Every man at some time has had trouble getting a hard on. Anyone who says they haven’t is lying. Even so, it’s still pretty embarrassing, no matter how confident you are in the bedroom department.

It’s usually nothing to worry about and sorts itself out.

Just talking to someone about it and getting the things that are worrying you off your chest often resolves the problem. The more you worry about it, the worse it will be. If you reckon it’s seriously affecting you then don’t pretend it’s not a problem. Be honest with your partner and see what they think about it.

There are 3 main reasons for having difficulties getting stiff:

Psychological problems

Feeling depressed or down affects how horny you feel. If you don’t feel in the mood for sex, you aren’t going to be able to get a hard on. Also, people get really anxious and stressed out sometimes when they’re faced with having sex. Perhaps it’s their first time or they’re nervous about sleeping with that particular person. In these situations it’s totally normal to find it hard to get hard. Relax, take you’re time.

Physical problems

Sometimes there’s a physical problem that’s causing the difficulties getting hard. These can be illness like diabetes or sickle cell, or hormone problems. These need to get checked out by a doctor to see if it’s anything that should be treated. A physical cause, particularly in younger guys, is quite an unusual cause, but if it’s found to be the case with you, don’t stress as there are still solutions.


Loads of drugs, both prescription and street drugs can cause impotence. Tablets for depression and other mental health problems often cause difficulty getting a hard on. Street drugs like coke or weed can also make it hard to get hard. And alcohol famously makes you feel horny, but takes away the horn. A good way of working out if it’s something in you mind or if it’s a physical cause is if you wake up in the morning with a hard on, then it’s probably psychological in origin. If you never get a hard on, not even morning wood, then it’s probably a plumbing problem and the doctor will have to take a look.

Written by Max Pemberton, Oct 8th 2010. Max is a doctor and journalist living and working in London.