Erectile Dysfunction in Young Men

Learn what causes erectile dysfunction in young men and how it can be treated

A young man with erectile dysfunction sitting on the side of the bed

Erectile dysfunction is a common sexual issue that men face. Men with ED have problems getting or keeping an erection for at least a month. Some men will have an erection, but notice it is not as stiff as before or does not allow for penetration.

It’s a common misconception that ED only happens after a man turns 50 or 60. The truth may be surprising: erectile dysfunction can happen to young men in their 20s, 30s, and 40s. Regardless of age, ED is a treatable condition as long as you understand the underlying causes and seek out the right treatments.

In this article, we’ll specifically look at erectile dysfunction in young men and how they can treat this frustrating condition.

How common is ED in young men?

While most men with ED are older, about 5% of men under 40 years has erectile dysfunction. Interestingly, some research suggests that young men are more likely to have severe ED symptoms— meaning that they always or almost always have problems with erections. In fact, in one study, nearly half of younger men with ED, had severe ED.

A chart that shows the prevalence of erectile dysfunction by age

Erectile dysfunction in young men is on the rise

Recent studies suggest that ED in younger men may be on the rise. An increasing number of young men seek out treatment and refuse to sweep these frustrating symptoms under the rug.

This means that young men with erectile dysfunction are most definitely not alone. They should feel comfortable researching erectile dysfunction and talking to their doctors about the condition.

What causes erectile dysfunction in young men?

While the possible causes of ED are the same regardless of age, some conditions are more common in young men. Seeking out the cause of erectile dysfunction is crucial as some young men may otherwise ignore ED. Ignoring ED often leads to relationship problems, anxiety and even major health problems. The younger the man is, the longer ED can impact his life and well-being.

In this section we’ll cover the more common reasons for erectile dysfunction in young men.

Psychological causes

A chart that lists the causes for psychological erectile dysfunction on young men

Younger men with erectile dysfunction are more likely to have an underlying psychological concern. Erections start in the brain and requires men to be open to becoming intimate. That means they must have low levels of stress to achieve an erection.

You should be able to devote needed brain resources towards pursuing sexual intimacy. Psychological barriers may prevent you from doing so, leading to erection issues.

Some common causes of psychological erectile dysfunction in young men are:

To learn more about psychological ED, its causes and treatments, check out this article that goes into more detail on the topic.

Physiological causes

A chart that lists the causes for physiological erectile dysfunction in young men

While physical causes of erectile dysfunction are more common in older men, they cause ED in young men too. It’s even more important to uncover any physical conditions underlying ED in young men so they can prevent major medical problems before they happen.

Some common causes of physiological erectile dysfunction in young men are:

  • Smoking and illicit drug use
  • Physical inactivity
  • Poor diet or obesity
  • Medicine side-effects
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Low testosterone
  • Prediabetes, heart disease, and other medical conditions
  • Excessive alcohol consumption

ED can be a harbinger of a significant medical problem like heart disease and diabetes. That’s the case even in younger men. It’s vital to see your doctor if you don’t think there is a psychological cause for your ED.

Treating a physical cause of ED is also an opportunity to prevent a major medical problem, so don’t delay.

To learn more about the specific underlying physical causes of ED, check out this article.

Symptoms and diagnosis for erectile dysfunction in young men

Remember that ED is a persistent problem; it’s normal to have trouble with erections as many as one in four times. Some men may have problems getting an erection altogether, while others lose the erection before reaching sexual satisfaction or orgasm.

In younger men, it’s common to have other sexual conditions, like premature ejaculation. Therefore, it’s crucial they determine what is truly going on, to get the right treatment.

It’s also important to differentiate erectile dysfunction from having no interest in sexual activity. The latter can be a sign of low testosterone or severe depression.

A young man in bed waking up in the morning

If you have morning erections than ED is probably psychological.

An excellent way to check if erectile dysfunction is psychological is to monitor the different types of erections.

Apart from erections during sexual intimacy, men also have erections with masturbation and night-time or early morning erections. Often, men who still get erections when masturbating or early in the morning— but not with their partners—have psychological ED.

If you rarely get erections, regardless of the situation, there may be an underlying physiological condition and you should talk to your doctor.

ED can be quite stressful for young men and their partners. It impacts the relationship and can lead to uncomfortable silences or even blame when one or both partners hesitate to speak openly. Learning more about ED and removing the shame that often comes with it is a crucial first step to treating it.

How do you treat erectile dysfunction?

Younger men with ED have a lot of options for treatment— and a lot or opportunities to prevent it in the first place.

After figuring out if ED is psychological or physiological, young men can become empowered to treat erectile dysfunction.

Here is a list of steps you can take to treat erectile dysfunction, depending on your situation:

  1. Treat performance anxiety

    Performance anxiety is real and can lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy. It’s a common cause for psychological erectile dysfunction. To treat performance anxiety, men have to get at the root cause to break the cycle of rumination and worry.

    a chart that shows the steps of the sexual performance anxiety cycle

    Guided imagery is an effective method for reducing performance anxiety using visualization. You’ll be asked to close your eyes and imagine a positive sexual scenario. Repeating this exercise allows the mind to release unhelpful thoughts and unconscious stresses.

    One study found that 70% of men with psychological ED were able to overcome it using guided imagery.

    a picture of a treatment for stress induced erectile dysfunction
    Advertisement: Try the Mental Impotence Healer Program – a guided imagery program created specifically for psychological erectile dysfunction.

    Another effective treatment is sensate focus. The focus here is reducing anxiety and encouraging open communication with your partner about erectile dysfunction. Couples are given “homework,” where they use touch to focus on sensual experiences rather than worrying about achieving an erection.

    In some cases, sexual cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) with a sex therapist can help manage performance anxiety. It is an excellent option for dealing with erectile dysfunction, especially if your partner is willing to get involved.

  2. Get relationship help

    If relationship problems may be the underlying cause of ED, speaking with your partner is a good idea. Sometimes, simply opening up the line of communication is enough to relieve some of the worries and concerns associated with sex.

    In more complex situations, seeking the help of a sex or relationship therapist might be necessary. Therapy often includes both sexual CBT and sensate focus.

  3. Make lifestyle changes

    a chart that lists the lifestyle changes a man can take to improve erectile dysfunction

    Many men have only to look at some lifestyle habits to uncover the cause of their ED. In younger men, ED is more common in smokers, illicit drug users or sedentary individuals who spend a lot of time in front of the TV or online.

    Researchers found that spending five or more hours a day in front of a computer or TV screen increased the risk of ED three times compared to spending less than an hour a day.

    Maintaining a healthy diet and exercising regularly counter some of the underlying causes of erectile dysfunction.

  4. Check your prescription medications

    prescription medication bottle

    There are certain medicines— even seemingly innocent over-the-counter pills— that can cause or worsen erectile dysfunction. For example, commonly prescribed high blood pressure medicines may have a side effect of erectile dysfunction. Even Tagamet, which you can get at the grocery store, can cause ED.

    If you use any of these medicines, talk with your doctor about trying an alternative treatment.

  5. Take oral medication for erectile dysfunction

    erectile dysfunction pills

    Some young men may turn to medicine to treat their erectile dysfunction. Viagra® and Cialis® are common prescriptions for this purpose. These medicines are effective for most young men because they increase the blood flow to the penis, allowing men to be ready when the time is right.

    While these medicines are increasingly easy to obtain, they do have serious side effects. You should completely understand the side effects and contraindication before taking them.

    Alternative “herbal” and “natural” supplements have become increasingly easy to obtain as men take their questions about erectile dysfunction online. A lot of these treatments have no scientific evidence that they work, and worse are often unregulated with unknown ingredients that can be downright harmful.

In young men, both physiological and psychological issues can cause ED, and so they’ll need to combat erectile dysfunction from all angles. Studies show that combining proven treatments in these cases— such as sexual CBT and pills— can be a better treatment for erectile dysfunction in young men. In fact, combining treatments increase men’s sexual satisfaction compared to a single treatment, even if there is no underlying physiological cause.

The point is that there are a lot of ways for young men to treat erectile dysfunction. There is no reason to feel hopeless that your condition can’t be treated.

To learn even more about your options for treating ED, read this and get a more in-depth overview of the possibilities.

Summary

Erectile dysfunction in young men is not the unicorn some may think. No longer a problem of old age. Young men can learn about the signs and symptoms of erectile dysfunction so that they are empowered to deal with it head-on.

Erectile dysfunction can be anxiety-provoking and confusing to young men. Arming yourself with accurate information can help relieve the stress of the condition and get you on the road to recovery. Stay educated and take some of the steps we discussed to prevent and treat erectile dysfunction and get back to a healthy and enjoyable sex life.

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About Dr. Oreoluwa Ogunyemi

Urologist and Health and Wellness Coach

Dr. Ogunyemi is a medical doctor, trained urologist and a health and wellness coach. She received her medical degree from the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. As a urologist, she counsels and treat genitourinary disorders. As a Wellness Coach, she counsels individuals on best practices to reach their health goals.

She serves as a medical writer for the Between Us Clinic.