PTSD (or post-traumatic stress disorder) is a mental health condition that can occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event.
Patients with PTSD usually undergo emotional and psychological distress that significantly affect their quality of life.
In addition to the emotional effects, PTSD can also lead to physical problems such as erectile dysfunction and intimacy issues.
Erectile dysfunction is a condition where a man has difficulty getting or maintaining an erection. It’s a common condition—affecting over 68% of men over the age of 60 years old.
But while it’s common, it’s not a normal part of aging.
Let’s learn more about the connection between PTSD and erectile dysfunction.
PTSD and Erectile Dysfunction: The Research
PTSD sufferers tend to experience symptoms such as flashbacks, nightmares, and hypervigilance, typically from the stress of wartime conditions.
While those are the more common associations with PTSD, there’s a lesser-known condition that’s closely related: erectile dysfunction.
Erectile dysfunction is commonly caused by psychological issues such as stress and anxiety, and PTSD is one of the most common psychological conditions that can lead to ED.
A study involving 53 male combatants in the Iraqi war with PTSD found that an alarmingly high number of veterans faced sexual problems as well.
In the study, 39 men reported decreased libido, 8 reported premature ejaculation, whereas 26 men reported problems with erectile dysfunction.
Another study involving 150 male vets found that 62% of them experienced sexual desire problems, and about 12% of them experienced sexual arousal problems.
While a good portion of PTSD patients is vets, many others develop the condition from other traumatic experiences such as rape, sexual assault, serious accidents, and natural disasters.
With all that said, how can PTSD lead to sexual dysfunction?
PTSD and Erectile Dysfunction: The Connection
PTSD is a condition where a person is constantly on high alert for danger. They may have flashbacks and nightmares of the traumatic event and feel constantly stressed and anxious.
When our body is constantly in a state of stress and fear, it triggers the body’s “fight or flight” response and commands the release of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones can stay in our system for long periods and disrupt the body’s normal functions.
Some of the things it influences include:
- Boost in heart rate
- High blood pressure
- High breathing rate
When our body undergoes this kind of stress response frequently, it’s not unusual to develop long-term health problems from these risk factors.
This can include reliving the trauma in your dreams or flashbacks, avoiding people or places that remind you of the event, feeling numb or detached from your surroundings, and having difficulty concentrating.
For people with PTSD, formerly pleasurable activities become associated with danger and can trigger the fear response.
This is because the body has become habituated to the feeling of danger and being on high alert. When you’re not able to relax and feel emotionally connected with your sexual partner, it can cause problems in your ability to let loose and engage in sex.
People must feel safe with their romantic partners to engage in healthy sexual activity. If that is impaired as a result of past trauma, medical intervention may be necessary to manage these symptoms.
PTSD and Erectile Dysfunction: Treatment
If you’re struggling with PTSD and erectile dysfunction, it’s important to seek help from a qualified ED professional. There are many treatments available that can help address both conditions.
Some common ways to treat sexual dysfunction include:
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
PTSD and psychological ED can create a slew of changes in your brain and how you manage threats. It uses three main pillars:
Cognitive behavioral therapy can help retrain the brain to break the negative thought patterns and emotions that are keeping the dysfunction in place.
CBT from a mental health professional helps patients identify and change the negative thoughts and beliefs that contribute to their PTSD symptoms.
That said, patients need to commit to CBT consistently to recover from PTSD, as it’s a complicated trauma that not only leads to sexual dysfunction but anxiety and depression as well.
Getting advice from a licensed sexual health therapist may also be worthwhile. Sex therapy is a form of psychotherapy aimed to help individuals resolve emotional concerns affecting a person’s sexual function, drive, and desire.
It aims to identify and tackle the root of the problem to help the patient come to terms and recover from the ordeal. If you experience sexual dysfunction, a licensed sex therapist can help you overcome sexual difficulties and sexual trauma in a safe environment.
This form of CBT helps individuals confront the thoughts and memories that are causing them distress. This is done by talking about the traumatic event in a safe and controlled setting, often with a therapist. The four steps of PE therapy include:
- Repeated recounting of the traumatic memory.
- A gradual approach to things that trigger trauma responses.
- Education of one’s trauma reaction and understanding the cause of it.
- Breathing techniques to manage anxiety.
Erectile Dysfunction Therapy
Depending on the severity of impotence, your doctor may prescribe treatment plans to deal with erectile dysfunction. This is often done in conjunction with psychotherapy directed to treat posttraumatic stress disorder.
Some of the most forms of treatment for ED include:
Non-invasive treatments like acoustic wave therapy are usually suited for mild to moderate cases of erectile dysfunction. Surgery is often reserved as a last resort treatment for more severe cases.
Find more specialized ED Treatment plans.
Consult a Men’s Clinic for Medical Guidance to Fight Erectile Dysfunction
Living with PTSD can be extremely difficult, both for the person with the disorder and their loved ones.
But it is possible to regain healthy sexual function again. If you are struggling with intimacy problems because of PTSD, seek out counseling or therapy. There is no shame in getting help, and it can make a huge difference in your life.
Contact a doctor at Prime Men’s Medical Center to schedule a consultation with an experienced and specially trained medical staff. We are Jacksonville’s leading men’s clinic providing ED therapy, PE therapy, Acoustic Wave therapy, hormone therapy, and much more.