How Younger Men Are Impacted by Depression and Erectile Dysfunction
Mental health issues often cause problems with ED. But you don’t have to suffer in silence.
When you hear the term erectile dysfunction (ED), you might automatically conjure up images of elderly men, but you’d be mistaken. Erectile dysfunction is a chronic condition that occurs when a man can’t get or keep an erection firm enough for sexual intercourse. It is very common. One in 10 men will experience it in his lifetime, and worldwide, the prevalence of ED is expected to increase to 322 million men by 2025.
Typically, erectile dysfunction starts in middle age or later and has many potential causes, both physical and psychological. Less discussed is that younger men can be impacted by the condition. Although less common, research shows that ED is increasing in younger men, some as young as their early 20s.
Up until quite recently, popular belief was that only 5 to 10 percent of men younger than 40 experienced erectile dysfunction. However, a more recent study from 2016 revealed that ED was prevalent in 26 percent of men younger than 40.
Alongside the revelation that so many young men are experiencing ED is the concern for how many of them may be suffering in silence. Unfortunately, it seems most young men diagnosed with erectile dysfunction fail to seek proper treatment of the condition, according to studies.
Of course, one reason young men are avoiding treatment might be the cost. Many of the prescribed drugs do not have a generic counterpart available, making the original brand names expensive, and insurance companies do not typically cover the cost of ED drugs.
A larger problem may be more of a social issue. Men may feel embarrassed picking up the prescribed drugs from the pharmacy and also have difficulty discussing the issue with partners. The old adage, "The first step to solving a problem is admitting you have one," may apply here.
Psychological causes & depression
Research also indicates that among younger men, even though ED is a physical problem, it is more likely to include a psychological element.
Studies on this subject are difficult to conduct, partly because it’s challenging to find a suitable sample of young men who will not only admit their ED but also sign up for tests that might compound their problem.
However, because the brain plays such a pivotal role in the events that cause an erection, that’s where researchers are beginning to base a lot of their theories and, consequently, the solutions they’re suggesting, too. Based on studies, medical professionals estimate 50 to 60 percent of ED cases have psychological issues that need to be overcome before a cure is possible.
Researchers are starting to closely examine the link between erectile dysfunction in younger men and symptoms of depression. In a 2010 internet-based survey of more than 800 North American medical students with a mean age of 25.7 years, 13 percent of participants reported they had ED. The study found a significant association between men who experienced ED and those that reported depression.
Alongside depression, even mild cases of pornography addiction can lead to performance anxieties and concerns about partner expectations, which may manifest as erectile dysfunction.
Giddy Psychologist Dr. Susan Ansorge shares some guidance about depression in the ED Guide video series. Click here to watch the video.
Treatment & what not to do
Regardless of the reasons why young men may avoid treatment for erectile dysfunction, the fact remains that sexual wellness is vital to quality of life, and being sexually active keeps your brain happy and your body healthy.
Most people associate ED with treatment options such as sildenafil, and other PDE5 inhibitors such as tadalafil and vardenafil.
However, these types of prescriptions may not be the best choice for cases where the cause includes psychological issues. In any diagnosis, it’s always best to treat the underlying condition first. In other words, if a doctor thinks a patient’s ED is being caused by a mental health issue, such as depression or anxiety, it’s best to get to the bottom of the cause for a more effective and long-lasting solution rather than relying on a little blue pill.
Though SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) or antidepressants are often prescribed for such mental health problems, these medications can also further complicate ED and may make it even more difficult for a man to get and keep an erection.
Additionally, professionals generally warn men against heavy alcohol and recreational drug use, especially when they are suffering from erectile dysfunction.
The best course of action is to discuss all options, including non-pharmaceutical ones, with your healthcare provider to determine the ideal ED treatment for your circumstances. Some wearable medical devices like Eddie by Giddy® are worn around the base of the penis to constrict the veins, helping with blood flow, to maintain a healthier erection. Using a wearable treatment can help avoid the side effects and additional strain on your body associated with ED drugs.
Don’t hold back: The more open you are with your doctor—and your partner, too—the more accurate the diagnosis and the better the treatment plan.