Erectile Dysfunction vs. Erectile Dissatisfaction

(Erectile Dysfunction vs. Erectile Dissatisfaction, written by David Jaynes)  

A lot of men report experiencing erectile dysfunction as they age, but in my experience most older men don’t actually have clinically defined ED.

Instead they’re dealing with the common decline that happens to erection quality as men age.

Even though they can still get it up, and perform just fine with a partner most of the time, they’re still dissatisfied with how their penis performs in comparison to their 20s and 30s.

It’s a real problem, of course. Nobody loves to see objective signs of their advancing years, especially down under.

But this is not true erectile dysfunction.

And the difference matters, because fixing one often requires different methods from fixing the other.

So how do you tell the difference between erectile dysfunction vs. erectile dissatisfaction?

I’m glad you asked.

Defining Erectile Dysfunction

This is one of the few places where mainstream, big medicine has done the right thing.

For a very long time, they defined any lack of “lead in the pencil” as full-on erectile dysfunction.

They did this, of course because you can sell drugs like Viagra to men with erectile dysfunction, but not with a good conscience to men who are just dissatisfied with the quality of their erections.

The definition of clinical erectile dysfunction has shifted over the past decade or so, and no longer includes every single man who has the occasional “failure to launch.”

These days, true, clinical erectile dysfunction is the consistent inability to achieve or maintain an erection during sex, and even during masturbation.

That’s a much narrower definition, and with that definition comes a narrower range of treatment options.

With true erectile dysfunction, the causes are often serious conditions like diabetes, heart disease, or a legitimate hormonal imbalance.

They take some serious steps to begin treating, and often need to be at least stabilized before any direct treatment of erectile problems is even possible.

Defining Erectile Dissatisfaction

Picture of limp penis

Erectile dissatisfaction, on the other hand, is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. You can still achieve and maintain a stiffy, but you’re not satisfied for one reason or another.

Some of the more common symptoms of erectile dissatisfaction include:

  • Erections that are softer than you’d like them to be
  • More difficulty maintaining your erection to completion
  • Erections that are harder in the morning than at night
  • Unreliable erectile function that’s there one day, and gone the next
  • Losing your erection more frequently during sex
  • Needing manual stimulation to get hard, instead of using sexual fantasy

You’ll notice that erectile dissatisfaction is often a comparison to how your penis behaved when you were younger.

Unlike true erectile dysfunction, you can do a lot to reduce, delay, and otherwise make up for erectile dissatisfaction.

Almost none of it even requires a doctor’s help.

Treating Erectile Dysfunction vs. Erectile Dissatisfaction

These are both complex topics, but this article would be incomplete without us covering the basics together.

Besides, it further helps to drive home the differences between erectile dysfunction and erectile dissatisfaction, and why those differences matter.

Using the above definition for erectile dysfunction, many of the solutions are medical in nature. 

That means getting medical attention, and medical treatment for potentially serious medical problems.

Erectile dissatisfaction, though, can often be taken care of on your own.

We go into detail on other pages here on our site, but here’s a short list of how you can reduce, treat, or entirely cure your erectile dissatisfaction problems:

  • Eat foods that boost your testosterone and nitric oxide levels
  • Get sufficient sleep each night
  • Stop masturbating, especially while using pornography
  • Improve your blood flow through diet and exercise
  • Work on your relationship with your partner
  • Do “man stuff” like power lifting and spending time outdoors, to boost your testosterone

If you do have clinical erectile dysfunction, I encourage you to try some of the things on that list.

While you work on the problem from a medical standpoint you can still work to improve the symptoms as they impact your sexual health.

It works like this… 

Imagine you had a lung disorder that reduced your lung capacity to 40% of what it would normally be.

If you smoked a lot, worked in a coal mine, and never exercised, your lung capacity would be 40% of something terrible.

If you were a non-smoker who worked in a forest and ran triathlons, your lung capacity would be 40% of something much better.

And changing from a smoker to a nonsmoker, and from couch to treadmill, would improve your overall lung capacity even with the lung problem.

Whether you suffer from complete lack of erections (true, medical erectile dysfunction), a partial case where achieving erection is difficult and rare, or simple erectile dissatisfaction as you age, you can still take steps to improve whatever your “normal” looks like.


One piece of information really underscores the importance of what I’m talking about:

According to research, nearly two-thirds of men report erectile dysfunction over the age of 45…

But research at the University of Chicago finds that less than half of men between 50 and 85 actually develop clinically defined erectile dysfunction (source).

That means a lot of men who think they have erectile dysfunction really only suffer from erectile dissatisfaction.

The first step is to find out which of these two similar problems you have. Once you’ve figured that out, you can move forward and apply the best fix for your problem. 

And either way, a little attention to the general health of your body, your mental state, and your relationship will definitely help improve your erectile situation.

About the Author Mark

Article edited by Mark Wilson. Mark currently owns 5 sites in the men's sexual health niche and has published more than 5,000 articles and blog posts on dozens of websites all over the world wide web.

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