Traditionally, erectile dysfunction has been associated with aging. As a rough rule of thumb, 40% of men in their 40s experience ED, 50% of men in their 50s, 60% of men in their 60s, and so on. But today, the incidence of erectile dysfunction among younger men seems to be rising. Doctors see many patients in their 20s and 30s complaining of erectile dysfunction.
We don’t actually know if ED is increasing among younger men, or if they are just more comfortable reporting the problem to their doctors. Whichever is the case, young men – just like their older counterparts – are looking for help.
There are many things that can cause erectile dysfunction, including heart disease and other cardiovascular problems, diabetes, neurological and nerve disorders, obesity, benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), prostate cancer, vitamin or hormonal deficiencies, (including low testosterone), and psychological problems such as anxiety, stress, PTSD, and depression. Some of these conditions are more prevalent among older men, and less likely to be the cause of ED among young men.
Nevertheless, since erectile dysfunction can be a sign of a serious underlying health problem, anyone experiencing ED should see their doctor for a thorough exam. Many young men don’t see their doctor regularly, so erectile dysfunction may be the first sign of undetected problems.
But since many physical causes of ED are less likely among young men, psychological causes are proportionally more likely. (See our article, “Is Your ED Physical or Psychological?“)
Psychological issues can sometimes be more difficult to resolve than physical issues. If problems persist, the man may need to seek help from a sex coach or therapist specializing in sexual dysfunction. However, many doctors have found that a simpler solution often works for young men: prescribing a PDE5 inhibitor drug such as Viagra, Cialis, or the generic equivalents. Although these drugs are intended to overcome physical causes of erectile dysfunction, they can give men an extra “performance boost” and also increase their confidence. This is often enough to overcome psychological problems such as stress or performance anxiety. Once the man has regained his confidence, he can usually discontinue use of the drugs.
While ED medications can’t always overcome psychological ED, it’s an easy and inexpensive treatment, so it’s usually a good place to start.
It can be particularly difficult for young men to face erectile dysfunction; older men may be more used to the idea that things will sometimes “go wrong” with their bodies and they will need medical care. However, the same diagnostic steps and treatment options that have been sued for decades with older men work just as well for young men!
The important thing is seeking help as early as possible, to rule out serious problems and to focus on treatment.