All men struggle to get an erection at some point in their lives, but more and more in their 20s and 30s are having problems. Are they panicking at the thought of sex?

It was just as things were getting serious in the bathroom at a house party that an off-hand comment ruined the mood for Toby, 32. The woman he was with remarked that he wasn’t hard enough for them to have sex. “It made me feel super-shit,” he says. “I’ve always had a bit of anxiety about my performance, so she hit a bit of a bedrock there, because I had been thinking about it before.” Their encounter ended; he could no longer perform.

That was in November 2017, but even after Toby started dating someone else, the problem persisted. “Every time I went to see my girlfriend, I’d be freaking out,” he says. “In my head I’m telling myself it’ll be fine, but there’s always a voice saying: ‘What if it does happen?’ Then it becomes a physical thing, and my body gets all hot and I feel startled inside. That’s usually a sign things won’t work out.”

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