Say it isn’t so, but the health of your prostate impacts your mental health status. The connection may not seem obvious, but look at it this way: Mental health influences your behavior, thoughts, and feelings. Your physical health, namely a chronic condition involving the prostate, impacts your attitude and behavior, which influences your mental health. One condition directly affects the other.
A man’s urological health can be a sensitive topic. When men have urological problems related to the prostate such as erectile dysfunction, benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), prostatitis, or prostate cancer, it makes sense their mental health status will be affected. Assessing a man’s mental health is paramount during the diagnosis and treatment of these conditions to reduce anxiety and depression.
To have a better understanding of the connection between prostate health and a man’s mental health status, let’s review prostate issues affecting men:
1. Erectile dysfunction
It will eventually happen in about 50% of men – erectile dysfunction (ED). Nearly 30 million American men have trouble attaining and maintaining an erection sufficient for sexual intercourse at least one-fourth of the time during intimacy. Some men may experience ED on occasion after one too many drinks or during times of emotional stress. Regardless of what causes ED, men may feel humiliated and devastated as we tend to take pride in our sexual performance. If ED is long-term, it may lead to relationship issues, stress, and anxiety.
Numerous factors cause ED including physical conditions that involve the prostate. For example, men with prostate cancer may indirectly experience ED from treatment methods used to save a man’s life. Treatments for prostate cancer that may cause temporary ED are surgery, radiation, and hormone therapy medication prescribed.
Surgery for prostate cancer, in some cases, may affect the nerves or arteries necessary for an erection. It depends significantly on a man’s age, the surgeon’s skill and the location of the tumor.
Radiation treatment using external beam radiation or brachytherapy using radiation-emitting seeds implanted in the prostate might cause ED.
Some hormonal therapies for metastatic prostate cancer can cause ED, including advanced prostate cancer that spreads to the nerves an erection relies on, which can influence whether a man gets ED or not.
Men with prostate cancer must discuss with their healthcare provider the pros and cons of cancer treatment. ED should be addressed ahead of time with a treatment plan in place in case it does happen.
2. Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH)
BPH is a prevalent noncancerous condition in older men that causes the prostate gland to enlarge. As the prostate gland grows, it causes lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS), significantly affecting a man’s quality of life.
These symptoms include the following:
LUTS can be very stressful for men. Lack of sleep, frequent bathroom trips during the day, and dealing with incontinence can affect a man’s mood and may become a source of anxiety and depression.
Men with BPH having LUTS should not suffer in silence. Doctors can recommend lifestyle changes to relieve the symptoms or prescribe medications to treat the condition. Talk to your doctor when you notice LUTS to get help as early as possible.
Men of all ages are at risk of prostatitis, an infection or inflammation of the prostate gland. This painful condition is benign and will either be considered acute (occurring suddenly) or chronic (long-term). The symptoms of acute and chronic prostatitis are generally the same. However, some men may experience symptoms differently. These symptoms include:
Prostatitis, especially if chronic, can lead to psychological stress leading to feelings of hopelessness if the problem is difficult to treat. But, men should keep hope; there are treatments to effectively and quickly relieve symptoms.
4. Prostate cancer
Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer diagnosed in American men and the second leading cause of cancer death. A prostate cancer diagnosis can be very distressing for men, especially if the cancer is advanced. Unfortunately, this cancer is often silent until cancer has spread beyond the prostate gland.
Even though most men will survive prostate cancer (98-99%) due to early detection and better treatment methods, a prostate cancer diagnosis is still a stressful and anxiety-provoking experience. Older men diagnosed with the disease, are more at risk of depression. It’s also common for the status of a man’s mental health to fluctuate during the course of prostate cancer treatment.
Even if a man successfully beats back prostate cancer, the impact on his mental health can last long after the diagnosis. In addition, men may have lingering side effects from treatments affecting their quality of life, such as ED, urinary incontinence, or low testosterone. Each of these conditions often resolves after some time, but if not, it’s essential to speak to your healthcare provider if you need additional help.
It is normal when dealing with a health issue to feel stressed, anxious, or depressed. The best strategy and first step to deal with these feelings is asking for help. Talk to your spouse, friend, or doctor, letting them know you need their support to get through the stage.
But, if you have the following symptoms listed below, consider asking for a referral to a mental health counselor:
Dr. David Samadi is the Director of Men’s Health and Urologic Oncology at St. Francis Hospital in Long Island. He’s a renowned and highly successful board certified Urologic Oncologist Expert and Robotic Surgeon in New York City, regarded as one of the leading prostate surgeons in the U.S., with a vast expertise in prostate cancer treatment and Robotic-Assisted Laparoscopic Prostatectomy. Dr. Samadi is a medical contributor to NewsMax TV and is also the author of The Ultimate MANual, Dr. Samadi’s Guide to Men’s Health and Wellness, available online both on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Visit Dr. Samadi’s websites at robotic oncology and prostate cancer 911.