Regardless of age, if a man is obese and sedentary, with poor dietary habits, he is at greater risk of developing diseases that can lead to erectile dysfunction. These include heart disease, hypertension and type 2 diabetes. Some forms of congenital heart disease may remain hidden and only cause problems in adulthood. Men of any age noticing a marked change in sexual function should contact their physicians to rule out the possibility of a more serious condition.
Stiffy Solution: Frustratingly enough, the only solution to exhaustion-based impotence is to get some rest, which is obviously difficult (or your dude wouldn't be having this problem in the first place). But if your guy has been resistant to getting help for his insomnia or asking for different hours at work, the inability to get his nine iron out on the putting green might be the thing that finally motivates him to make a life change. So, at least there's that.
"Some physical problems that can lead to weak erections are the inability of your brain to send signals to your penis, which can be caused by neurological conditions like MS, Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's," adds Axe. "Studies suggest that stress, anxiety and depression can produce major chemical changes in your brain, leading to the inability of smooth muscles to relax and allow for an erection. On top of this, researchers have also indicated that the failure to achieve an erection can aggravate a man's anxiety levels, leading to a vicious cycle."
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Having these factors work in tandem all at once is key. "So many things have to go right for you to achieve a strong erection, which is why the strength of a man's erection is a great indicator for their overall health," explains Reitano. "For starters, your hormones must be released on demand, your arteries need to carry blood to the penis with perfect efficiency, your nervous system must transmit its signals without a hitch, and your mind must be working in perfect harmony with your body. That is a lot to ask of your body on demand."
"Surprisingly, up until the 1980's, most sex experts held the Freudian view that weak erections were caused by deep-seated, unconscious neuroses or psychological problems," she explains. "This view has now widely been rejected by professionals in the field of sexuality and it's now understood that erection problems that stem from deep psychological problems are the exception, not the rule. A majority of weak erections are caused by a combination of sexual misinformation, relationship problems, depression and other life stresses."
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Don't forget mental health, either! "If you are experiencing stress at work, in your relationships or at home, open up communication about these issues," notes Axe. "Try natural stress busters like spending time outdoors, taking some vacation time for yourself or seeing a therapist. You also need to make sure that you are getting enough rest every night — seven to nine hours of sleep per night."
A very stressful or intense situation, or performance anxiety, could definitely make a man lose his erection. The pressure to perform could be psychologically too intense to keep a strong one. Another, lesser talked about erection killer is difficulty penetrating a partner during sex. It’s related to performance anxiety and stress, but also fatigue. If sex becomes tiring, fatigue will bring a quick end to an otherwise great night.
When these mental hang-ups happen in the moment (aka in bed), they can trigger his brain’s fight-or-flight response, which sends a message to his penis to shut things down. In this way, performance anxiety–induced ED is actually pretty similar to what women experience when our thoughts during sex make it hard to stay turned on and/or orgasm—we just don’t have an appendage that shows the evidence.
A 2013 study published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine evaluated 439 men for erectile dysfunction and compared ED causes and frequency in men 40 or younger to men over 40. They found that 26 percent of the younger men had ED. Although these men were healthier and had higher levels of testosterone than the older men, they were more likely to be smokers or to have used illicit drugs. In almost half of the younger men with ED, the ED was considered severe.
The reversal of an erection is obviously necessary, but as Dr. Michael Reitano, physician in residence at Roman explains, this can be the impetus for weaker erections. "Usually there is a balance between the chemicals that result in the increased blood flow that results in a firm erection and the chemicals that allow blood to exit the penis and return it to being soft," he says. "That balance is precise and occurs in a sequence that allows an erection to last only as long as needed. However, in someone who experiences a softer erection, the balance of the chemicals that make the penis hard and the chemicals that return it to being soft is off. The scale is tilted."
UW Health urologists with advanced training offer medical and surgical treatment options for men and their partners affected by erectile dysfunction. There are several different ways that erectile dysfunction can be treated. For some men, making a few healthy lifestyle changes may solve the problem. Your urologist will help determine the most effective course of treatment for your condition.