How To Get An Erection

How You Can Get an Erection When You Want or Need One

If you want to know how to ensure you get an erection, read below.

Dr Simran Deo Medical Editor

Medically reviewed by

Dr Simran Deo

Last reviewed: 28 Nov 2019

What Makes Erections Happen?

How do erections start? – the process begins in your brain. A stimulus such as something you have seen, felt, smelt, thought or heard sends signals or chemical messages from your nerves to the blood vessels in your penis.

How do erections happen? – two main arteries, one in each of the large masses of erectile tissue in the penis relax allowing a greater flow of blood into the penis. At the same time, the veins in the penis contract and close allowing blood to become trapped in this tissue, this builds pressure and causes expansion of the penis or an erection. When the veins reopen and the inflow of blood ends, then the erection is lost.

What Helps You to Get an Erection?

Make sure you feel aroused – sexual arousal is often key to getting and keeping an erection. Your senses have a central role in this too because what you think smell, touch and feel can help you to become aroused.

Short-term solutions – to help get an erection immediately there are a few things you can do to help the process, including:

  • Engage in sexual activity such as foreplay with your partner to get you in the ‘mood’
  • Stop thinking about stressful situations e.g. work issues by using relaxation techniques
  • Try new things with your partner, sometimes routine can make it difficult to get an erection

Longer-term options – above are just some short-term options which may help you to get an immediate erection, but there are some long-term lifestyle choices you can make which can help to improve your erections too:

  • Weight loss
  • Quit smoking
  • Get regular exercise
  • Reduce stress and anxiety
  • Eat a healthy balanced diet
  • Reduce alcohol intake

Diet and metabolism are important – metabolic conditions are also strongly associated with a pro-inflammatory state which causes dysfunction and reduces the activity of nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is vital for genital blood flow. ED is also prevalent in overweight or obese men and health issues which can cause it include:

What Makes Getting Erections More Difficult?

Temporary causes – at some point in their lives, men experience an episode of being unable to get and keep an erection. Short-term problems can be a cause of this and may include:

  • Tiredness
  • Stress
  • Increased alcohol consumption
  • Performance anxiety

However, if you find you or your partner are unable to get and/or keep an erection on multiple occasions, it could be a sign of erectile dysfunction (ED). ED can result from psychological or physical causes.

Psychological causes of ED include:

  • Anxiety
  • Worrying about getting an erection is one of the most common causes of ED
  • Bad/negative sexual experience can contribute to ED
  • Relationship issues
  • Strain in your relationship
  • Inability to get a partner pregnant

Physical causes of ED may include:

  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Obesity
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Binge drinking
  • Neurological problems:
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Stroke
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • The physical structure of the penis – Peyronie’s disease
  • Recreational drug use
  • Some prescription medicines

Can You Use Medication to Get an Erection?

Yes for some people medication is a good solution – if you are experiencing the symptoms associated with erectile dysfunction there are medications available which can help. However, medications shouldn’t be used to force an erection. One of the dangerous side effects of ED medication is priapism – a persistent and painful erection – which can cause permanent damage to the penis if it is not treated early.

Medications used for erectile dysfunction include:


  • PDE5 inhibitor
  • Sildenafil citrate is the active ingredient


  • The brand name for sildenafil
  • Manufactured by Pfizer


  • PDE5 inhibitor similar to sildenafil
  • Contains the active ingredient tadalafil


  • Similar to Viagra
  • Less affected by food or alcohol


  • Contains the active ingredient avanafil
  • Targeted ED treatment

These medications require you to be aroused first – ED medications such as Viagra, sildenafil, Cialis, Levitra and Spedra cannot force you to become aroused. Low sex drive requires a different approach in terms of treatment. Therefore, ED medications will not work without sexual arousal.

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Can You Get an Erection Right After Orgasm?

It may not be possible to get an erection right after orgasming because of something called the ‘refractory period’.

What is the refractory period? – the recovery time following orgasm. Following sexual pleasure and orgasm, the body has a period of recovery as it returns to its normal state. During the refractory for men, the penis becomes flaccid and doesn’t respond to sexual stimulation. It also means they are not able to reach orgasm until the recovery stage has passed. In younger men, the refractory period may only last a few minutes whereas in older men it can take anywhere from 20 minutes to 24 hours.

Although, scientists are unsure why refractory periods differ between men and there is little you can do to shorten them, medications such as Viagra and Cialis can reduce recovery time.

What if I lose my erection because I orgasm too quickly? – in this case, the best way to keep your erection might be to get treatment for premature ejaculation, which is when you orgasm too quickly. There are two types of premature ejaculation:


  • You’ve always had the problem
  • Often has a psychological cause
  • Traumatic sexual experience


  • Recently developed premature ejaculation
  • Can be caused by psychological or physical factors
  • Increased alcohol consumption
  • Inflammation of the prostate gland

Treatment of premature ejaculation will depend on the cause – if it’s a physical cause, then you will need to treat the underlying issue. For example, if it’s due to your alcohol consumption you will need to cut down. Treating the psychological issues can be challenging but you can get help from your GP who will talk you through the best options. There are also medications like Priligy or Emla.


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