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Reflexive, Psychogenic, & Nocturnal Erections: What Are The Differences?

Updated: May 31, 2023

Reflexive, Psychogenic, & Nocturnal Erections

We all know what an erection is, and what it feels like, but did you know that there are three different types of erection?

  • Reflexive (By touch/stimulation)

  • Psychogenic (Visual and mental association)

  • Nocturnal (Erections, typically during REM sleep)

We’ve all had these types of erections before. Whether we saw something arousing, or our penises were touched by our partners, it got hard. Even during sleep, we get hard and during the morning we wake up hard too! (Ever heard of morning wood?)

But, did you ever wonder how you got these erections in the first place? What were the causes for each? What were the “erection killers” that stopped these processes?

Erections are actually more complicated than they seem. It’s not like turning on a light switch. It’s actually a mind, body, and mechanical process. Each type of erection has its “causes and effects''.

Understanding your erections is important, especially as you get older and start noticing you’re not as receptive to the processes that cause them sometimes. We all know what erectile dysfunction is and If you’re experiencing erectile problems it's even more important to understand the differences between all three types of erections.

Understanding what brings on an erection will be relevant in determining the root cause of your particular erectile dysfunction. In this guide, we’ll take a brief look at these erection types and what you can do to improve the quality of your erections.

Let's take a look!

How Does the Male Reproductive System Work?

Before we dive into the different types of erections, we first need to understand the function of the male reproductive system. Now, I’m sure you’ve already experimented lots with your equipment you were blessed with, but here’s a recap.

male reproductive system & erections

The male reproductive system is made up of the penis, testes, scrotum, and prostate gland. The three functions of the penis are to pass urine, to ejaculate semen, and to allow you to have sex.

You can see a more in-depth overview of the male reproductive system in the image here.

The scrotum is the sac in which your testicles are housed. These are responsive to touch, temperature, and pressure. Their primary purpose is to protect the testicles, however, they can be very useful in aiding sexual arousal.

Because sperm needs a lower temperature to stay alive, the testicles are an organ that resides outside of the body. In addition to semen production, the testicles also produce the male hormone testosterone which controls your sexual desire.

Finally, the prostate gland produces the milky white liquid called ‘prostatic fluid’ that semen swims in. This is the fluid that gives cum its consistency.

Now that we have briefly gone over the male reproductive system, let's talk about the 3 types of erections that we can get.

a cactus representing erection health

1) Reflexogenic Erections

The first type of erection that we’re going to look at is the reflexogenic erection. This is brought on through direct stimulation of the penis or scrotum... but not the way you think... Reflexogenic erections are not controlled by the brain.

They’re the type of erection you get when a partner touches you. However, there is no adult thoughts here. This is purely physical. You don't become aroused by dirty thoughts or by watching your partner take off their clothes. This is direct stimulation by them or something else physically.

For example, there may be some awkward moments where your clothing brushes up against your penis and the friction causes an unwanted erection.

Reflexogenic Erections

In some cases, a full bowel or bladder will bring on an erection. This is because of the proximity of the pelvic floor- the part of the body that closes the urinary and anal sphincters while helping us maintain erections.

If you have a weakened pelvic floor muscle, it will not only affect your ability to get hard, but it will also mean you’ll struggle with continence issues and feel as though you have little control of your bladder or bowels.

The great news is that if you have weak pelvic floor muscles, you can often build these up using Kegel exercises - improving the quality of your erections in the process. These can be done anywhere and at any time. Kegel exercises involve contracting your pelvic floor muscles for a few minutes each day and results can be achieved in a few short weeks or months.

You can also go to a physical therapist that specializes with pelvic floor dysfunction. Most older men tend to have prostate issues such as prostatitis, which can lead to a weak pelvic floor. Unfortunately, the pelvic floor muscles may stay in a hyperprotective or hypertonic state and this can cause pain due to the tight or spastic muscles.

***BDEStyle tip for guys doing Kegel exercises: We highly suggest performing a reverse Kegel to help relax the pelvic floor.

Think about doing the opposite of a regular Kegel that primarily focuses on contracting and tightening of the pelvic floor. Most people explain that by "holding in" or disrupting your urine flow is a way to identify the BC muscle (Bulbocavernosus muscle) when performing a regular Kegel.

When doing a reverse Kegel you're relaxing the BC muscle. You should pretend like you are trying to pee faster, or trying to pass gas (the opposite of a regular Kegel).

2) Psychogenic Erections

If you get a boner after watching a hot video or seeing someone that you find attractive, you’re experiencing a psychogenic erection. You may also find that listening to people having sex or talking dirty has the same effect. But it’s not just audio/visual stimuli that can bring on this type of erection, you can also get one through imagining something that you know turns you on.

Note: While watching porn may be great for bringing on fantastic erections initially, prolonged use can affect your brain’s chemicals and may indirectly lead to psychogenic erectile dysfunction.

When we’re stimulated, dopamine is produced. This neurotransmitter is a chemical messenger that confers motivational salience - that means it rewards you with the feeling of pleasure. Causing you to have psychogenic erections.

 Psychogenic Erections

The problem arises when you become too used to receiving these dopamine rewards for watching porn.

Enter high-speed broadband internet and “porn tube” sites packed with every kind of kinky scenario legally allowed. Your dopamine production goes into overdrive.

To get the same feeling that you got the last time you watched porn, next time you may need to watch more clips or delve deeper into the realms of any particular fetish you may have. You need more and you need it harder. Over time, your brain will become desensitized to physical attraction and emotional connection with “real” people versus what you see online.

To restore your ability to achieve meaningful psychogenic erections, consider quitting porn. Resetting the chemical balance in your brain can take time, but it is achievable.

Other causes of psychogenic ED include depression, relationship problems, low self-esteem, and performance anxiety. Speaking to a therapist can be helpful in all of these instances. Sometimes the problem may be too much fighting in your personal relationships or stress causing you not to be aroused as much as you'd like to be.

If you’re experiencing psychogenic erectile dysfunction, you should still get nocturnal erections though.

Other Causes of the Loss of Psychogenic Erections

There are quite a few things that can prevent you from gaining a psychogenic erection or losing one.

These include:

  • Depression and anxiety

  • Performance anxiety

  • Drug and alcohol abuse

  • Relationship problems

  • Stress from work, life, family, friends, etc.

  • Overconsumption of porn, conditional learning to only get aroused by certain content

These are all things that can cause issues for psychogenic erections!

nocturnal erections

3) Nocturnal Erections

You’ve probably experienced the sensation of ‘morning wood’, where you wake up with a solid hard-on for no apparent reason. What you’re experiencing is a nocturnal erection.

This type of erection occurs when you’re asleep - specifically when you’re in rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. REM sleep is the cycle associated with dreaming.

When you’re in REM sleep, specific parts of your brain become stimulated, this can awaken the parasympathetic nerves. This suppresses the fight-or-flight sympathetic nerves. The shift in the nervous system can result in a nocturnal erection.

If you wake up mid-REM sleep, or very soon after a REM cycle - you may still have that erection. Typically, you’ll have 3-5 erections per night, with each lasting for 25-35 minutes.

The scientific term for morning wood is nocturnal penile tumescence. These start in puberty and carry on throughout our adult lives.

A lot of guys who haven’t experienced morning wood for a while or find that the strength of the erection diminishes immediately after waking worried that it’s a sign of ED. Often, this is more likely due to where they were in their sleep cycle when they woke up.

If you’re really not getting any nocturnal erections at all, this could be caused by:

Evaluating your health is important and it’s worth visiting a doctor for a full check-up.

Wrapping up, the three different types of erections are reflexogenic erections, psychogenic erections, and nocturnal erections.

Psychogenic erections are all about your thoughts. If you thinking about something erotic and are aroused by it, then that is a psychogenic erection.

Reelxogenic erections are all about physical touch, nothing else. There is no erotic imagery or thoughts here. This could be your partner touching you, using locations, candles, or anything else physical.

Nocturnal erections are the erections during sleep and the ones you wake up with depending on where you are in your sleep cycle. Something most of us know as “Morning Wood“.

Erection health and their types

Improving Sex Quality & Making it Easier to "Rise to the Occasion"

No matter what, if you are experiencing sexual decline and sexual performance issues, it's important to find the root cause of the issue. From there, you can find out what the best method for sexual health will be. Whether is pills, surgery, acoustic wave therapy, lifestyle changes, or a combination of these.

One of the most effective and proven ways to improve sexual performance and "rise to the occasion" once again is by using The Phoenix device. It has helped us and over 55,000+ men with improving the quality of their sex and making it easier to "get it up".

We believe in the science behind acoustic wave therapy and so do many other experts and doctors who recommend it to their patients. The Phoenix produces a hybrid of focused and radial waves that are clinical strength while also allowing you to enjoy the treatments at home for the first time!

Some guys may see benefits after a few treatments, but the majority see the most gains by following Dr. Thompson's 120-day protocol. Everyone has different sexual performance factors to consider that may prevent them from performing the way they want. The Phoenix is one solution, but it's not the only thing to do to get the best results.

For instance...

Making real lifestyle changes and disengaging with things that can lead to further sexual decline is going to be the number one priority in regaining your confidence and rising to the occasion once again.


Make sure to subscribe to learn about more ways of improving your sex, erections, sexual health, relationships, and much more. BDE Style is a positive community of people who are looking to proactively improve all of these aspects of their lives!

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