The psychology of erectile dysfunction

Mark Allen, David Sheffield, Alex M Wood

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


    Erectile dysfunction is a major chronic condition affecting hundreds of millions of individuals worldwide. This review provides a concise overview of research on the psychological experience of erectile dysfunction. There is evidence that psychological factors such as personality, depression, stress, and cognitive interference (e.g., performance worry, shifts in attentional focus) contribute to erectile problems. There is also evidence that the experience of erectile dysfunction can have negative psychological effects, including feelings of emasculation and humiliation, decreases in self-confidence and feelings of self-worth, feelings of isolation and loneliness, increases in depression, and decreases in subjective well-being. Effects on the affected individuals’ sexual partner include feelings of being unattractive, feelings of rejection, feeling unloved, decreases in self-esteem, and frustration. Psychological interventions (particularly multimodal interventions) show promise for treating erectile dysfunction, but more research is needed to help establish their effectiveness. We present a brief research agenda of critical areas in need of further study. This review should be of interest to the general public and also researchers looking to develop a program of research in sexual health psychology that focuses on the psychological experience of erectile dysfunction.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)487-493
    JournalCurrent Directions in Psychological Science
    Issue number6
    Early online date8 Sept 2023
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023


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