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Can't Stay Hard With Condoms: What to Do About CAEP

12 min read
Can't Stay Hard With Condoms: What to Do About CAEP

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Struggling to keep an erection while wearing a condom? Don't worry; it's not an uncommon occurrence! Studies indicate that this problem could affect anywhere between 18-36% of the general population. Condom-associated erection problems (CAEP) are, as their name suggests, erection issues caused by condoms. 

There are two types of Condom-Associated Erection Problems (CAEP):




Occurs during application of a condom


Occurs during penile-vaginal intercourse while using a condom


CAEP can occur in men of any age, but studies show that it has a higher chance of occurring in young adults new to the world of sex. CAEP often occurs in men who have no other erection issues and can be a frustrating condition to deal with.

We can't understate the importance of condom use - they keep you safe from sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and significantly reduce the risk of pregnancy. But they're also not every guy's favorite item, with a lot of men choosing to have unprotected sex instead, citing lack of sensation and erection problems. 

TLDR Summary

  • Condom-associated erection problems (CAEP) affect between 18-36% of men and is more prevalent among young adults.
  • Condom use is vital for preventing STIs and pregnancy, but issues like CAEP can discourage its usage.
  • Major causes of CAEP include incorrect condom size, poor-quality condoms, difficulty in application, performance anxiety, lack of preparation, prolonged intercourse, overthinking, and certain mood disorders.
  • Solutions include using proper lubricants, trying different condom brands and sizes, practicing condom application, solo masturbation with a condom, using sex toys like cock rings, and mindfulness exercises.
  • Open communication with a partner can help in addressing the issue, and persistent problems should be discussed with a doctor.

CAEP often occurs in men who have no other erection issues and can be a frustrating condition to deal with.

If you lose your erection while putting a condom on or during sexual intercourse with a condom on, you're experiencing CAEP. All it takes to put an inexperienced person off condoms is a few bad experiences. These experiences will feed into their CAEP and create condom anxiety. That's why we're going to discuss CAEP: its causes and possible solutions. We're going to explain to you why you shouldn't be scared of condoms.

Why do some men experience erection problems when they use condoms?

Along with the adverse effects suffering from CAEP will have on your mental health, it often has the added extra result of discouraging condom use in couples, putting them at greater risk of sexually transmitted infections.

2014 study examined the extent of CAEP in young college men aged 18-24. Of the 479 men involved in the study, 220 said they suffered from CAEP-Application, and 229 men reported struggling with CAEP-PVI. Of the entire study, 52% reported both types of CAEP. It's a common condition but understandably a worry.


Understanding the condition begins by looking at the causes of CAEP and how these may impact your ability to stay erect.

Sometimes it can just be a single factor triggering CAEP, but often it's a combination of things working against you.

Condom size

If you're trying to have sex with a condom that's too big or too small, it will impact your ability to stay aroused. You'll focus more on the ill-fitting condom than the actual act of sex, leading to further erection problems.

If the condom is too tight, it can cut off your blood flow, causing a loss of erection. Also, if you're using a condom that is too small, putting it on before achieving a full erection will limit the amount of blood that can flow into your penis. This will make it more challenging to maintain an erection.

A tight condom will be uncomfortable, and you'll lose sensation in your penis. A loss of sensation causes sex to feel less pleasurable, increasing your chances of losing your erection. A tight condom is also more likely to break, killing the mood and making you lose your erection.

Wearing a condom that is too big feels like you're wearing a baggy shirt, and believe us, it is not the feeling you want from a condom.

It makes it much easier for the condom to fall off during sex and can often feel incredibly uncomfortable, leading to a loss of erection.

Having sex with a condom that is too big also defeats the purpose of using a condom, as bodily fluids will still be able to travel freely. You open yourself up to a host of complications by wearing a condom that is too big: the risk of pregnancy increases substantially, as does the risk of STIs.

Condom quality

It may be a surprise to beginners, but there are countless condoms of differing sizes, textures, and quality out there. Condom quality is something many men overlook, but it can significantly impact your ability to maintain an erection.

If you're using a low-quality condom, it will affect the sensation of sex and your pleasure.

If you're already worried about maintaining an erection with a condom on, wearing a thick, low-quality condom will not help.

Low-quality condoms tend to feel worse on your penis than higher-quality condoms and are at higher risk of drying out or breaking.

Struggle to put on the condom

Whether you're new to condom use or a seasoned veteran, putting on a condom can be a bit of a puzzle. Putting a condom on in the dark can be impossible, but even with a light, they can be confusing items to put on, especially in the throes of passion!

For people less experienced with sex, condoms can carry a lot of stress and nervousness. It's so easy to put pressure on yourself or feel like there's pressure from your partner when condoms are involved.

If you're not comfortable using a condom and you're feeling pressured, you're either going to rush the process and put the condom on incorrectly (inside out or even upside down) or struggle to put it on at all. Condom misuse is one of the biggest causes of CAEP, and these situations are guaranteed to kill your erection.

Putting a condom on also takes the spontaneity out of the experience.

It's easy to get distracted while struggling to put a condom on, losing focus and your erection.

If you don't know the correct method to put a condom on, you'll spend too long trying to figure it out, and the lack of stimulation coupled with your brain working on overdrive will quickly work to kill your erection.

Performance Anxiety

Performance anxiety is the downfall of millions of men the world over. Nerves and insecurities pile up, quickly leading to a lack of sexual function. It's incredibly common to stress about sex, especially with a new partner or if you're a beginner.

When it comes to sex, psychological distress often results in physical symptoms. Performance anxiety is initially a psychological problem, but it leads to a chemical reaction that prevents you from maintaining an erection. Scientists have shown that under stress or anxiety, the human body releases stress hormones that have the side effect of inhibiting erections.

Performance anxiety CAEP can stem from something minor, such as nerves about putting a condom on for the first time or worries over finishing too quickly.

If you can't stop thinking about whether your partner is having fun, you'll struggle to stay in the moment! A lack of focus will interfere with your ability to maintain an erection, and when you're using a condom it can intensify the issue.

Performance anxiety CAEP becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts. If you've struggled to get or maintain an erection with condoms previously, you'll be anxious the next time you try. This thought cycle will work against you, compounding every time you can't maintain an erection.

Not being prepared before sex starts

Putting your passion on pause to put a condom on is an annoying part of the experience but certainly necessary. What isn't necessary, however, is fumbling around in a dark room, looking for a condom. Even worse if you have to turn your mood lighting off and put an overhead light on to help your search!

Nothing kills an erection quicker than a lack of preparation.

Hunting for lube or condoms stops the action, and you may find it hard to maintain an erection with nothing stimulating you.

There's also the possibility that a lack of preparation will make you feel embarrassed, increasing your anxiety and releasing those erection-inhibiting chemicals.

Lengthy intercourse

Although you may be able to last for hours when you aren't wearing a condom, lengthy sessions could be the cause of your CAEP-PVI.

If you're not using an appropriate lubricant, your condom is at risk of drying out, affecting the condom fit and its feel, and potentially leading to CAEP.


Like performance anxiety, overthinking can be a common cause of erection loss, especially with condoms in the mix. Many things can trigger your brain to start overthinking, and getting stuck in your head is a surefire way to kill your erection.

A lot of men get fixated on the condom rather than the sexual experience, causing a loss of erection.

Others find that using condoms conjures up unpleasant thoughts of STIs and pregnancies, leading to a loss of erection. Any intrusive thoughts while putting a condom on can be enough to take you out of the moment.

Mood Disorders

Research following a 2014 study examines the extent of the relationship between people suffering from CAEP and people with anxiety, depression, and ADHD. CAEP crops up a lot more in people with anxiety and depression, and people taking ADHD medication are more likely to suffer from CAEP.

Anxiety and depression have also been known to cause erectile dysfunction in people through a lack of libido.

What can you do about it?

Luckily, there are treatments out there for CAEP. These treatments differ depending on the cause of your CAEP but often have high success rates.

One of the best things you can do to help tackle CAEP is to use a suitable condom-safe lubricant. Recent research shows the efficacy of using condom-safe lubrication to help with CAEP. Latex condoms will degrade if you use an oil-based lubricant, so only stick with water or silicone-based lube.

For condoms made out of different materials, for example, lambskin, oil-based lubricants won't degrade them.

However, oil-based lubricants are not recommended for use in penetrative sex as they increase the risks of vaginal infections. CAEP isn't very widely discussed, and it's easy to feel as though you're struggling with this condition alone. However, we're here to tell you you're not. As anxieties and condom nerves often bring on CAEP, one of the best initial methods of treating it is talking openly and frankly about sex.

For condom size/quality issues

If the condoms you use are incorrectly sized or poor quality, we recommend trying new and different brands. There are many different condom sizes, types, and textures, and there's almost guaranteed to be one that works for you.

If you've only used a specific kind of condom and found yourself losing your erection, try switching the brand up and see what a difference it makes!

Some people find that condom length is not the issue, but girth that is causing the condom to feel tight. Condoms, like penises, don't come in a standard measurement. Manufacturers shape and size condoms differently to create contraceptives that work for everyone, regardless of penis length or girth!

To find the condom that works for you, you should start by measuring your penis length and girth. Once you know this, you'll be able to find the right fit a lot easier. If you need to, size your condom choice up or down - it will improve your sex life and help with your CAEP.

Manufacturers design condoms to be easy to put on, but it can be a struggle when you're trying to put a condom on that's incorrectly sized. You won't have these issues with a correctly sized condom, and the feel of sex will be better.

You're more likely to lose your erection wearing a poor-quality condom that reduces sensation, so invest in quality.

Nowadays, there are condoms specially designed for people who struggle with CAEP. You can certainly feel the difference with a high-quality condom, and some of the latest advancements in condom technology make them feel as though you're wearing a second skin.

Make sure you also use an appropriate silicone or water-based lubricant to make the experience more enjoyable for both of you!

For performance anxiety issues

One of the best ways to combat CAEP brought on by performance anxiety is to research and prepare. Nerves and anxiety during sex are common, but proper preparation will help give you the confidence to mitigate these responses.

If you've had bad experiences with condom application, it can be hard to get yourself out of that thought cycle, but it is possible!

For worries over condom application, you should spend some time practicing alone.

There's no outside pressure when you're alone; take your time, research how to put a condom on correctly, and try it yourself. The best way to combat lousy technique is to practice!

An excellent way to learn how to combat CAEP-Application is to try solo masturbation with a condom on. It allows you to get used to the feeling of condoms, learn to maintain an erection with one on, and will help you overcome your CAEP when the time comes.

It's also important not to be too hard on yourself. Accidents happen, and even the most experienced condom users can put them on incorrectly, resulting in a wasted condom and a lost erection. It's no big deal!

If you're struggling with performance anxiety that rears its head during sex, recent research has shown that mindfulness exercises can help.

Next time overthinking or anxieties get the better of you, breathe deeply in and out a few times, focusing only on your body and breathing. This common mindfulness technique helps you be in the moment and calms your mind, making you more aware of the sensations you feel rather than the thoughts racing through your head.

Communicate with your partner

While it might feel embarrassing to talk about, having an open and honest conversation with your partner about your erection difficulties will reduce your anxiety.

Often your partner may think they're the problem, so it's best for both of your comforts that you talk about these issues.

Once your partner knows about your CAEP, you can begin to take things slowly during sex, and you'll have that extra support from your partner. You won't feel as pressured while putting a condom on, and this will work wonders for any performance anxiety or CAEP.

If you've talked to your partner about CAEP, you may find it helps to integrate condom application into foreplay. Your partner can stimulate you as you unwrap the condom, or they can even put it on you while you stimulate each other.

All it takes is one good experience with a condom to break that negative cycle of anxiety-induced CAEP.

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Introduce fun factors like sex toys

If you're struggling with CAEP, introducing a sex toy to the bedroom might help you tackle it.

Some toys, like cock rings, help you to obtain a firm erection and keep it for a long time. A vibrating cock ring will help you to maintain an erection and will counter that loss of sensation that some men feel condoms produce. Cock rings are beginner friendly, easy to use, and have proven medical applications.

If you're dealing with CAEP, a cock ring could be the perfect toy for you.

Penis pumps are also great tools for treating CAEP, as they'll help you achieve and maintain a firm erection. You'll be able to apply a condom and get down to business without an issue.

There are so many helpful sex toys for combatting CAEP out there, and there's definitely something that you'll enjoy. If you can distract yourself with pleasure from sex toys, you're more likely to maintain an erection, even after putting a condom on.

When to see a doctor

If you're struggling to get an erection normally or problems to persist, you may start to withdraw or avoid sex. Don't ignore the problem; tackle it head-on by visiting a doctor.

Doctors can rule out certain conditions and will help diagnose your issue. If the problem is severe, they may prescribe sexual medicine to help alleviate symptoms. However, it's important you do not take any medication unless prescribed by a doctor, as this can often have an adverse effect.

It's important we note that condoms do not cause erectile dysfunction (ED), and suffering from CAEP is not an indication that you will get ED later on in life.

However, there is a correlation between people already suffering from some form of ED and people suffering from CAEP. A doctor will be able to help you diagnose the condition correctly.


A lot of men suffer from condom-associated erection problems, but not a lot of men talk openly about their struggles. Men that have had a bad experience with condoms in the past are less likely to use them going forward and build up a psychological fear towards their use.

Once you associate a condom with a lack of erection, it can be hard for your brain to break out of that thought pattern.

There can be other reasons for CAEP: a condom that is too tight or too loose is almost guaranteed to kill an erection, and if you're unconfident around condoms, then it's very easy to overthink their application and lose your erection.

But there are ways to alleviate symptoms of CAEP; wearing a properly fitting condom is a great way to tackle the condition.

If that's not working, creating an open dialogue with your partner can be an excellent solution. Communication will reduce your nerves and anxiety and allow you both to slow down the experience, which may help you maintain an erection.

Condoms shouldn't be anxiety-inducing; they're there to protect you and your partner's health.

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