Erectile Dysfunction After a Breakup

Erectile Dysfunction
Medically approved by
Dr Earim Chaudry
Last updated
14th August 2020

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Getting back on your feet after a breakup can be tough, as you deal with the pain of separation and adapt to a new solo life. But if erectile dysfunction (ED) hits just as you’re trying to move on with someone new, that’s an added challenge.
Erectile dysfunction after a breakup may be caused by psychological factors. Relationship breakdown can trigger mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and stress – all of which may contribute to ED.
Seeking help from a qualified counsellor or sex therapist may help you address the psychological causes behind your ED, so you can get your sex life back on track.

So you and your partner have gone your separate ways. There’s a good chance you have mixed feelings about the situation – perhaps sadness at the relationship ending, relief at escaping conflict, but maybe also some excitement about meeting new people and embracing new sexual experiences.

However, getting together with a new partner and finding yourself unable to get an erection probably wasn’t part of the plan.

It’s not time to panic though: relationship issues can affect many men’s performance in the bedroom, but erectile dysfunction (ED) isn’t something you have to live with. 

In this article, we address the problem of erectile dysfunction after a breakup, how to work through ED in your current relationship, and other factors that could be responsible for your ED.

What is Erectile Dysfunction?

ED is defined as a man’s inability to achieve and maintain an erection that’s hard enough for penetrative sex. Every guy has experienced the odd occasion where he couldn’t keep it up – perhaps out of tiredness or too much to drink. But ED means that erection problems are happening more frequently and having a significant impact on your sex life.

Because an erection is a complex physical response, a number of processes in your body need to work together for it to happen. Brain, nerves, muscles, and blood circulation – all need to be in good condition for a successful erection. So an issue in just one of these areas can disrupt the whole operation.

What Causes Erectile Dysfunction After a Breakup?

The breakdown of a relationship, particularly if you’ve been with the person for a long time, can have a huge impact on your mental health. Even if you’re relieved the relationship is over because it made you unhappy, it can still take some time to adapt to the change.

The pain or trauma caused by a difficult breakup can lead to depression or anxiety. Moreover, changes to finances or family living arrangements often result in stress for people negotiating the end of a relationship. And when the breakdown is seen as a “failure”, this can also affect your confidence in finding a new partner.

Psychological issues like these can all contribute to ED. Poor mental health may dampen your sex drive and decrease your capacity for sexual arousal. Without arousal, your brain won’t send the necessary signals to your penis that cause it to become erect. In addition, conditions like depression and anxiety can knock your self-esteem and make you struggle to believe in your own desirability, leading to a kind of “mental block” that prevents you from successfully engaging in sex.

If you think that your mental health is impacting your ability to get an erection and, more broadly, your potential for forming a new relationship, it’s important to seek help. A qualified counsellor or sex therapist can work with you to tackle the psychological issues behind your ED, but you may also benefit from medical treatment for depression or anxiety.

It’s worth noting that if you’re being treated with antidepressants, this medication may cause ED as a side effect. You might want to consult with your doctor about this issue.

Navigating ED in Your Relationship

While ED can be brought on by a difficult breakup, it can also cause problems for your current relationship. 

If you’re struggling to perform in the bedroom, this may end up placing a strain on you and your partner. In these circumstances, men sometimes feel that they are “not man enough”, whereas their partners can worry that they are no longer desirable. Failing to address these concerns can lead to rising tension and, in the worst case, breakdown of the relationship.

So what can you do to ED-proof your relationship? Most crucially, you and your partner need to communicate about the problem. Make sure each person has the time to express their feelings and then talk about what you can do to address the situation. It’s essential that, however frustrated you might feel, you don’t blame your partner for what is happening.

The next step is to ease off pressure in the bedroom while you seek help with your ED. Slow things down, enjoy intimate time together without a focus on penetrative sex, perhaps try some “outer-course” techniques such as sensual massage. You might be surprised what you discover about your body! And, of course, you can enjoy some quality time together outside the bedroom too.  

Other Causes of ED

If your ED doesn’t have a psychological cause, you may find that it’s the result of an underlying health condition or lifestyle factor. 

Physical Causes

As the penis needs to have sufficient blood flow in order for you to get an erection, health conditions that affect your heart or blood circulation can be responsible for ED. These include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, atherosclerosis, and heart disease. In fact, ED can be an early warning sign of cardiovascular problems to come.

Medical conditions that involve damage to nerves can also contribute to ED, as the nerve signals that kick-start an erection can be interrupted. These conditions include diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson’s Disease.

Getting the right medical treatment for these health problems can help you to start achieving erections again. However, you may also be prescribed medication for your ED, such as Sildenafil (Viagra) or Tadalafil (Cialis).

Lifestyle Factors

A healthy lifestyle that keeps your body in the best condition will give you the best chance of enjoying satisfying erections. On the other hand, there are certain lifestyle choices that are known to increase your risk of developing ED:

  • Smoking tobacco
  • Drinking large amounts of alcohol
  • Taking recreational drugs
  • Lack of exercise
  • An unhealthy diet with high levels of fat, sugar, and salt

If you’re suffering from ED, adopting healthier day-to-day practices, such as a balanced diet and regular exercise, could make a huge difference. Plus, a fit and healthy body may give you more confidence and improve your self-image in the bedroom – great for revitalising your current relationship or impressing a new partner!

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Key Takeaways…

Erectile dysfunction after a breakup doesn’t have to be the end of the world. Go easy on yourself, give yourself time, and get the help you need to start enjoying sex again. Whether your ED is caused by psychological, physical, or lifestyle factors, effective treatments and solutions are available.

While we've ensured that everything you read on the Health Centre is medically reviewed and approved, information presented here is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. If you have any questions or concerns, please talk to your doctor.

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