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What is the difference between erectile dysfunction and impotence?

When you suddenly find yourself unable to achieve an erection, it can be downright scary. You’ll comb through the internet, desperately searching for some rationale behind what is happening. Are you too stressed at work? Is this a temporary thing? Could it have medical implications? Even worse, how do you know if this is erectile dysfunction or impotence?

There seems to be some general confusion when it comes to the terms “erectile dysfunction” and “impotence.” It’s commonly thought that these are two different issues, and that impotence is the more severe of the two. If you were to ask a normal guy what the difference is between ED and impotence, he would probably tell you that ED is temporarily being unable to achieve an erection while impotence means your erection is gone forever.

This is not true. At the end of the day, the two terms stand for exactly the same thing: the loss of the erection. Using one term or the other does not denote the level of severity of the issue. It simply boils down to preference.

Impotence used to be the de facto term for erectile loss, but as understanding of the issue grew, erectile dysfunction came to be the more commonly used term. The term “impotence” is simply an slightly outdated term that gets thrown around from time to time.

So the issues with your erection are not broken into “erectile dysfunction” or “impotence;” it’s both. The term doesn’t matter. What matters is figuring out what the cause of your erectile dysfunction/impotence is and working to overcome it.

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