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Erectile dysfunction is affecting young men more and more

Ally Hirschlag is a producer/actor/writer who lives in Brooklyn, NY and buys way too many toys for her cats. She contributes to several publications, including Bustle, and The Nerve, and enjoys writing about all things woman. In her spar...

What should you do if your boyfriend has erectile dysfunction?

Most people think erectile dysfunction is predominantly something that affects older men. However, in the past few years, more young guys are coming forward with ED than ever before.

According to a 2013 study published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine, 1 in 4 patients with newly developed ED is under the age of 40. Almost half of those men suffer from severe ED, which just means the ED symptoms are more prevalent. It was also observed that more of the younger men suffering from ED tend to smoke or use drugs — two factors that can elevate risk.

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ED has many causes, one of the most common being a simple affect of aging. According to Live Science, poor vascular health can also play a major role, which is why doctors often check for blocked arteries after psychological causes are ruled out.

However, the predominant causes of ED in young men seem to be stress and anxiety. And once stress triggers ED, a lot of men become victim to a vicious cycle of it, because they psych themselves out when gearing up for sex. “A lot of men may have an off night, and then that sticks in their head and hurts their performance for a few weeks or months,” explained Tobias Köhler, M.D., chief of the Division of Male Infertility at Southern Illinois University, to Men's Health. According to Köhler, anxiety stimulates the production of adrenaline, which is a known erection killer. However, more stress is not the only reason more young men are experiencing ED.

Other causes

Poor diet plays a big role as well. We eat more junk and chemically altered foods today than 20 years ago, and that can seriously impact blood flow, which affects everything vascular, including penile function. There's also estrogen in processed food, which directly counteracts a man's testosterone levels, aka the hormone that makes the penis work.

While stress was already mentioned, emotional and relationship problems can easily result in ED. Whether it's suspecting your wife's cheating on you or just the pressure to perform if, say, you're trying to conceive, anything that puts onus on sex may cause the sails to go limp, so to speak.

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Prescription medications don't help testosterone levels either, especially opioids and strong painkillers. And according to a recent study conducted at George Washington University, there has been a dramatic increase in opioid prescriptions in the last decade.

What can you do?

The first thing you should do if your boyfriend starts experiencing erectile dysfunction is talk about it in as gentle a way as possible. Since the more common reasons for ED in young men are psychologically based, start by seeing if it's a relationship issue you can work out together. If it's not, then suggest he talk to someone unbiased, like a therapist.

If it seems to be stress- or anxiety-related, you might suggest your guy take 10 minutes a day to meditate or do yoga. Exercising regularly is also a great way to clear one's mind, and it also helps improve cardiovascular function.

If after all that the problem persists, it may require a more intense lifestyle change and/or medication. Your guy should consult his general practitioner to rule out any more serious underlying health conditions and to find out what medications might help.

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