the functionality of your immune system, but it also tightens blood vessels, resulting in decreased blood flow. If you vape or smoke cigarettes on a daily basis, your habit may be affecting your sexual response, by restricting blood flow and circulation throughout many areas of the body, including the penis.

Physical health conditions

Underlying health conditions have also been known to increase the possibility of sexual dysfunction, including:

  • Low testosterone

  • High blood pressure (which restricts blood vessels)

  • Vascular disease

  • Heart conditions

  • Sexual response cycle

  • High cholesterol

  • Obesity

After some men experience performance anxiety or erectile dysfunction on just a few occasions, they find that the problem can turn into a reoccurring condition. Although the initial incident may have been the result of an underlying health disorder, the thought of repeated erectile dysfunction causes performance anxiety.

In this case, it is recommended that you consider using anxiety reduction techniques and seek medical advice to better manage stress and sexual anxiety moving forward.

Mental health conditions

An imbalance of brain chemicals can affect various aspects of the body, with pre-existing conditions being a common risk factor for developing erectile dysfunction, with mental health disorders, including:

  • Alzheimer’s disease

  • Performance anxiety and stress

  • Guilt

  • Depression

  • Negative self image

  • Sexual response cycle (the sexual response cycle is both a physical and emotional bodily reaction)

Certain medications

Many common medications may also be attributed to sexual problems and erectile dysfunction, such as:

  • Antidepressants

  • Cold medications

  • Diuretics

  • Sleep aids

  • Prescription pain relievers

  • Muscle relaxants

  • Antihistamines

Certain medications may cause erectile dysfunction and decrease sexual desire


How to treat erectile dysfunction and performance anxiety

To experience erectile dysfunction, or any form of hindered sexual response, can be an incredibly disheartening time. Before the negative thoughts enter your mind, rest assured knowing there are many effective options available to treat erectile dysfunction.

Dispel stress and anxiety

By learning to manage stress and anxiety in your life, you’re likely to notice a decrease in the occurrence of sexual issues. Stressful surroundings, unresolved anger and sleepless nights are all factors that can increase anxiety.

Whether you choose to take the route of mindfulness as a solo journey or employ the help of wellness professionals, the anxiety reduction techniques you learn will become invaluable.

Learn to communicate with your sexual partner

Erectile dysfunction can lead to relationship issues, with the potential to cause low self esteem for both people involved. Whether you’ve acquired situational erectile dysfunction or have dealt with this condition throughout your life, it can already be a tough thing to handle, let alone adding the thought of discussing it with your partner.

Enhance your sexual activities with open communication

One positive step you can take to relieve performance anxiety is to have an open and honest discussion with your partner. Sexual performance anxiety doesn’t need to be clouded by embarrassment – rather, it should be seen as a chance to identify any psychological factors that may be contributing to the problem, while also discovering what you both need to fulfil your sexual needs.

Seek professional medical advice

The most effective way to treat erectile dysfunction is through a combination of healthy lifestyle choices and a personalised treatment plan created by a medical professional.

By discussing any sexual dysfunction issues with your doctor, they will be able to complete a thorough health history assessment, and aid you in identifying any mental health disorders, body image issues, problems with low self esteem or physical conditions that may be contributing to your sexual performance anxiety.

Medical professionals can also assess your suitability for prescribed medications to assist you in getting and maintaining an erection.


Let’s get your health sorted!

Whether you’re suffering from situational erectile dysfunction or a different form of performance anxiety, we’re here to help! Start the conversation with a Stagger doctor today.



Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2022) National Study of Mental Health and Wellbeing. (https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/health/mental-health/national-study-mental-health-and-wellbeing)

NIH. (1994) Impotence and its medical and psychosocial correlates: results of the Massachusetts Male Aging Study. (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8254833/)

The Journal of Sexual Medicine. (2013) One Patient Out of Four with Newly Diagnosed Erectile Dysfunction Is a Young Man—Worrisome Picture from the Everyday Clinical Practice. (https://www.jsm.jsexmed.org/article/S1743-6095(15)30428-8/fulltext)