Erectile dysfunction in your 20s

ED doesn't just affect people later in life


Is Erectile Dysfunction in Your 20s Normal?

To put it bluntly, no, erectile dysfunction in your 20s isn’t normal, but it is becoming more common. Yes, we know!  This isn't exactly the good news story you were hoping for when you Googled, “why won’t my penis get hard?” 

Let’s be honest, talking about this stuff can be a little… well… awkward. You worry your friends will find out and make fun of you, while the thought of speaking to your family about this makes you want to dig a hole and disappear into it. However, erectile dysfunction (ED) isn’t something you should ignore. 

In young men, ED is likely to be related to stress, depression, performance anxiety, or lifestyle choices, such as drinking and smoking too much.  Occasionally it can be an early indicator of a more serious underlying condition, so it’s important to undergo evaluation by an MD.  

Don’t worry, we’ll be separating fact from fiction, and breaking down the common, and sometimes uncomfortable questions about ED. First off, we need to back up a little and cover the basics. 

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What is erectile dysfunction?

Erectile dysfunction is actually quite a common condition, which is present when a man has ongoing problems getting and keeping an erection.

As many as 30 million Americans are afflicted on a continuing basis, and transient episodes affect nearly all adult males. Fortunately, highly effective treatments are available for men seeking help.  

It is important to realize that ED is not some freak condition you alone are suffering from. There are many guys out there just like you. ED is both common and treatable.  


What are the symptoms of erectile dysfunction?

Often conditions affecting the penis get lumped together, so it’s worth knowing what ED isn’t. It is not a poor sex drive or problems with ejaculation, these are separate issues. ED is purely related to erections. Below are some common symptoms of ED: 

  • Incomplete erections
  • Flaccid erections
  • Semen secretion followed by weak erections
  • No early morning erections
  • Hard erections in the morning with flaccid erections before sex
  • Urination problems

Basically, if you can’t achieve an erection, or maintain one long enough to have sex, then you have erectile dysfunction, and need to seek medical help.


Common causes 

It used to be thought that ED was caused by psychological issues, or was simply a part of the aging process.  Today, medical thinking has moved away from these beliefs, realizing that the condition has a range of causes. Some common causes for ED are:

  • Chronic diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes. (Men with diabetes are two to three times more likely to suffer from erectile dysfunction.)
  • Lifestyle choices: Smoking, drinking, and drug use can damage blood vessels, reducing blood flow to the penis.
  • Medication: some over-the-counter and prescription medications, can have unexpected side effects, or clash with other medications.
  • Psychological: depression, stress, low self-esteem, and performance anxiety can all get in the way of achieving an erection  


Erectile dysfunction in younger men

So this is the bit you’ve probably jumped ahead to, and that’s fine. We’re all busy! Here’s the main take away: erectile dysfunction in your 20s is likely caused by a psychological rather than a physical problem. You may simply be suffering from performance anxiety, and the tension you’re carrying because of this is affecting your ability to get or keep an erection. 

If this is happening to you, then talking about the problem with your partner is a good idea. Let them know how you’re feeling. This will likely release the tension and make you feel a lot calmer. Communication is key. Perhaps you just need to slow down, take a little more time. Your partner may appreciate the change in pace too. 

Erectile dysfunction in your 20s may also be linked to the following factors:

  • Depression
  • Stress
  • Fatigue
  • Fears of rejection
  • Feelings of inadequacy



Once you’ve seen a doctor, and been diagnosed with erectile dysfunction, there are a few treatment options available. 

The first is more holistic and consists of good-old, tedious lifestyle changes. The doctor will likely advise you to cut down or quit smoking or drinking, as well as lose weight and exercise more. 

Another option is drugs. Some common ones are:   

  • Sildenafil (ViagraTM)
  • Tadalafil  (CialisTM)
  • Vardenafil (LevitraTM)
  • Avanafil (StendraTM)

The most famous of these is, of course, Viagra, but the brand-name medication can be very pricey.  Luckily, there are much cheaper generics options on the market that are just as effective. Don’t be fooled into thinking that the "little blue pill" is the only medication available.

If your ED is caused by psychological problems, then therapy may help. Stress and anxiety could be having a subconscious effect on your sex life, making it more difficult for you to perform, and affecting your sexual well-being.  A therapist can walk you through the causes of your anxiety or stress when it comes to sex and in general.    


A happy ending

As you’ve seen, erectile dysfunction in your 20s doesn’t necessarily mean there’s something very with you. ED is a treatable condition that affects millions of Americans. It may be a little embarrassing visiting a doctor, but hey, they’ve definitely seen much worse! They’re there to help you, so let them. 

If you have any more awkward or embarrassing questions about sexual health, then visit our health center.



  1. Langdon, Kimberly. Medzino United States. Erectile Dysfunction. Accessed 20 August 2019: <>.

  2. Capogrosso, P, Colicchia, M. et al. University of Vita-Salute San Raffaele, Milan, Italy. One patient out of four with newly diagnosed erectile dysfunction is a young man. Accessed 20 August 2019: <>.

  3. WebMD. Erectile Dysfunction. Accessed 20 August 2019: <>.

  4. WebMD. Understanding Erectile Dysfunction--The Basics. Accessed 20 August 2019: <>.


Reviewed by Dr Roy Kedem, MD

Information last reviewed 12/06/21

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