As it turns out, there are actually tons of things that can keep guys from getting an erection that have nothing to do with you (also, all that stuff you learned in middle school about how all guys are hump-crazed sex lunatics might have been slightly off). Between 20 and 30 million American men experience recurring erection difficulties, and almost all men have, at one time or another, had their top ramen refuse to boil. And while erectile issues are often seen as an older man's problem, in reality, one quarter of men seeking medical treatment for erectile difficulties are under 40.
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Where it comes from: When talking about erectile dysfunction, it's important to note that while there are many potential causes, they can essentially be divided into two discrete categories: physical and psychological. It's also important to note that there's a huge difference between chronic ED and the occasional (and very normal) inability to maintain an erection during sex.
Condom troubles. Can the simple act of putting on a condom cause so much stress that it actually leads to erectile dysfunction? Sure it can — in fact, one recent survey of 234 young men conducted by the Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago found that 25 percent had lost an erection while putting on a condom. “Putting on a condom requires a break from stimulation, and when it is on, it can reduce sensation,” says Dr. Montague.
Stiffy Solution: Luckily, alcohol-induced impotence (also known by the infinitely less classy alias "whiskey d*ck") is a totally temporary condition, one that should clear up as soon as your dude can once again walk a straight line and recite the alphabet backwards. If your dude has consistent erectile problems from consistently drinking too much, however, he should consider cutting down on the sauce, and possibly talking with a doctor.
So not only are erectile problems common, they're nothing for you or your special friend to be freaked out about. Check out the nine most common reasons that dudes sometimes can't get it up, and get ready to become the soothing voice of reason the next time the guy you're with has a hard time pitching his tent in your happy valley. Everything (and every penis) is gonna be fine!
Additionally, extensive cigarette, alcohol and drug use can play a role, hence the terms "whiskey dick" and, most recently, "weed dick." According to a recent Playboy article by Dr. Justin Lehmiller, a social psychologist at Ball State University and author of the Sex and Psychology blog, recent studies show that erectile dysfunction's prevalence is "three times as high for daily marijuana smokers compared to those who don't use it at all."
Stiffy Solution: The good news is, almost all of these conditions can be successfully treated if you catch them early on. And since erectile problems may be the first side effect your dude has experienced, seeking medical treatment for his erectile problems may be the thing to get him into a doctor's office. So if your dude is a well-rested, non-drinking, non-smoking, paragon of relaxation who suddenly can't get wood, urge him to talk to his doctor — his misbehaving penis may actually be communicating something way more important than "Not tonight, honey."
Depression. The profound sadness, emptiness, and hopelessness that characterize depression may also cause ED among younger men. “The biggest effect of depression is on a man’s desire for sexual relations, or libido,” says Drogo Montague, MD, director of the Center for Genitourinary Reconstruction in the Glickman Urological and Kidney Institute at the Cleveland Clinic. “To some extent, depression can affect a man’s ability to maintain an erection. It can be a chicken-and-egg situation. However, reduced libido is a common indicator of depression.”
While physical anatomy and chemical reaction are both important for getting and keeping an erection, the brain is one of the most vital parts of this puzzle. "An erection is controlled by multiple areas of your brain, including the hypothalamus, limbic system and cerebral cortex," notes Axe. "Stimulatory messages are sent to your spinal erection centers and this facilitates an erection. When there's an issue with your brain's ability to send these important messages, it can increase the smooth muscle tone in your penis and prevent the relaxation that is necessary to get an erection."
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Erectile dysfunction in older men. Because erections primarily involve the blood vessels, it is not surprising that the most common causes in older men are conditions that block blood flow to the penis, such as atherosclerosis or diabetes. Another vascular cause may be a faulty vein, which lets blood drain too quickly from the penis. Other physical disorders, as well as hormonal imbalances and certain operations, may also result in erectile dysfunction.
In an article on Men’s Health about things that wreck your erection, some examples of threats to an erection are sugar, lack of sleep, sleeping near a newborn baby, and lack of vitamin D. The common theme in the article is that reduced testosterone impacts your erection. Not all scientists agree with that. But there are definitely links between testosterone and erectile problems.