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Erectile dysfunction symptoms: do you know what signs to look out for?

Written by Mojo, medically reviewed
by Dr Matthew Chan, Medical Doctor

Young guy wearing a yellow shirt sits on his bed looking worried.

Our bodies are pretty complicated, so sometimes it can be hard to know what’s actually going on with them.

And our minds… they take it to a whole new level. 

So when you feel that something about your erection is off, it can help to know what the common signs and symptoms of erectile dysfunction (ED) are. 

They might help you realize whether a bad experience is just a one-time thing, or if you’ve been struggling for a while, you can get the information you need to take the steps to getting hard again. 

Either way, it never hurts to know more about what’s going on. 

What are the symptoms of erectile dysfunction?

The truth is, nearly all men have trouble getting it up from time to time, and usually it’s nothing to worry about.  

But if you’re starting to notice these symptoms more frequently, you could be struggling with ED:

  • not being able to get hard (sorry if this one makes you go, “well duh!”)
  • not getting hard enough to have the sex you want
  • not staying hard enough, or losing your erection before you finish – no matter if it’s solo (masturbation) or with your partner

Secondary ED symptoms: what are the common knock-on effects? 

At Mojo, we talk all the time about how ED has physical and psychological causes.

But it works both ways. When ED strikes, it can also have a negative impact on both our body and our mental health.

That’s why many men start to notice the following secondary signs and symptoms, which could be red flags for an erection issue: 

Lack of sexual desire

It can feel like that switch labeled ‘my sex drive’ has just been turned off while your back was turned. It’s normal not to feel horny all the time, but if you feel like your libido has dipped lower than normal, it could be worth investigating.

Your erections are generally softer than they used to be

Sex might not be a problem, but maybe you’re not quite as hard as you used to be. Nothing to worry about. You could be experiencing a temporary blip on the odd occasion. But if you notice a softer trend over time, don’t be afraid to get it checked out.

Loss of sensation in the penis

The penis has many nerve endings, so sometimes we like to call it the ‘sensation station’ (sorry about that one). If your penis starts to feel numb or tingly, it can be a sign of nerve damage or lowered testosterone levels, so definitely a good one to ask your doctor about.

Avoiding sex and intimacy 

This is when a voice in your head says ‘what if something goes wrong?’ and completely drowns out the part of you that wants to give sex a chance. Keep an eye on this to monitor whether it’s a one-off or an ongoing occurrence.

Feelings of guilt, shame or depression 

Sometimes we can feel isolated, upset, or even angry at our own bodies because things aren’t functioning how we’d like them to. Trust us, you’re not alone. Our Community is a safe space for men to open up about these types of feelings.

Can ED be an important sign of something else? 

Your body is a temple! Or maybe it’s more like a maze, because every inch is connected within a complex network. 

When your penis isn’t getting hard, it could be a sign telling you that another part of your body needs some attention.

We don’t say this to make you worry. We just want to explain why it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor if your erections have become less dependable. 

Sometimes it only takes a check-up to wave goodbye to a whole bunch of worries.

Erectile dysfunction symptoms and age

There’s an assumption that the symptoms of erectile dysfunction only show as we get older, but the truth is much more complicated. 

Plenty of younger guys are impacted by erection issues too.

In fact, by the time a man gets to 40 years old, there’s a 40% chance he will have experienced some form of ED, according to research.

As we’ve mentioned, ED can be the first sign of other physical conditions, like diabetes and vascular disease. This is more often seen in older men, because the physical causes of ED tend to occur more naturally as our bodies age. However, younger guys can also be impacted by physical ED. 

For younger men, erection problems usually stem from psychological issues, like increased stress or performance anxiety. But again, in all age groups, ED can be a sign that your mental health could be suffering.

This doesn’t surprise us, as often physical and psychological ED are interlinked.

“My ED was caused by something physical. I had crushed blood vessels from doing too much cycling, but it was the psychological consequences that shocked me. It’s not an exaggeration to say ED is all I thought about for three months. 

What started as a physical problem turned into a psychological one. I turned against my own body and thought I was broken.”

Angus Barge, Co-founder of Mojo (he’s in his 30s) 

So in summary, the causes of ED are many, and they present themselves as different signs and symptoms to different men at different times.

A starting point for avoiding the symptoms of ED

If you take away one thing from this post, just remember: look after your overall health and your erection will thank you.

You can reduce the risk of developing ED symptoms just by taking care of yourself and staying as fit and healthy as you can. 

We asked Dr Matthew Chan to shed some light on why the perfect time to start thinking about your health is before you notice any erectile dysfunction symptoms at all.

“When it comes to avoiding ED, it’s helpful to think beyond the bedroom to your day-to-day life.

For example, periods of high stress, lack of sleep, or starting new medication can all make ED more likely.

So taking time to relax and staying tuned in with your body are great ways to reduce the risks of developing ED symptoms.

And if you’re ever in doubt, us doctors are here to help. Seriously, it’s our job!”

Dr Matthew Chan, Medical Doctor

You can learn more about how to look after your mind, body, and erections in our dedicated post, packed full of tips to help you prevent ED

Ongoing sex education; it’s the breakfast of champions

When our founders were struggling with ED, feelings of shame and isolation made it seem like there was nowhere to turn. That’s why they created Mojo to be a safe space where men can get the information they need. 

You can sign up to Mojo to learn more about how to spot the signs and symptoms of erection issues, why they may be happening, as well as learning how to deal with them. The first week is free, so we look forward to seeing you soon!


Mojo aims to provide useful wellbeing resources to its users; however, you should not solely rely on opinions or advice available on the Website or given by the Community. Always seek advice from a qualified medical doctor or other healthcare professional before acting.