When one hears the phrase, "erectile dysfunction," one likely conjures the image of an older man. However, the condition likely affects more young men than one might think. One study from 2013 found that about 26% of adult males under the age of 40 fit criteria for the diagnosis of the condition, and half of those had severe manifestations thereof. In order to understand erectile dysfunction and promote optimal penis health, it’s important for young men to be aware of different ways in which the condition can manifest, as well as some additional considerations for living with the condition and maintaining healthy relationships with sexual partners.

Symptoms of Erectile Dysfunction

There are a few common symptoms of this condition, all involving erection strength or duration:

- Weak erections that interfere with sex

- Erections that last for too short a time for sex

- Inability to achieve erection

In some men, sex may still be possible with mild symptoms of erectile dysfunction, but the lack of a strong erection may interfere with enjoyment for one or both partners.

Don’t be Ashamed

Shame, guilt and embarrassment are emotions that interfere with one’s overall wellbeing, along with one’s sexual health. These negative feelings can make erectile dysfunction symptoms worse or prolong them; they can even cause the symptoms if a man is self-conscious about his penis or performance ability. Understand that there is a physical and/or psychological cause of erectile dysfunction, and the condition can be treated.

Don’t be Complacent, Either

Some young men may think that sexual difficulties involving their erectile health are no big deal, are more common than they really are or that the sex they are able to have is "good enough." But even if a man doesn’t feel sexually unsatisfied because of his situation, there are a couple reasons to pay attention to, and seek out help for, erectile dysfunction symptoms.

One reason is that the condition could itself be a symptom of an underlying problem that merits addressing. Though less common in younger men, cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes could be behind erectile dysfunction, as they interfere with proper circulation.

Psychological causes ranging from depression and anxiety to feelings of discomfort with one’s partner can also cause the condition. Whether physical or mental, it’s important to seek out the source.

Second, just because a man is satisfied with his sex life doesn’t mean his partner is. If sex is over with too quickly for a partner or the lack of a strong erection inhibits his or her enjoyment, a man should take this seriously, since sex is an important part of a relationship. While it’s crucial for a partner not to shame or guilt a man with erectile dysfunction, it’s just as important for the man to pay attention to his partner’s needs and try not to get too defensive. Open communication and honesty are important here.

Find the Source

A man may not be able to track down the cause of his performance issues on his own, but here are a few hints that may narrow down the cause:

- If erectile problems only occur with a partner (e.g. if erections are strong during masturbation or if a man still gets morning wood), then this may indicate that the problem is psychological (self-consciousness, intimacy fears, problems with one’s relationship, etc.).

- Another possibility, if a man can only get hard during masturbation, is that he has trained his penis to only respond to this form of stimulus. Taking a hiatus from cranking, and reintroducing the practice with gentler visual aids (nothing too hardcore) if such are used can help restore sensitivity to other forms of contact.

- If the problem has been persistent throughout a man’s life and with many different partners, it may be caused by an underlying physical condition.

There is no sure-fire formula for identifying the cause of performance problems, and that’s why medical diagnosis is important. But men can take a few measures on their own to cope with the condition:

- Communicate with partners.

- Quit smoking.

- Don’t drink excessively.

- Try a penis health crème (health professionals recommend Man1 Man Oil) with l-arginine. It won’t cure erectile dysfunction, but this ingredient does promote the opening of blood vessels for healthy circulation, which is needed for strong erections. Such a product could be a good complement to other treatment efforts.