Why do I go soft during sex? 8 Reasons for a flaccid penis

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Going soft during sex, or even before, can be an embarrassing and frustrating experience for both partners. It can happen to anyone from time to time, and so the occasional flaccid penis, shouldn’t be cause for concern.

However, if you find that you’re going limp halfway through sex on a regular basis, it may be time to examine the underlying cause. Reasons for a decrease in sex drive – as well as any diminished ability to perform – could have physical or psychological roots. 

Regardless of the cause of origin, men who suffer from this condition can rest assured they’re not alone. Studies suggest erectile dysfunction (ED) symptoms may affect as many as 322 million men worldwide by 2025. 

So, what are the factors impacting men everywhere, and how can you stop them from ruining your moment of intimacy?

Physical causes may be attributed to fatigue, the medication you’re taking, or excess alcohol consumption. Even certain medical conditions, such as diabetes, can have an effect on your libido. 

Psychological concerns associated with excess stress, fear of intimacy, or performance anxiety could have a powerful impact on your body’s ability to relax and make the most of an intimate moment.

Identifying the root cause of the issue will help you find ways to address and resolve the problem, so that you can enjoy fulfilling sexual experiences again. 

Let’s look at some of the main reasons that impact your ability to successfully sustain an erection, or what can cause you to go soft when you’re about to enter your partner.

1. Performance Anxiety

Sexual performance anxiety is the fear of failure in bed. If you’re worried that you won’t match up to your partner’s expectations (or meet any self-imposed standards you’ve attached to the encounter), it can negatively impact your ability to make the most of the moment.

Let’s be realistic, it’s not easy to perform under pressure. Some of the common thoughts that can go through your head and make you anxious include:

  • What if I can’t get hard?
  • What if I can’t stay hard?
  • What if my penis size is below average?
  • What if I ejaculate too quickly?
  • Am I satisfying my partner?
  • Does my partner find me attractive?

When you are anxious or nervous about being able to perform, your mind is unable to relax and encourage the sexual response that is required in order to get an erection and keep it.

Pornography and sexual anxiety are also linked. Porn can induce an unrealistic perception of sex, causing insecurities about your body. Whether it results in a negative self-image related to penis size, or thoughts about how long you need to last to ‘measure up,’ porn can create standards that no one can match.

Remember, they’re called ‘adult film actors’ for a reason…you don’t see what happens behind the scenes, or how many individual takes were shot to produce the marathon-esque session.

2. Underlying medical conditions

There is a strong link between certain medical conditions and erectile dysfunction. In fact, ED can often help detect other underlying ailments, such as high blood pressure and cholesterol.

It is estimated that:

  • Around 35% of men who have high blood pressure will also have ED
  • High cholesterol levels are found in 42% of men with ED
  • Undiagnosed diabetes is up to three times as likely in men with ED and in men over 50. Diabetics are around two times as likely to have ED
  • Obesity is linked with a 50% increase in ED
  • Studies have shown that around 79% of men with thyroid problems have had some degree of ED
  • Around 72% of men with BPH and its symptoms, will also have ED

Other medical conditions which can cause ED include kidney disease, multiple sclerosis andproblems with the nervous system.

3. Age

As hard as it is to admit, our performance generally declines with age. This includes performance in the bedroom. Studies indicate that around 40% of men will be affected by age 40, and around 70% of men will be affected by age 70.

Changes in hormone levels, reduced blood flow, and certain medical conditions that are likely to occur in your later years (diabetes, high cholesterol etc), can all affect sexual function.

4. Alcohol

Whilst many men may turn to alcohol to ‘take the edge off’ before performing sexually, the reality is that alcohol is a depressant. This means that it can exacerbate difficulties in achieving and maintaining an erection. When intoxicated, alcohol slows the brain’s ability to process and send signals out to the rest of the body, including the penis.

In the long term, alcohol can affect hormone levels, leading to a reduction in testosterone, and may also contribute to weight gain, liver disease and high blood pressure, all of which are contributing factors to ED.

5. Medication

Certain medications can impact sexual health and erectile function. It is estimated that around 25% of all ED cases are caused by side effects of medication.

Medication commonly associated with ED includes:

  • Blood pressure medication, such as beta blockers
  • Antidepressants, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and tricyclic
  • antidepressants
  • Chemotherapy
  • Drugs to treat an enlarged prostate such as finasteride (also used to treat hair loss)
  • Drugs to treat Parkinson’s disease

6. Depression

Depression affects men in a variety of ways, many of which can negatively impact self-confidence and sexual performance. The low energy levels attributed to depression can make it difficult to become sexually aroused or sustain an erection. One study suggests men with depression may be 39% more likely to experience ED symptoms, and that men living with ED are 192% more likely to suffer from depression.

7. Smoking 

Nicotine contained within tobacco is a vasoconstrictor, meaning it reduces blood flow throughout the body. Maintaining a firm erection is entirely dependent on healthy blood flow. Persistent smoking could reduce the amount of blood moving through the arteries of the penis. Smoking also damages blood vessels. 

If you notice that you’re struggling to sustain an erect penis, kicking this habit could improve your sexual performance and reduce ED symptoms.

8. Unhealthy lifestyle

ED is a condition that can affect men who are overweight or obese, regardless of their age or other factors. High blood pressure, heart disease, cholesterol, and diabetes are all associated with a high body weight as well as sexual dysfunction. 

Obesity has also been linked to a reduction of the male sex hormone testosterone. Men with lower testosterone levels may experience a lower sex drive or find difficulty in achieving an erection hard enough for sex.

Some studies have linked weight loss and improvements in sexual function. Exploring and integrating effective weight loss treatments can often reduce ED symptoms.

Staying away from foods with a low nutritional quality will also aid efforts to prevent sexual dysfunction. A poor diet can not only exacerbate weight gain, but will leave the body devoid of the nutrients it needs to function properly. 

What can you do to help with ED?

Lifestyle and dietary changes 

Altering your eating habits and following a nutrition plan that promotes healthy heart activity will increase blood flow around the body and can support penile health. 

Studies have linked the Mediterranean diet to an increase in both exercise tolerance and erectile performance. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, fish and whole grains may prove beneficial by enhancing your endogenous testosterone levels and improving blood flow. Aim to limit simple sugars, salt, refined carbohydrates, saturated fats and heavily processed or fatty meats as part of a balanced diet.


Exercise will help reduce excess body fat and increase testosterone production. As your testosterone levels rise, your sex drive will climb, helping you maintain an erection during states of arousal.

Quit smoking 

Abstaining or ditching your smoking habit will impact heart and lung health and improve the quality of blood flow to the penis. Studies have documented an improvement in erection quality within 24 hours of quitting.


A diminished sex drive isn’t just a physical problem. Stress, anxiety and apprehension can erode your self-confidence, creating a condition that leaves you unable to perform. With so many men facing similar circumstances, modern therapy has evolved to understand and help overcome the psychological barriers preventing you from enjoying sex.

These days, many dedicated professionals are available to offer support and guidance. Where the mind goes, the body often follows – building your mental resilience by enlisting the help of a therapist could work wonders for overcoming these and other issues.


Your doctor or healthcare professional can point you in the direction of safe and effective ED medications. You may be familiar with popular drugs such as Viagra, Cialis, and Levitra. However, there are generic versions of the same medications readily available as well.


Among the most popular ED treatments in the world, the blue pill also known as Viagra is the brand name for Sildenafil. When taken roughly 60 minutes before sex, the effects last for four hours. Viagra and Sildenafil can be purchased over the counter or online after completing a questionnaire.


Tadalafil is commonly known under the brand name Cialis. ‘The weekend pill’ is taken 30 minutes before engaging in sexual activity, and produces results for up to 36 hours. Tadalafil daily provides a version of the pill that can be taken routinely to prevent the need to schedule sexual activity.


Also sold as Levitra, Vardenafil is taken 25 minutes before sex, and can last for 4 to 6 hours. Vardenafil is the recommended choice for men who suffer from diabetes.


Remember, there’s nothing to be ashamed of. At some point or another, going soft during sex happens to all men. If you find that this unfortunate situation is becoming a regular occurrence, taking action and identifying the source of the problem can prevent sexual dysfunction symptoms from worsening. 

Whilst all of our content is written and reviewed by healthcare professionals, it is not intended to be substituted for or used as medical advice. If you have any questions or concerns about your health, please speak to your doctor.