Sudden Erectile Dysfunction: Causes & Solutions
Reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Geoffrey Whittaker
Like dropping a call in an elevator, sudden ED can be more than a little frustrating. It can also leave you with one less choice about whether you’re going up or going down.
Sudden ED can happen when you’re feeling particularly stressed or anxious. Maybe you’re exhausted after a long day or you simply aren’t in the mood. It may be common, but it can also be embarrassing, frustrating and, if it becomes a recurring problem, it can become concerning.
Below, we’ve covered the subject of sudden erectile dysfunction, why it may be happening to you, and what you can do about it.
What is Sudden Erectile Dysfunction?
Sudden ED isn’t really a medical term, though. Although it is differentiated in some medical research as a term for spontaneous loss of erection or losing an erection in the middle of sex, the truth is that while you may feel the onset of ED symptoms is sudden, the problems may have been building for some time.
In that case, you might simply have erectile dysfunction — which is one of the most common sexual health issues reported by men. Though ED may not be immediately life-threatening, it can be frustrating and, in some cases, a symptom of an underlying health problem.
Any man can develop erectile dysfunction at any time, but you are more likely to develop ED if you have an underlying physical or mental health issue, take certain medications, have certain health-related factors (like smoking or obesity) or if you are over a certain age.
What Causes Sudden Erectile Dysfunction?
An erection occurs when sexual arousal triggers an increase in blood flow to the penis.
As blood flow increases, the chambers in the penis (the corpora cavernosa and corpus spongiosum) dilate and become filled with blood. This causes the outflow veins to be compressed, thus blocking the blood from leaving the penis. As a result, the penis becomes swollen and rigid.
Sudden erectile dysfunction is a problem that typically develops over time, but it can seem to occur suddenly and unexpectedly as well. These two types of ED may have different underlying causes.
Here are some the most causes of erectile dysfunction:
Vascular issues (like atherosclerosis)
Metabolic disease (like type 2 diabetes)
Injury to the penis, prostate or bladder
Treatments for prostate cancer
High blood pressure or blood pressure medications
Medications such as sedatives, appetite suppressants and antidepressants
Anxiety or depression
Guilt or fear related to sex
Smoking or drug use
Excessive alcohol consumption
Being overweight or sedentary
Obviously some of these problems are easier to see coming than others. If the number on the scale has been gradually climbing for a few years, you can’t necessarily claim your health issues are sudden, even if ED is a new symptom.
In ED that develops gradually, the underlying cause is often a circulatory or nervous system issue.
Cases of sudden sexual dysfunction, however, are more likely related to a side effect of medication or some kind of psychological issue, like performance anxiety or low self-esteem, that can take you out of the moment or keep you from getting hard.
ED treatments, delivered
No matter the treatment plan, the best place to start is somewhere.
Treatments for Sudden Erectile Dysfunction
Though erectile dysfunction may not be a debilitating or life-threatening condition, it can still be serious.
Untreated ED can exacerbate feelings of depression, anxiety and low self-esteem. It can also have a negative impact on your sex life and your intimate relationships. If you’re experiencing sudden ED, don’t delay in speaking to your physician.
Every man is different and so is every case of erectile dysfunction. In talking to your healthcare provider about your concerns, you may find that your ED is linked to more than one underlying cause. In many cases, it takes a combination of multiple treatment options to find a consistent and satisfactory solution.
Here are some of the things you might try to overcome your erectile dysfunction:
Eat a Healthier Diet
There may not be a specific diet for the treatment of ED, but a diet of foods designed to support cardiovascular health may help. Research has shown a diet rich in foods like lean protein, whole grains, fruits and vegetables is associated with a lower risk of erectile dysfunction.
Get More Exercise
Obesity is a risk factor for erectile dysfunction, so if you’re overweight you may want to consider losing a few pounds. Being overweight or obese puts a great deal of stress on the body and it can contribute to circulatory problems, which may exacerbate issues with ED.
Aside from vascular issues related to obesity, having a high waist circumference has been linked to a higher risk of erectile dysfunction. Excess body fat can also interfere with hormone levels which could affect your sexual function.
One way you can lose some weight and help reduce your risk of ED — in addition to the healthy diet we mentioned above — is exercise.
Regular exercise has been shown to have positive effects for men with erectile dysfunction. In a 2018 review, researchers explored the benefits of exercise for vascular erectile dysfunction. The researchers concluded that 40 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise four times a week could decrease erectile problems in men.
Treat Underlying Conditions
Erectile dysfunction is a condition that often develops slowly over time due to underlying medical conditions affecting the nervous system, circulatory system or other systems in the body. Chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, multiple sclerosis and Peyronie’s disease can all contribute to erectile dysfunction.
Talk to your healthcare provider if you’ve been diagnosed with one of these conditions or if you suspect an underlying health problem could be at play.
Smoking and heavy drinking are also top contributors to erectile dysfunction, so one underlying condition you need to treat may be dependence. Reducing your tobacco and alcohol use while making healthy improvements to your diet and activity level, may help your erectile function improve.
Seek Mental Health Treatment
Many cases of erectile dysfunction are, at least in part, linked to psychological and emotional issues. If you struggle with anxiety or depression, or if you experience stress related to sex, it may help to speak to a licensed therapist.
Your therapist can help you identify and work through mental and emotional issues that may be contributing to your ED.
It may also help to bring your partner into some of your counseling sessions so the two of you can learn how to work through the issue together. Counseling is often recommended for patients who are also undergoing treatment for physical/medical causes of ED.
Consult a Healthcare Provider About ED Medication
One potential explanation for sudden ED when no other explanations are available might be your latest medication. Certain medications — particularly those for diabetes or heart conditions — can increase your risk of erectile dysfunction. If you suspect your medications are contributing to your ED, talk to your healthcare provider about adjusting your dosage or making a switch.
You may also want to consider adding medications for treating ED to your life, like the well known PDE5 inhibitors Viagra or Cialis.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved several medications for the treatment of ED. Drugs like sildenafil (generic Viagra, or Viagra®), tadalafil (Cialis®), and vardenafil (Levitra®) work by relaxing the smooth muscles in the penis and increasing blood flow during sexual stimulation. We offer convenient chewable ED med mints for guys on the go who want fresh breath with their hard erections.
If you have low testosterone, testosterone replacement therapy could also help.
Overcoming Sudden Erectile Dysfunction
Every guy fails to achieve liftoff from time to time. Maybe it’s because of a hard night of drinking, or maybe your mind is still back in the office. When it happens once, the best advice we can give you is to relax, give yourself a break, rest up and give your partner some attention in the meantime.
After the first time, however, you have a pattern. Sudden loss of erection is potentially a serious problem the second, third or fourth time it happens to you.
Luckily, it’s also seriously treatable. Keep the following in mind as you navigate through this phase of penile performance problems:
Erectile dysfunction and other sexual health concerns are often treatable, but the first step is diagnosing the underlying cause.
Once you have a better understanding of the factors contributing to your ED, you can work with your physician to find the right treatment option for you.
To learn more about the causes of ED, including the psychological causes of ED like sexual performance anxiety, check out or blogs. We also offer online therapy for people struggling with double trouble like depression and ED .
Whatever treatment method you choose, you should also communicate with your partner.
It can be difficult to talk about sex with a partner, especially when it involves a potentially embarrassing subject like ED, but you may find that the simple act of opening up to your partner helps relieve some of the stress and anxiety you’ve been feeling. Together, you can work toward a more enjoyable and satisfying sexual experience for both of you.