Erectile Dysfunction and Younger Men

Guides ● January 2019

In 30 Seconds

  • According to a study from the Journal of Sexual Medicine, one out of every four new erectile dysfunction (ED) patients are under 40.
  • Psychological causes are thought to be the main reasons behind ED in younger men. Having said that, physical causes should not be dismissed.
  • If you have an off night, try not to let this stick in your head. Anxiety can lead to more of the fight-or-flight hormones, such as adrenaline, which may kill your erection dead in the water.
  • Get checked out by your GP because many cases of ED are a mix of psychological and physical causes.

No problem getting an erection one day and then the next, uh oh? Us men are expected to be 24/7 erection machines. Truth is, having problems getting or maintaining an erection is common, whatever your age. The inability to get an erection can have severe emotional effects. And ones that, too often, we just don’t want to talk to anyone about.

First of all: You’re not alone. According to a study from the Journal of Sexual Medicine, one out of every four new erectile dysfunction (ED) patients are under 40.1 ED is not just a problem that affects older men.

Go and see your GP, as ED can also be a sign of other more serious underlying conditions like diabetes and hypertension.2 Plus, check out our guide to the causes of ED in younger men. Because once you know all the facts, it’ll be easier to get back to the yes yes yesss.

Mind Games

Psychological causes are thought to be the main reasons behind ED in younger men.3 Having said that, physical causes should not be dismissed. Thing is, getting an erection is a bit like trying to fall asleep. The harder we try, and the more we obsess over it – the less likely it is to happen. So all the advice points to: Relax.

In some cases, the psychological effects of ED may stem from childhood abuse or sexual trauma. So talk it out with your GP or a therapist. But the most common psychological causes of ED include, according to WebMD:

  • Anxiety: If you experience ED once, there’s a natural fear it will happen again. This can lead to performance anxiety. And then to more ED. Sucks, doesn’t it?
  • Depression: This is a common cause of ED. Depression can cause ED even when you’re totally comfortable in a sexual situation. The drugs used to treat depression may also cause ED.
  • Guilt: Feel guilty that you may not be satisfying your partner? This can lead to ED – and the best thing to do is talk it out. Chances are that he/she will rush to reassure you.
  • Stress: Could be money-related, about your job, caused by family issues or relationship problems.
  • Low Self-Esteem: This can happen because of prior ED or could be about things totally unrelated to sex. Talk it out with a therapist or your GP, as well as your partner.
  • Indifference: Not thinking about sex as much as you used to? This can be about age, a result of medications or because of problems in your relationship. Or it could be something else entirely. Best to see your GP.

“If left unaddressed, it can become a vicious cycle. The natural fear of embarrassment and failure become associated with sex. So we avoid sex. And relationships may break down,” explains Dr Earim Chaudry.

If you have an off night, try not to let this stick in your head. Anxiety can lead to more of the fight-or-flight hormones, such as adrenaline, which may kill your erection dead in the water.4

“If you think in evolutionary terms,” says Dr Chaudry. “It’d be hard to run away from a predator if you had an erection. So fight-or-flight chemicals are natural passion killers.”

Having said this, Dr Chaudry recommends getting checked at your GPs for physical causes of ED, whatever your age.

“In younger men ED tends to be more psychological, but you should get checks for things like hormone levels and diabetes – and try to improve your lifestyle,” he suggests.

The Porn Question

What’s happening to our erections? In the last two or three decades, ED rates have gone up, according to studies, especially among younger men.5

One idea that’s been floated is that porn, and porn addiction, may be to blame. In a study at the Max Planck Institute in Berlin, researchers found links between years of using porn and a decrease in grey matter in areas of the brain associated with reward sensitivity.6 The takeaway? Compulsive use of porn may stop men becoming easily aroused.

The medical world is divided on this. But porn-induced ED has been defined as when porn changes a man’s sexual appetite. So you no longer feel aroused in real-life situations.7

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