Erectile Dysfunction in Young Men

Most men don’t start to experience ED until they pass the age of 40, so why do younger men even need to be concerned about it? Well, according to a study by Capogrosso et al. (2013), more men diagnosed with ED—specifically one in four ED patients—are young men under the age of 40.

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How Common is ED in Young Men?

Most men don’t start to experience ED until they pass the age of 40, so why do younger men even need to be concerned about it? Well, according to a study by Capogrosso et al. (2013), more men diagnosed with ED—specifically one in four ED patients—are young men under the age of 40.

More often in older men, ED is caused by existing underlying health conditions like diabetes, hypertension or heart disease. The risk of ED also increases as men age, so what are the causes of ED in young men? How could an otherwise perfectly healthy young man experience ED?  

The reality is that it is not uncommon for younger men to have ED, and it is not something to be ashamed of. In young men, ED is mainly attributed with psychological rather than physiological causes. Psychological causes of ED include issues such as: mental health disorders, anxiety, stress, relationship issues that may be causing emotional distress, or even pornography addiction. We’ll take a deeper dive into the psychological causes of ED below.

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Psychological Causes of ED

Mental health is a big contributor to your overall wellbeing, and that includes your sexual health. Mental health disorders can affect your mood, the way you think and behave. Some examples of mental health disorders are depression and anxiety. These disorders can impair the brain’s ability to send signals responsible for erection.

Depression

Depression is an increasingly common mental illness experienced by young people today. Depression causes feelings of sadness and/or a decreased interest in activities you used to enjoy. It can impact all aspects of your life, weighing on your body and mind. According to the American Psychiatric Association, the symptoms of depression can differ from mild to severe, some examples include:

  • Feelings of sadness or hopelessness
  • Loss of interest in normal activities
  • Irritability, frustration or angry outbursts
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Difficulty concentrating, making decisions or thinking
  • Fatigue or lack of energy
  • Appetite changes

The loss of interest in normal activities that comes with depression can cause men to lose interest in sex too. Based on the Massachusetts Male Aging Study, researchers concluded that depressive symptoms and ED are related, independently of age and demographics as well.


Anxiety

Performance anxiety happens when you feel nervous in your ability to satisfy your partner. If those nerves are allowed to fester, it may become serious enough to cause sexual dysfunction. Sometimes performance anxiety is caused by your own negativity or self-talk, from worrying that you cannot achieve an erection to prematurely ejaculating.

Furthermore, anxiety disorders can also affect how well the brain is able to send the signals necessary to trigger erection. According to a study by Rajkumar and Kumanran (2015), men that had pre-existing anxiety conditions had a higher chance of experiencing performance anxiety.

If you think about it, it makes sense if you find yourself worrying more about doing the act than being in the moment enjoying it, that your experience and ability to perform will be altered as a result.

In addition to depression and anxiety, stress can also impact your mental and physical health and affect your ability to perform in the bedroom.


Stress

Stress can arise for a number of reasons whether it’s at home or in the workplace, and can also impair sexual function. Similar to anxiety, stress can also affect your brain’s ability to send signals to the penis to allow increased blood flow. Stress can also cause you to feel more anxious and that leads to even more stress, turning this into a vicious cycle, and the combination of the two can result in a cycle of ongoing ED.


Relationship Issues

If you and your partner are having problems in the relationship, it is very possible that your sex life may be affected as a result. It takes time, trust and dedication to build a healthy relationship after all. On the other hand, ED may be the cause of relationship issues, and that can contribute to the cycle of ED that permeates throughout your life.

In this case, the first step to resolving these issues would be to communicate with your partner, and if that is too difficult, you may want to consider couples counselling as a safe space for honest communication.

Pornography Addiction

Pornography addiction is a serious potential cause of ED. Watching too much porn can lead to unrealistic expectations about sexual partners and sex. This cause of ED has risen in concern so much so that researchers have studied it and termed the condition pornography-induced erectile dysfunction (PIED).

Physiologically, if you watch and masturbate to porn extremely regularly, you may experience “hyperstimulation”. Hyperstimulation refers to the instance when men get greater pleasure from masturbation than with sex, caused by frequent masturbation (Jenkins & Mulhall, 2015).  

Treatment for Psychological ED

While ED medication like Sildenafil Citrate or Tadalafil works to address the physiological causes of ED, they will not be able to treat your anxiety or stress. Some methods to help psychological issues, including psychological causes of ED, include cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) which is facilitated by a therapist. If not, some relaxation methods that you can try at home include breathing exercises, meditation and guided imagery, which may help to relieve some symptoms of anxiety, stress and depression.

However, if you are struggling with ED and are unsure of what is causing it, it is an important part of recovery to speak to someone about your experience, whether it is with your partner or a healthcare professional. Remember that ED is a treatable condition, and just because you experience it when you are young, does not mean it is a lifelong sentence.

The first step to understanding and diagnosing your ED is to consult with a doctor. They will be best equipped with the knowledge to help you ascertain the root cause of your ED, if it is physiological or indeed psychological. This way, they will also be able to advise you on the right treatment for you.

References

Capogrosso, P., Colicchia, M., Ventimiglia, E., Castagna, G., Clementi, M. C., Suardi, N., Castiglione, F., Briganti, A., Cantiello, F., Damiano, R., Montorsi, F., & Salonia, A. (2013). One patient out of four with newly diagnosed erectile dysfunction is a young man—worrisome picture from the everyday clinical practice. The Journal of Sexual Medicine, 10(7), 1833-1841. (Link)

Jenkins, L. C., & Mulhall, J. P. (2015). Delayed orgasm and anorgasmia. Fertility and Sterility, 104(5), 1082-1088. (Link)

Rajkumar, R. P., & Kumaran, A. K. (2015). Depression and anxiety in men with sexual dysfunction: a retrospective study. Comprehensive psychiatry, 60, 114–118. (Link)

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Published On
June 8, 2021

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