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What causes erectile dysfunction (ED) in young men?

Madeleine M. Castellanos, MD
Psychiatry
While physical problems can certainly affect younger guys, psychological and situational factors are likely to play a role in erectile dysfunction (ED). Here are four common causes of erectile problems in healthy young men:
  • Performance anxiety: Perhaps the most common cause of erectile problems among younger guys is performance anxiety. Many cultures place pressure on men to be the "experts" when it comes to sex, which can make men feel like they have to be responsible for sex or know how to please their partner every time. This pressure can be stressful and make it more difficult to get or maintain an erection.
  • Alcohol: A couple of drinks can loosen your inhibitions and help you relax. But alcohol can also impair sexual functioning. Alcohol works on the nervous system by slowing down brain function, breathing, and pulse. Initially, the effect is often psychologically stimulating, since emotions and desires flow more freely. However, while alcohol may boost sexual desire by helping a person to relax, it can decrease performance, especially where erections are concerned. For this reason, it's best for guys to limit their alcohol intake to one to two drinks (or none at all) for optimal sexual function.
  •  Porn: The Internet has made porn more accessible than ever before. As a result, many men are using porn more often and masturbating more frequently -- and that means they may have trouble climaxing, ejaculating, or even getting an erection with real women.
  • Condoms: It may sound like an excuse to get out of wearing a condom, but many guys have problems maintaining an erection when putting one on. The interruption of sex play is often distracting, as is the stress of putting on a condom. Other times, deeper concerns, like guilt or performance anxiety, manage to seep into a guy's consciousness when there's a pause in sexual activity.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.