Although traditionally erectile dysfunction (ED) has been considered a condition that almost exclusively belonged to older men, today that image is rapidly changing. According to a recent study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, as many as a quarter of all men who seek help for erectile dysfunction are under the age of 40. In older men, risk factors for ED can be broken into two groups, psychological (anxiety, stress, body issues) and physiological (obesity, high blood pressure, etc.) Because erections involve blood vessels, it's no surprise that many of the most popular causes of ED in older men involve health conditions that can restrict blood flow like diabetes or atherosclerosis.
But to the surprise of many, younger men who suffer from ED tend to share few if any of these high risk characteristics. The majority of the quarter of young men who do suffer from ED even have a lower than average body mass, higher than average levels of testosterone, which makes them many of the least likely suspects from the standpoint of traditional medicine.
Although this information is a relatively recent development in the medical community and all the facts haven't been determined yet, the picture is nevertheless becoming clearer every day. Today it's believed that one of the leading causes of ED in younger men is illicit drug use that can cause blood vessels to restrict, which includes substances as common as cigarettes. According to one study in the Journal of Urology, smokers are almost twice as likely to develop ED as non-smokers. These findings have also been supported by research that found it took as few as 8 weeks for symptoms of ED to begin eroding from young men after they quit smoking.
For non-drug using young men, psychological reasons for erectile dysfunction are now believed to be the leading cause of the dysfunction. This includes basic emotional factors like tension, performance anxiety, or even something as simple as poor communication between the man and his partner. But it doesn't stop there – stress, rejection by peers, childhood abuse, fatigue, and depression have also been linked as risk factors.
Although traditional treatment for ED is aimed at improving the blood flow that is impeded by a physiological cause, medications are typically less successful at treating those who suffer from ED on the basis of psychological causes. Though it can be difficult to talk about ED, the best treatment for these cases may be counseling and communication with your partner. Nevertheless, it's important to remember that self-diagnosis is not usually a good idea, and if possible you should talk to a doctor about your ED first, as it may be a symptom of a more significant problem like diabetes.