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Sex can be so enjoyable that you never want the fun to end. Unfortunately, this is exactly what happens for a man when they lose their erection. With the penis returning to a flaccid state, intercourse becomes impossible and it can leave both partners feeling embarrassed, confused, and sexually frustrated. 

For the male losing their erection, the reason why it happens can be a mystery. Often they’re still feeling aroused and attracted to their partner but their penis isn’t getting the memo. On the other hand, their partner can become self-conscious and may believe that a lack of enjoyment is the reason why they can’t maintain an erection.

There can be many reasons why a man may be unable to stay erect during sex. It can be difficult to identify why the erection issues present themselves as it can be due to a combination of factors. This article breaks down some of the possible causes as well as the treatment options for helping men to maintain their erections during sex.

It can be difficult to identify why the erection issues present themselves as it can be due to a combination of factors.

What does it mean if you can’t keep an erection during sex?

For men who only lose their erections occasionally, there may be nothing to worry about. They could just be nervous, tired, or not in the mood for sex. In these circumstances, being unable to maintain an erection can be completely normal.

In more severe cases where men are frequently unable to maintain an erection (even when aroused), it’s possible that they might be suffering from a condition known as Erectile Dysfunction (ED). ED refers to when men are unable to maintain an erection for long enough to be able to have sex. The good news is that regardless of how severe your erectile issues are, there are plenty of effective treatments available.

Can’t Maintain an Erection: Main Causes

For men who regularly lose their erections during sexual intercourse, the natural response is to want to understand why.

People may think they’re losing erections for an isolated reason, but in reality, it can be a combination of factors that cause the problem

Remember, each individual will have different circumstances and it’s important to evaluate your own case based on the information at hand. Below we’ve explored some of the main causes of erection issues.

Physical Causes

Diagram of the Physical Causes of Erection Issues

Age

Erection issues can surface at any age, but as men get older they become more likely to encounter them. Research found that age was associated with an increased risk of an ED diagnosis or treatment. According to the National Library of Medicine, in one survey conducted by the Massachusetts Male Aging Study, around 5% of men suffer from complete ED at age 40, rising to 15% at 70. However, the problem is more common than those figures suggest, with 40% of men affected by some level of ED at 40 and up to 70% of men by 70.

Genetics

There is some scientific evidence to suggest a potential role of genetics in the risk of developing ED, as well as sensitivity and responsiveness to ED medication. The SIM1 gene in particular, is thought to play a key role in regulating body weight and sexual function.

Erectile dysfunction is thought to be associated with the SIM1 locus (i.e. near the SIM1 gene area), rather than the SIM1 gene itself. With this evidence in mind, preliminary studies suggest that the SIM1 gene could be used to develop new treatments for ED.

Health Conditions

Certain health conditions can lead to erection issues. Some of these include diabetes (type 2), chronic kidney disease, and Peyronie's disease. Erectile problems can also be a side effect of the medication used to treat health conditions. Some treatments that are known to cause erectile issues include blood pressure medication as well as antidepressants.

Debilitating Injuries

Some serious injuries such as those suffered in traffic collisions, workplace accidents, and sports activities may also lead to the inability to maintain an erection. Injuries to the spinal cord can affect a man’s ability to get an erection, whilst pelvic fracture urethral injury is linked to an increased risk of erectile dysfunction.

Lack of Physical Attraction

Another physical factor that may affect an individual's ability to maintain an erection is their attraction to a sexual partner. For example, a man may be going through relationship difficulties which result in them temporarily finding their partner less attractive or wanting to disengage from sexual activity. It’s important not to confuse an individual’s lack of attraction with erectile issues.

Lifestyle Causes

Diagram on the Lifestyle Causes of Erection Issues

Poor diet

For men who don’t eat a balanced diet, it’s possible that negative eating habits could be a contributing factor to erectile difficulties. A study set out to measure the impact of healthy dietary patterns on the development of erectile dysfunction. It measured the diet quality of men using the Mediterranean diet score (a tool for assessing dietary patterns) and used follow-up questionnaires over regular four-year intervals. The researchers concluded that adhering to a healthy diet pattern was associated with a lesser risk of ED.

Lack of exercise

It’s no secret that physical exercise can be beneficial to an individual's overall health and well-being. However, the benefits of exercise may also extend to improving erectile function.

One of the most common causes of ED is related to cardiovascular disease. Research suggests that targeting the cardiovascular risk factors through physical activity can indirectly alleviate symptoms of ED, with a recommendation of around 40 minutes of moderate to intense exercise, four times a week.

Excessive Alcohol Consumption

For men who regularly drink a lot of alcohol, it’s possible that this behavior could be a contributing factor to erection problems. Excessive alcohol consumption has been linked to various sexual dysfunctions. Alcohol is a depressant that affects the central nervous system, which can make it more difficult to get and maintain an erection. Alcohol also has further links to conditions such as premature ejaculation and low sexual desire.

Smoking

Smoking is a habit that’s linked to numerous health issues and is one of the leading causes of preventable morbidity. Research claims that there is strong evidence to show that smoking worsens erectile function. The widespread effects of quitting smoking on erectile function are not yet fully known, but trials have shown improvement for some men that have stopped smoking.

Psychological Causes

 Diagram of the Psychological Causes of Erection Issues

Stress and Anxiety

Men who suffer from stress or anxiety may find it difficult to ‘switch off’ and focus on sex. Instead, they can find themselves worrying about something that’s stressing them out at work, financial concerns, or feeling overwhelmed with anxiety. Men who experience anxiety can find themselves lacking self-confidence, having issues with body image, or struggling with social situations. This can make it difficult to engage in sexual activity and maintain an erection when having sex.

Performance Anxiety

It’s common for men to feel nervous before having sex with a new or even existing partner. However, being overly worried could lead to performance anxiety. Men may worry about things like their penis size, ejaculating early, or being unable to satisfy their partner due to a lack of experience. When allowing these thoughts to take over during intimacy, individuals can suffer from ‘stage fright. Ironically, the burning desire to perform well sexually can have the opposite effect, leaving them unable to maintain an erection.

Learn more about Sexual Performance Anxiety ED

Extreme Sexual Preferences

With explicit material such as pornography so readily available these days, it’s easy for men to climatize themselves to fetishes and sexual preferences that they might not feel comfortable trying with their partner. Despite being attracted to their partner, they might consider their sex life ‘vanilla’ in comparison to their sexual desires. This could lead to them being unable to maintain an erection due to a lack of sexual arousal.

How to treat losing an erection during sex

For men who frequently lose their erections, there isn’t always a simple solution to rectify the issue. Individuals aren’t always in control of their situation and the cause of their erection issues may be deep-rooted and complex. With that considered, we’ve identified some tips for treating the loss of erections which are intended to be informative but don’t constitute medical advice.

Make lifestyle changes

When negative lifestyle choices or habits are prevalent in men with erectile issues, the most proactive way of improving their situation is to make a change. Poor lifestyle choices can lead to preventable health conditions and erectile issues are often a result of a health complication or a side effect of medication. It’s therefore easy to see how lifestyle choices can have a knock-on effect on a man's penile function.

Poor lifestyle choices can lead to preventable health conditions and erectile issues are often a result of a health complication or a side effect of medication.

As we mentioned earlier, health conditions such as diabetes have a direct link to a person's chances of developing erectile issues. The causes of diabetes are often linked to overeating or not being active enough. By taking measures such as eating a healthier diet or getting more exercise, individuals can reduce their chances of getting health issues like diabetes and in turn, reduce the likelihood of developing erectile issues.

Seek psychological help

For men who have erection troubles as a result of psychological issues, seeking help from a professional psychologist or therapist may be helpful.

A qualified professional will be able to offer treatments such as cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) or couples counseling

CBT is a form of therapy that helps individuals understand their behavior and may help them get to the root cause of their issues. Alternatively for those who are having difficulty with erections as a result of anxiety or self-image issues, undergoing therapy with a partner may help alleviate some of their anxiety. This could provide them with the confidence required to start enjoying sex again.

Use medicines (Ask Your Doctor First)

Medicinal treatment rates for individuals with erectile dysfunction are very successful. However, with so many unregulated products available, it’s vital you exercise a cautious approach. If you’re considering undergoing medicinal treatment for erection problems always consult a medical professional before starting a new medication. They will be able to recommend an appropriate medicine for you based on your individual circumstances.

Some of the drugs used to treat erection problems include Sildenafil (known as Viagra), Tadalafil (Cialis), Vardenafil (Levitra), and Avanafil (Spedra). Studies have found that therapy with the use of drugs such as Sildenafil for the treatment of ED has been very effective, supporting individuals to engage in sexual intercourse.

Communicate With Your Partner

There are plenty of myths and misconceptions surrounding men and their ability to perform in bed. So much so that men often wrongly believe that they are less of a man if they’re unable to satisfy their partner sexually. This creates a stigma and makes sexual difficulties a sensitive topic of discussion, leaving men feeling too uncomfortable to discuss it with a partner.

In reality, by communicating the issue with a trusted partner it can feel like a weight has been lifted and that you can focus on getting through the problem together. Getting a partner's perspective can help men understand things from their point of view rather than just relying on their own perception which is often catastrophized.

In reality, by communicating the issue with a trusted partner it can feel like a weight has been lifted and that you can focus on getting through the problem together

When to see a doctor

Individuals should see a doctor when they feel that their inability to maintain erections during sex is affecting their lives negatively. Sexual difficulties can lead to a range of further problems for men, such as a breakdown in relationships, mental health issues, and even thoughts of suicide.

Although many men feel that they can go through sexual difficulties alone, it’s important to understand that getting help from a doctor can be the best way to get through erectile problems. Often, sexual issues need to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis and a doctor will be able to identify the most suitable pathway for treatment based on an individual’s circumstances.

Summary

Being unable to maintain an erection can lead to the inability to have satisfactory sex. This can result in embarrassment, self-confidence issues, and sexual frustration. Erection problems can occur due to a variety of factors ranging from physical health conditions to psychological difficulties, and even lifestyle choices.

The best way to seek treatment for erection problems is through a medical professional.

They will be able to offer a treatment option tailored to your individual needs, with both psychological and medicinal treatments available. If you are concerned that you are suffering from erection problems, be sure to consult your doctor.

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