Erectile Dysfunction: Top 10 Myths and Facts

by Eileen Bailey Health Writer

Erectile dysfunction (ED), the inability to get or keep an erection, is a common problem. Most men experience difficulty with this at some time in their life, but for some men, the problem is ongoing, causing problems with self-esteem and their relationships. Because ED may be a difficult topic for men to talk about, there are many misconceptions surrounding the condition. Keep reading to learn why you shouldn’t believe these common myths.

Couple looking away from each other on a bed.

Myth: ED only occurs in older men

Fact: ED is more common in older men, but it can occur in men of any age. Certain medical conditions, such as obesity, diabetes, kidney disease, high blood pressure, or heart disease may increase a man’s risk of developing ED. Smoking has also been found to be a risk factor, and some medications can cause ED as well.

Doctor talking with patient in doctors office.

Myth: ED is a normal part of the aging process

Fact: While it is true that ED gets more common as men age, it is not necessarily part of the normal aging process. ED is a medical problem and can impact a man’s overall well-being, no matter what his age. ED should and can be treated whether it occurs at age 20 or at age 90.

Woman looking unhappy on a bed.

Myth: Only men feel the impact of ED

Fact: Both the man and his partner can be affected by ED. ED can create feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem, and it can lead to depression. Intimate relationships often suffer, especially if the situation is not addressed. The partner can feel unloved or feel it is somehow their fault, creating relationships problems. When self-esteem is impacted, it can cause difficulties in other relationships as well, including problems at work, with family, or with friends.

Man putting on underwear.

Myth: Wearing tight underwear causes ED

Fact: Tight underwear has been associated with infertility because it can increase the temperature of the testicles, but there is no medical research showing an association between tight underwear and ED.

Couple with relationship issues.

Myth: ED only occurs because of relationship problems

Fact: While relationship problems certainly contribute to a man’s desire for sex, most cases of ED are physiological, not psychological. On the other hand, untreated ED can further contribute to difficulties within a relationship.

Man taking a pill.

Myth: Oral medications, such as Viagra, are the only treatment for ED

Fact: Lifestyle changes, such as losing weight and quitting smoking, are normally recommended before trying oral medications. Identifying and treating any underlying physical conditions should be the first line of treatment for ED. Oral medications help many men but do not work for everyone.

Happy couple kissing.

Myth: Men with ED have no sexual desire

Fact: Sexual desire is hormonal, and ED does not necessarily affect it. Some men with ED may fear sex or avoid intercourse because they are afraid they will not be able to have an erection, but ED does not directly impact sexual desire.

Man feeling stressed or worried.

Myth: Having trouble getting an erection always signals ED

Fact: Men, despite popular belief, can’t always have sex. Fatigue, personal problems, anxiety, worry, and other issues can affect a man’s ability to have sex. In addition, just as with women, some days men are just “not in the mood.” Believing that men can have sex at any time adds to the feeling of pressure to perform.

Doctor taking man's blood pressure.

Myth: ED is not dangerous — it’s just a personal problem

Fact: While it is true that in many cases ED itself is not dangerous, it can signal underlying medical conditions that may be harmful if not treated, such as heart disease or high blood pressure. Seeing your doctor when you experience ED may help in identifying and treating serious medical conditions.

Herbal supplements and herbs.

Myth: Herbal supplements can treat ED, so you don’t need to see a doctor

Fact: Currently, there’s no scientific research to back up the claim that using herbal supplements can treat ED. Further, herbal supplements are not regulated by the FDA and can be dangerous for other medical conditions, may interfere with your current medication, and may cause unwanted side effects. You should always speak with your doctor before taking herbal supplements.

Man talking to doctor.

Bottom line

A feeling of embarrassment about ED prevents many men from seeking treatment. However, ED is treatable in most cases. If you experience a problem with erections more than 25 percent of the time, you should speak with your doctor.

Eileen Bailey
Meet Our Writer
Eileen Bailey

Eileen Bailey is an award-winning author of six books on health and parenting topics and freelance writer specializing in health topics including ADHD, Anxiety, Sexual Health, Skin Care, Psoriasis and Skin Cancer. Her wish is to provide readers with relevant and practical information on health conditions to help them make informed decisions regarding their health care.