For those men encountering erection problems, the good news is that you’re not alone.

Since becoming available in 1998, over 20 million men worldwide have reportedly used Viagra to treat impotence, indicating the hitherto unexpected scale of the condition.

Quite unsurprisingly for a condition which is so common, there are a number of possible causes, both psychological and physical.

Physical Causes

The chemical process which leads to an erection is a complex one.

It culminates in the passage of blood to the penis, which is regulated by the widening and restricting of blood vessels.

Certain biological factors can impede this activity, particularly those which involve the hardening of the arteries and inhibit blood flow.

As a result, the likelihood of erectile dysfunction increases the older a man gets.

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Statistics for the prevalence of erectile dysfunction in certain age groups vary, but it is widely accepted that around half of all men of the age of 40 or over will encounter erectile dysfunction in some form.

It is also thought that around 20 per cent of men over 65 will experience the condition long term.

An increased susceptibility to conditions which can cause erectile dysfunction, such as diabetes and high blood pressure, is the primary reason for this.

However these physical aspects don’t just affect older men; younger men can encounter them too. In fact, one recent study found that as many as one out of every four new cases of erectile dysfunction occurs in men under 40.

In instances where the issue could have a physical cause, it is crucial to speak to a doctor for advice. They will be able to determine whether an underlying illness is present, and if necessary, provide a programme of treatment.

Psychological Causes

There are other barriers which can obstruct penile function, which may not strictly be physiological in nature. Problems can sometimes be psychological in nature, and arise during periods of emotional difficulty or stress.

In many cases, anxiety might be related to the act of sex, and the pressure to perform well. New relationships are often a platform for this. It may also be the case in situations where a man hasn’t had sex for a while.

But erectile problems can also sometimes stem from wider relationship issues.

Stress in other areas of a person’s life (such as that caused by financial problems or pressure at work) and depression are possible causes of sexual dysfunction too.

Recent evaluations have noted that psychogenic factors are not the cause of all ED cases in younger men, as has been assumed in the past. However, they do account for a large number of instances in this age range.

Treatment for psychogenic cases of ED will tend to vary, depending on the severity and suspected cause of symptoms.

Short-term use of prescription treatment can sometimes help someone with anxiety-induced erectile dysfunction to regain their confidence.

But where symptoms are caused by deeper emotional or psychological issues, private conference with a doctor or therapist may be required.

Page last reviewed:  24/08/2018