Anxiety and Depression

Mental and behavioural disorders, such as anxiety and depression, affect more than one quarter of all people at some time during their lives. And one in four families is likely to have at least one member with a behavioural or mental disorder (1).

People from all backgrounds, ages and cultures can experience depression. There are many possible causes of depression, physical, psychological and social(2).

People who are depressed tend to think about bad experiences in ways that make them even more difficult to manage. If you have had bad experiences in the past, which you were unable to control, you develop a 'hopeless' way of thinking. Feeling 'trapped' in a difficult situation or experiencing a feeling of humiliation can also lead to negative thinking and depression(2).

And that is why anxiety and depression, when combined with Erectile Dysfunction (ED), can easily form a vicious circle. When a man finds himself unable to get and maintain a sufficient erection due to physical causes , it can cause depression and anxiety. By the same token, when a man finds he suffers ED only in certain circumstances, psychological factors , may be the source of the problem. (3).

If ED goes untreated, accompanying depression and anxiety may continue. This circle of cause and effect can also have an impact on a man's relationship with his partner. For this reason, dealing with depression and anxiety are a fundamental part of dealing with ED.


Anxiety is a feeling of discomfort or unease, often associated with particular places or events. Severe anxiety can occur when we are under stress, or when we start thinking about past difficulties and experiences. Many people find severe anxiety so unpleasant, they begin to find ways of avoiding the situation or event that makes them feel bad. Avoiding things becomes a habit. Anxiety continues, and may become a long-lasting problem. (4).

It is understandable that the embarrassment and perceived stigma of ED can lead men to become anxious about anything to do with sex. And that makes it all the more important to tackle the root cause of the problem, by seeking treatment for ED.


But sometimes anxiety accompanies, or develops into depression. This broad term describes a range of moods, from nothing worse than low spirits, to a severe problem that interferes with everyday existence. Depression is a common and serious mental health issue. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), there are about 121 million sufferers worldwide (5). One cause is any long-term health problem which prevents someone from leading their usual life -- ED is one example.

ED is not easy to accept. And it is harder overcoming natural inhibitions to discuss it with your partner and doctor. Depression and anxiety make it even tougher to seek treatment, because those who are depressed find it difficult to be open. It is important to keep in contact with friends and find someone you can talk to, when you are feeling low.


Your doctor treats you, not just your symptoms. Effective diagnosis and treatments for ED, anxiety and depression -- in combination -- are available. Your doctor will draw upon your medical history and personal knowledge of your family, to addresses both the physical and psychological aspects of your problems. Your family doctor holds the key to unlock the spiral of ED, depression and anxiety.


This article has been adapted from the booklets 'All about depression' (Dr Jo Borrill, Clinical Research Manager, the Mental Health Foundation, updated October 2003) and 'All About Anxiety' (Dr Jo Borrill, Clinical Research Manager,and Lisa Bird, Head of Research and Support Unit, the Mental Health Foundation, updated October 2003), by permission of the Mental Health Foundation, London.


1. The World Health Report 2001. World Health Organisation, Geneva.

2. Borrill, J. All About Depression. Booklet, Mental Health Foundation, UK. (Updated 2003).

3. Factsheet: 'Physical and psychological treatment of erectile dysfunction'. Based on a text by Dr Dan Rutherford, GP(at

4. Borrill, J, and Bird, L. All About Anxiety. Booklet, Mental Health Foundation, UK. (Updated 2003).

5. World Health Organisation factsheet: Depression.

6. Babyak M et al. Exercise treatment for major depression: maintenance of therapeutic benefit at 10 months. Psychosom Med. (2000 Sep-Oct) 62(5), 633-8

7. Artal, Michal, with Sherman, C. Exercise Against Depression, Physician Sportsmed (1998) 26 (10)


The articles provided on this website are for information only. This material is in no way intended to replace professional medical care or attention by a qualified practitioner. This website cannot and should not be used as a basis for diagnosis or choice of treatment. We strongly advise all users with health problems to consult a doctor.