Erectile dysfunction (ED) is defined as being unable to get an erection or keep an erection long enough to have a satisfying sexual experience with a partner. Although ED is often thought of as a problem that mainly affects older men (over the age of 40), it also affects a large number of younger men for a variety of different reasons. According to the Massachusetts Male Aging Study, experience erectile dysfunction, and up to 40 percent of 40-year-old males may have ED. This same study suggests that the number of men who experience ED will grow by more than half a million each year. Erectile dysfunction isn’t an issue that only concerns aging men—it’s an issue that could face any man of any age. The following factors can cause ED no matter how old you are.
A variety of , from those used to treat heart conditions to those used to treat mood disorders, can have erectile dysfunction as a side effect. The medications might change your body’s blood flow, or they might change the way neurotransmitters work in your brain. These brain-and-body changes caused by the drugs can affect your ability to get an erection or sustain an erection, thus leading to a negative impact on your sexual performance.
Stress comes in many forms, sometimes even from sources that we would usually think of as positive: a promotion at work, buying a new home, or having a baby. Of course, stress can also come from negative experiences, like being overworked, losing your job, financial worries and relationship problems. Although stress has many sources, one thing is certain about all stress: it can have an . Stress is often considered a psychological cause of ED, but the truth is that can impact the way sex hormones function, paving the path for erectile problems.
Anxiety is something a lot of people experience at some point in their lives, whether it be worrying about whether they will achieve long-term goals or worries of a more present-moment nature. One form of anxiety that afflicts many men who suffer from ED is performance anxiety. Men who experience ED as a result of performance anxiety may worry about their sexual prowess to the extent that they essentially create a self-fulfilling prophecy. Negative self-talk and intrusive thoughts that cause them to fret over their ability to perform during sex can serve to create such a sense of anxiety at the “moment of truth” that the ability to achieve an erection (or stay erect) is virtually impossible. We published an extensive article about performance anxiety on our website. You can check it out )
The central nervous system—including the brain—controls every aspect of our bodies, so it comes as no surprise that , such as Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, and stroke or other CNS injury, can all affect erectile ability. These neurological problems, which can afflict men of any age, can affect the sensations experienced during sexual activity, and may cause numbness or reduced sexual enjoyment that impacts the ability to achieve or maintain an erection. They also might affect blood flow to various parts of the body, which can inhibit normal erectile function and affect sexual performance.
Past and present substance abuse
Many men are aware that drugs and alcohol can affect their sexual performance in the here and now, but did you know that prior substance abuse can affect your ability to get or maintain an erection? One published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found that past substance abuse had a significant impact on sexual functioning—even when the person had been clean and sober for years. Past alcohol abuse in particular was found to have the biggest effect on erectile function, while opiate and stimulant drug abuse was associated with orgasmic problems. While these causes may not apply to the social drinker, it is unfortunate that even men who got help with their substance abuse problems may suffer for them in surprising ways many years down the road.
Erectile dysfunction can be treated, no matter what causes it
Even though ED could be caused by a variety of things, it is an issue that is easily treatable in many cases. Talking with a sex therapist or sexologist and developing a treatment program can be immensely helpful. If you are experiencing ED, you are not alone—and help is available if you need it.
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