The Erectile Dysfunction Symptoms You Need To Know

Scott McDougall
Scott McDougallMPharmDirector & Registered Manager

Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a very common condition that affects lots of people; it is estimated that half of all men between the ages of 40 and 70 will have erectile dysfunction to some degree. If you think you have erectile dysfunction, then it is good to know about the possible erectile dysfunction symptoms you may experience.

That’s why we’ve created this erectile dysfunction symptoms guide — so that you can find out more about the possible symptoms and signs of erectile dysfunction (either in yourself or a partner).

Learning the signs and symptoms of erectile dysfunction will help you to recognise when your body isn’t feeling right and you need a health check-up. Although it may feel distressing and embarrassing to visit the GP, your doctor will then be able to establish an underlying cause and suggest possible treatment options for you.

With that in mind, we’ve covered the signs and symptoms of ED in the article below, as well as causes and how to improve erectile dysfunction through treatments and lifestyle changes.

To find out about this condition in more detail, visit our ‘What is erectile dysfunction?’ page or head to our erectile dysfunction guides collection for information on the condition and different treatments.

Symptoms of erectile dysfunction

The definition of erectile dysfunction (ED) is the inability to achieve and maintain an erection firm enough to have sexual intercourse (or in response to sexual stimulation).

This can present itself in a few different ways, but these are the key symptoms of erectile dysfunction that you need to know.

You may have ED if:

  • You have trouble getting an erection
  • You have erections that aren’t firm enough to have sex
  • You are able to get an erection sometimes, but not every time you want to have sex (or take part in sexual activities)
  • You have trouble keeping an erection
  • You find that your erections do not last long enough for sex
  • You are unable to get an erection at any time

Lots of men occasionally fail to get or keep an erection. This can be down to factors like tiredness, stress or drinking too much, and it is perfectly normal.

However, if you find that this problem persists or gets worse over time and the symptom list above sounds familiar, then you have erectile dysfunction.

You might not experience these symptoms all the time; you may notice that you are able to achieve and maintain an erection through masturbation but are unable to achieve an erection with your sexual partner, or in certain situations.

If this is the case, then the underlying cause is probably psychological (for example, it could be down to stress).

If you find that getting and keeping an erection isn’t possible under any circumstances, then the underlying cause will be primarily physical (or maybe medicinal).

Knowing when these symptoms occur will help you and your doctor to establish the ‘why’ behind your ED.

Signs of erectile dysfunction

If you think that you or your partner is suffering from ED, then it’s a good idea to find out more about the signs of erectile dysfunction.

You may notice some of the above erectile dysfunction symptoms when you are intimate — these are your main indicators.

However, there may be other signs that your other half is experiencing ED. For example, he may avoid situations in which sexual intercourse may occur by staying up late or going to bed earlier. It may also seem like his sex drive has declined, or that he is making excuses to avoid sex.

If your partner seems to be struggling with erectile dysfunction, then it is important to remember that it isn’t anything to do with you, nor is it ‘your fault’.

Erectile dysfunction can happen for all sorts of reasons — and the majority of cases are the result of an underlying health condition or a side effect of certain medications. Sometimes, there may be a psychological reason behind the ED; this may be due to stress, a mental health problem like anxiety or depression, or previous trauma. We’ll go into these causes of erectile dysfunction in the section below.

Causes of erectile dysfunction

Erectile dysfunction can have many different underlying causes.

These can be split roughly into three different categories:

  • Physical causes: this includes certain medical conditions, such as high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol, diabetes, an over or underactive thyroid, Parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis.

Physical underlying health conditions like the above can lead to physical erectile problems for various reasons. They may reduce blood flow to the penis and nerve endings in the penis, impact the physical structure of the penis, or affect hormones in the body.

  • Psychological causes: this includes various emotional and mental health problems, such as stress or anxiety, depression, or low self-esteem. It may also be as a result of previous sexual problems or trauma.

As we’ve mentioned above, if erectile dysfunction only happens in certain situations, then it is likely that the underlying cause is psychological.

  • Medicinal causes: certain medications can cause erectile dysfunction as a side effect. This includes some antipsychotics and antidepressants, diuretics, corticosteroids and cytotoxics.

The most common type of underlying cause of erectile dysfunction is physical: it is estimated that roughly 80% of ED cases are caused by physical health conditions.

If you would like further information, you can find out more by taking a look at our causes of erectile dysfunction page.

When dealing with ED, it is important to identify the underlying cause. This will help you to find the most appropriate treatment to tackle erectile dysfunction and make sure that any underlying health condition is treated too.

In the section below, we’ll go into further detail about what can cause erectile dysfunction and the different reasons for erectile dysfunction.

Erectile dysfunction treatment

Depending on the underlying cause of your erectile dysfunction, there are a number of different treatment options available to you.

Erectile dysfunction is primarily treated by tackling the underlying cause of the condition, whether this is physical, psychological or medicinal.

Your doctor will be able to help you establish what this cause is by asking you a number of questions about your symptoms and lifestyle. They’ll carry out some basic health checks too, as well as a physical examination.

From there, you will be able to come up with a treatment plan together. Treatment is normally a combination of medication, lifestyle changes and working on resolving any existing psychological causes.

Here are some erectile dysfunction treatments available:

Medical treatments

The majority of cases of erectile dysfunction respond well to medication. ED treatments are much better than they used to be, and these days there is a wide range of effective treatments available.

Viagra is probably the most well-known treatment option for ED but there are many different medications that can help with erectile dysfunction.

These medications are usually prescription-only, but there are some that you can now get over the counter (without a prescription) such as Viagra Connect.

At The Independent Pharmacy, we offer a wide range of effective erectile dysfunction treatments including:

These different medications all work roughly in the same way, by increasing blood flow to the penis and/or opening up the blood vessels to the penis so that an erection can be achieved and maintained.

Choosing the correct treatment for you will depend on a variety of factors, such as personal preference, your health and whether you are taking any other medication.

It can be difficult to decide which medication to try, which is why we’ve included plenty of information about each so that you can compare treatments and weigh up your options.

We also gather customer reviews for each product (like this Tadalafil review page) so that you can find out how real users find each treatment.

Psychological treatments

As we’ve mentioned above, sometimes erectile dysfunction can be due to psychological causes such as stress, depression or anxiety.

If this is the case, then psychological treatment will help to treat both the erectile dysfunction and the underlying cause.

Psychological treatments include cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), counselling or sex therapy.

Some people with ED have also reported positive results by using hypnotherapy for erectile dysfunction. A hypnotherapist (who you may meet in person or via video conferencing) might teach you self-hypnosis exercises to practice on your own to manage ED or focus on tackling the psychological issues behind it.

Natural treatments

Some people with ED want to try out natural treatments and home remedies for erectile dysfunction.

There are a few different types of natural remedies for erectile dysfunction that people try, including herbal remedies like ginseng and ginkgo, vitamins, and supplements, as well as alternative treatments like acupuncture.

Natural remedies for erectile dysfunction haven’t been well-studied or tested, which means that they can cause side effects or interact with other medications. They also aren’t clinically proven to help with erectile dysfunction.

Prescription or over-the-counter medications that have been specifically designed and tested to treat erectile dysfunction are much more effective and successful than natural remedies and treatments.

Exercises for erectile dysfunction

Exercises that strengthen the muscles in the pelvic floor can benefit cases of erectile dysfunction.

Pelvic floor exercises (also known as Kegel exercises or Kegels) target the muscles at the bottom of the pelvis, which plays a crucial role in getting blood to the penis and maintaining erections.

By strengthening and training these muscles, pelvic floor exercises can improve ED significantly for some people.

How can I improve my erectile dysfunction?

Although medication can treat ED successfully, there are ways that you can improve your erectile dysfunction through lifestyle changes first.

Lifestyle changes that can help ED

Some common lifestyle and natural remedies for erectile dysfunction include:

  • Maintaining a healthy and balanced diet
  • Exercising regularly
  • Reducing your alcohol intake
  • Stopping smoking
  • Maintaining good sleep hygiene

Making positive changes to your day-to-day life will naturally improve your general health (both physical and mental), which may also improve erectile dysfunction.


If you think that you may have erectile dysfunction, then finding out more about the possible erectile dysfunction symptoms is a good idea.

Learning more about the signs and symptoms of erectile dysfunction will help you to recognise when your body isn’t feeling right.

Erectile dysfunction can often be the result of an underlying health condition, so it’s important to book in a check-up with your GP to find out more. Your doctor will be able to diagnose your condition as well as establish an underlying cause and recommend suitable treatment options.

At The Independent Pharmacy, we offer many different effective erectile dysfunction treatments.

If you are interested in using an ED treatment, you just need to start an online consultation with us. It’s free, quick and easy to do — and once you’ve completed your questionnaire, one of our qualified prescribers will issue your medication for delivery. All of the medicine we send out is delivered quickly and discreetly to your doorstep.


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Scott McDougall
Written by Scott McDougall

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