Common Causes of Erectile Dysfunction

The days when erectile dysfunction causes were considered to be “all in your mind” are long gone. Today medical research has established:

  • 85 to 90 per cent of erectile dysfunction has a physical cause

Getting an erection lasting long and strong enough to complete satisfying sex involves a precise sequence of events involving nerve impulses and – most critically of all - blood flow to the penis. 
 
Many things can interfere with this functioning, but the real key to the ‘magic’ of a human erection is:

  • The efficient delivery of blood to the very fine capillaries found in two cylindrical tissues that run either side of the penis
  • When the muscle fibre is contracted, the penis is soft.
  • An erection happens when the cylinders (technical name corpora cavernosa) fill with blood 
  • like a sponge. 

Even a marginal reduction in blood flow can cause erectile dysfunction.

Blood Flow Key to Erectile Dysfunction Causes

Fact ► Around 70 per cent of all erectile dysfunction is caused by reduced bloodflow – technically termed vascular impairment.

Fact ► Only 20 per cent of erectile dysfunction causes relate to non-vascular issues – particularly nerve function or low testosterone 
 
Because the penile blood vessels are very fine they:

  • Act as an early warning system”
  • Erectile dysfunction indicates increased risk from age-related health problems which affect blood flow including:
  • Diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • High blood cholesterol
  • Cardiac diseases
  • Smoking side effects
  • Poor overall circulation
  • Left untreated erectile dysfunction may predict serious health problems within three years
  • Side effects of over 200 medications including anti-depressants and cardio vascular drugs can affect blood flow

Gradual or Sudden Erectile Dysfunction Causes

Erectile dysfunction caused by physical factors, (also known as organic ED)

  • Develops gradually


Erectile dysfunction from psychological causes

  • Usually occurs suddenly


With physical erectile dysfunction causes:

Erectile failures tend to get worse with age:

  • All erections are affected
  • Early morning and nocturnal erections disappear
  • Masturbation may produce a poor erection or no erection at all


As one of the men noted in his sex diary published in Bettina Ardnt’s What Men Want – in Bed; “It’s a gradual onset, which you barely notice for a while. Eventually it occurs to you that it’s happening more often and then you think ‘Bugger I’m becoming a statistic.’” 
 
With psychological erectile dysfunction causes, erectile dysfunction is affected by your situation:

When you are not trying to have sex with your partner, your penis will behave normally

  • You will have normal morning and nocturnal erections
  • You will usually be able to masturbate with a firm erection

Anxiety Key to Erectile Dysfunction Causes

Sometimes physical and psychological factors combine to cause erectile dysfunction – stress from financial worries, overwork or feeling anxious about sex combined with physical factors can all have an impact.
 
Once a man’s self-confidence has been battered by episodes of erection failure, a self-fulfilling circle may be set up, leading him to think; “I couldn’t get an erection last time so I won’t be able to this time.”
 
Anxiety originating from psychological and emotional stress has a direct impact on blood flow:

  • Adrenalin floods the system
  • As a vaso-constrictor adrenalin shuts down penile blood vessels
  • And stops erections

 
Sydney sex doctor Dr Rosie King notes in her manual on erectile dysfunction for doctors that men is this situation should be reassured that NOT getting an erection in these circumstances is normal and should not be labelled as “dysfunction”.
 
Once adrenalin is flowing:

  • You won’t maintain the erotic impulse needed to set the sexual impulse in motion
  • Blood is conserved for brain and heart, keeping you on high danger alert
  • The bio mechanism for “fight or flight” is set up – you are in survival mode
  • The brain chemicals needed for an erection will not be triggered
  • Biologically you are not meant to be aroused when in this state

Psychological Erectile Dysfunction Causes

Psychologically caused ED accounts for ten to 15 per cent of all erectile dysfunction causes.
It can be the result of everything from:

  • Work-related stress
  • Relationship problems (feeling reject ted by a partner who is not interested in sex)
  • Depression
  • Performance anxiety
  • Psychological illness

 
The Australian government sponsored website Andrology Australia.org has developed a graphic outline which shows clearly the origins of the most common erectile dysfunction causes: