How To Manage Losing An Erection
How you should respond if this happens to you
There are a few different causes for losing an erection
Losing erections only requires treatment if it happens too often
Losing your erection doesn't necessarily mean you're not aroused or attracted to your partner
What you need to do depends on how often this happens to you and how you feel about it
There are some tips for avoiding losing erections in the future
Losing an erection is a normal thing to happen. It is not necessarily linked to your sex drive and you may or may not need to do anything about it.
Find out what could be causing you to lose erections and whether you could benefit from making changes or getting treatment.
Why do men sometimes lose erections?
One-off situations – there are many reasons behind why you can lose an erection. Erection problems commonly affect most men at one time or another and often disappear with no or little treatment. For example:
- Occasionally you may have an erection problem if you are tired, anxious or have drunk too much alcohol and is nothing to worry about
- Some men, especially younger men can lose an erection when using a condom during sex or soon after using it as this disrupts their concentration and arousal
Ongoing problems – in some men, getting or maintaining an erection may become an ongoing problem. This is called erectile dysfunction (ED). It is important to speak to your doctor if this becomes a persistent problem, as ED could be a sign of an underlying health problem that needs treatment. The underlying health problem may be either emotional or physical in nature and should be treated as early as possible.
Emotional causes – in general, emotional causes tend to be more common in younger men and physical causes are more common in older men. Emotional causes can be triggered by any life event that upsets your emotional well-being. The onset is usually sudden. Emotional causes of ED are as follows:
- Anxiety or low self-esteem – relationship problems can also cause these feelings
- Performance anxiety – this occurs in men of all ages, but is more common in younger men. You may develop fear about your performance that worsens your erection problem and triggers further feelings of anxiety and fear creating a ‘vicious cycle’
Physical causes – these causes of ED tend to occur more gradually, but are continuous over a period of time. Physical causes of ED include:
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Clogged arteries (atherosclerosis)
- Hormone imbalances such as thyroid problems or low testosterone (this can lead to a low sex drive)
- Nervous system disorders such as Multiple Sclerosis or Parkinson’s disease
- Prostate surgery
- Spinal cord injury
- Excess alcohol
- Recreational drug use including cocaine, marijuana and others
- Anabolic steroid use
ED can also be an unwanted side effect of some medicines – these include the following,
- Blood pressure medicines particularly some beta-blockers and water tablets
- Some medicines used to treat heart conditions
- Antidepressants and medications used to treat mental health conditions
- Medicines that affect hormone levels, including some used to treat cancers
- Parkinson’s disease medicines
- Steroid medications
Does losing an erection mean you have erectile dysfunction?
Not necessarily – for many men it is quite common and normal to occasionally lose an erection.
ED is a specific condition – it could be ED if it happens repeatedly, even if you are a younger man. ED can be treated with lifestyle changes or medicines. Medicines usually used to treat ED are called phosphodiesterase type-5 (PDE-5) inhibitors, which include Viagra.
It’s important to speak to your doctor if you have concerns about your erections as sometimes it can be difficult to find the exact cause. In some men, ED may be a combination of both an emotional and physical cause.
Does losing an erection mean you are not aroused?
Not necessarily – you can still be aroused and lose your erection. This could be due to performance anxiety or the effects of too much alcohol for example.
You can get an erection and then lose it when you are not aroused. You can also lose your erection when you stop feeling aroused.
Even if you are able to get erections when you’re alone but not during sex, that doesn’t necessarily mean you aren’t aroused in that situation. Erectile dysfunction can be situational and doesn’t definitely mean there’s no attraction.
However, losing an erection can be linked to a lack of arousal, but there’s no easy way to separate the erection problems and arousal problems.
What should you do if you lose an erection?
What to do really depends on your situation:
- If you have lost an erection the one time then you may not need to do anything
- Some men may find that even losing one erection knocks their confidence. It is important to address this early. If you don’t then this can lead to performance anxiety
- You don’t need to change partners, but it can help to communicate with your partner. Involving them may help overcome your problem.
- If you are having difficulty with getting or maintaining erections over a prolonged period of time, you should consider treatment. You can order treatment online or speak to your GP in person
It is important to remember that ED isn’t an inevitable part of aging. The sooner you seek treatment the sooner you can get back to normal
How can you avoid losing erections in the future?
Mental stimulation is a good place to start – although the penis is sensitive to touch, this alone does not always provide an erection. Your brain is the most important organ to bring about arousal needed for an erection:
- You can be sexually stimulated through sight, sound, touch or thought. Trying different ways to gain arousal can help you maintain or avoid losing an erection during sex
- Trying to stay relaxed and not worry about getting an erection before and during sex is also important. Being anxious will only make you feel worse and cause performance anxiety
- Discussing your expectations with your partner before sex and knowing their expectations may also help in reducing your anxiety
Lifestyle changes – you can also make long term adjustments to your lifestyle so you are less likely to have problems in the future. These include:
- Eating a healthy balanced diet – this will help maintain your blood pressure, cholesterol and sugar levels within the normal range
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Looking after your emotional health
- Stopping smoking
- Reducing your alcohol intake
Blahd, W. (2017). Drugs linked to erectile dysfunction. WebMD. [online] Available at: https://www.webmd.com/erectile-dysfunction/guide/drugs-linked-erectile-dysfunction [accessed 14th June 2018].
Janssen, E. et al (2014) Patterns of sexual arousal in young, heterosexual men who experience condom-associated erection problems (CAEP). J Sex Med; 11(9): 2285-2291.
Joint Formulary Committee (2016). British National Formulary, 70 ed. London: BMJ Group and Pharmaceutical Press.
Joint Formulary Committee. Erectile dysfunction. BMJ Group. [online] Available at: https://bnf.nice.org.uk/treatment-summary/erectile-dysfunction.html [accessed 14th June 2018].
NHS Choices (2017). Erectile dysfunction (impotence). NHS. [online] Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/erection-problems-erectile-dysfunction/ [accessed 30th April 2018].
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