Causes of Erectile Dysfunction

Young couple outdoors

What causes ED?

Erectile Dysfunction can be the result of a number of different factors. It was thought until relatively recently that the main cause of ED was a psychological problem but, in the last twenty years, this has been proved to be untrue. Between 80 and 90 percent of ED is caused by a physical problem, usually the supply of blood to the penis, and is not usually related to the patient’s mental state at all.

In most cases it is relatively easy to discover whether or not ED is caused by a physical problem because the majority of men have erections when they are asleep (the time when psychological factors have very little bearing). The relationship between the physical and the psychological dimensions is, however, not entirely straightforward: even if the cause of the erectile dysfunction is physical there may be some psychological distress as a result that adds to the overall problem.

Physical Causes of Erectile Dysfunction

The physical causes of Erectile Dysfunction are many and varied. They include the following:

Psychological Causes of Erectile Dysfunction

The psychological causes of Erectile Dysfunction can include:


There are a number of factors regarding the way in which a man lives that will affect his ability to achieve or maintain an erection. These factors are grouped under the heading of ‘lifestyle’ in that it is the man himself who ‘chooses’ them.

The first of these is a man’s alcohol intake. If too much is consumed then a man’s ability to get or to keep an erection can be adversely affected. This condition is often known as ‘brewer’s droop’.

In the long term, the continued abuse of alcohol is far more serious. The hormone levels in the body become imbalanced and the production of the male hormone testosterone is affected which in turn lessens the man’s sexual drive.


Smoking is another lifestyle choice that can lead to Erectile Dysfunction. Smoking damages blood vessels in the body and clogs arteries which leads to reduced blood flow, both major factors in ED.

Lack of Physical Fitness

Being physically inactive can also lead to problems. A lack of cardiovascular fitness greatly increases the chances of ED. If the heart is struggling to pump blood around the body then it is hardly surprising that it will struggle to pump blood into the penis.

Becoming Older

As men get older many find that it becomes more difficult to achieve an erection from psychological arousal alone. They usually require more manual stimulation. Many find that foreplay will overcome this problem and will help with the ability to maintain a satisfactory erection.


If you look at the leaflet enclosed with all licensed medicines you will nearly always see a list of side effects that may be suffered as a result of that medication. Erectile Dysfunction is not an uncommon side effect, particularly from the drugs that are used to treat high blood pressure or depression. Being on certain medications can also affect a man’s sexual drive and affect his ability to ejaculate or achieve orgasm. These drugs can also affect the ability to achieve and maintain an erection in the first place.