Impotence problems are likely to affect most of men at least once over the course of their lives. Of course, as the common knowledge implies, this issue is more common in those older than 40, but that doesn’t mean that much younger men are safe from ED problems. However, it’s important to note that not every problem with gaining or maintaining an erection can be classified as erectile dysfunction.

For some, sex in a new relationship can be a bit stressful due to a kind of “performance anxiety” and nervousness stemming from the wish to prove oneself to be a good lover. For others, temporary problems induced by injury or drinking too much can arise, but without any long-term consequences. So, while for men older than 40, physical causes of ED are, statistically speaking, more likely, impotence in young men can be somewhat challenging to explain.

What’s on this page?

How common is erectile dysfunction in young men?

While impotence issues are definitely not as common in young males as opposed to those older than 40, as a rule of thumb, there is a correlation between ED prevalence and age – roughly 10% per decade of life (meaning that roughly 20% of men are affected in their early 20s, with that number approaching 30 as the age approaches 30 too). 1 However, this percentage doesn’t tell much about the underlying causes, so both emotional ED and impotence caused by physiological factors are included.

Why are young men affected by impotence?

As mentioned, as the age increases, so do the chances for ED caused by the usual physiological problems such as narrow or stiff blood vessels. However, for younger men, it is estimated that a huge percentage can be explained by so-called emotional or psychological ED, with stress and anxiety being the leading causes.

What is emotional/psychological ED?

Causes of emotional or psychological impotence can be related to the performance anxiety, which is especially common with men who are either having sex for the first time, or for the first time with a new partner, where they can be very anxious about their performance in bed. Also, unsafe sex and the risk of pregnancy can also create nervousness which leads to the same effect. Finally, for men who have experienced ED problems before, just the fear of experiencing the issue again can be enough to create enough pressure and stress and contribute to the problem.

Mental health is usually considered to be the main factor when discussing impotence in adolescents. Depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and multiple personality disorders are known to affect many different bodily processes through psycho-somatic feedback loops and erectile function is no different. These issues can both cause problems during sex and significantly reduce the libido.

Finally, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can be a big trigger of ED in adolescents, especially if it is the result of a traumatic event related to sex, like sexual assault for example. But not only can these mental health issues cause psychological impotence – the medicines that are usually issued for the treatment of those issues are known to significantly reduce the libido and make gaining an erection very difficult.

How to deal with emotional/psychological impotence?

Due to an overall prevalence of emotional ED in young men, most of the time, it’s safe to assume that the reason is psychological in nature and proceed from there. Of course, if you’ve recently had an injury, a surgery or started taking some new medicines, those reasons should be ruled out first. But, in absence of known physiological causes, emotional ones are the most likely culprit.

So, the first thing you should do is talk to someone – it can be a significant other, a general practitioner or psychologist, whoever you feel comfortable talking to. Hopefully, in this way you should be able to get to the bottom of the issue, or at least get a general idea about the possible causes that you can further discuss with a psychiatrist if needed.

What if psychological causes of impotence can’t be found?

If there are no psychological factors that can be found, it might be a good idea to talk to a psychologist, just to make sure – no matter how awkward that might be. If there’s no success even after that, then physiological cause might be the reason. If that is the case, it’s of vital importance to visit the doctor as soon as possible – not only because of the negative impact the condition has on one’s sex life, but also because in young men, stiffness or narrowness of blood vessels shouldn’t be present if they’re healthy. So, ED in adolescents can be looked at as a symptom of an underlying medical condition that should be treated.

Common physiological causes of ED in young men

The causes of impotence in young men are far from harmless. You might have diabetes, high cholesterol or atherosclerosis and all these can rapidly advance if left untreated from the young age. On the other hand, lifestyle choices can be the culprit. Smoking, excessive drinking or a very unhealthy diet can all cause impotence in otherwise healthy individuals. And if your bad habits have an impact on you at a young age, then it’s of vital importance to change them and lead a healthier life.

But, back to the impotence issue – if the root of the problem is physiological in nature, you should treat the underlying cause, of course, but you can also get your sex life back on track with potassium pills or impotence treatment such as Viagra. Once a medical professional has identified the cause of your issues, he will be able to recommend the best course of action depending on the nature of the condition, your exact age and lifestyle.


  1. Erectile Dysfunction – UW Health