Did you know that approximately 30% of men experience erectile dysfunction?
No? Well, it’s true, and it doesn’t just affect older males, nope, it can affect younger ones too! Truth-be-told, there is a lot of hopelessly incorrect, really confusing, and simply wrong information about erectile dysfunction floating around. Basically, this condition falls into three distinct categories – lifestyle, psychological, and physical. Regardless of the cause, men with ED can experience a myriad of conflicting feelings (i.e. frustration, anxiety, shame, anger, embarrassment, and low self-esteem – to name a few.)
More so, it is common for men with this condition to believe that it reflects their own sexual abilities (or lack thereof). It is this belief that places them at-risk for psychological distress (i.e. anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem). If you’ve ever wondered how lifestyle and psychological factors contribute to ED, then you have come to the right place, because this article will teach you everything you need (and want) to know about ED, so you can reduce the psychological factors like stress, and relationship issues, and lifestyle factors (i.e. excessive drinking, illicit drug use, etc.) that are preventing you from having the sex life you deserve.
What is Erectile Dysfunction?
So, what exactly is ED? Well, erectile dysfunction (ED) is a typical male sexual condition that causes impotence or the inability to “get it up” and “keep it hard” long enough to have sex. Now, don’t fret if you have trouble getting an erection and keeping it through sex because that is totally normal from time-to-time. However, if you notice that you’re having a hard time keeping your erection long enough to ejaculate – most of the time, then it may be time for you to seek treatment.
The good news is that even if you have ED, the cause may be as simple as reducing the stress in your life or removing toxic people from it. You may not realize it, but “bad relationships” and/or “bad people” can really stress you out and beat up your self-esteem. Or, if that’s not the cause of your sexual snafu, well maybe it’s an unpleasant side-effect of the cold medicines you’ve been taking for the last couple of weeks. Whoa!
The point is, ED can be temporary and easily remedied, so don’t jump to conclusions just yet!
How Prevalent is ED and at What Ages?
Many people think that ED is an old’s men problem however, it’s not only older men who experience it. In fact, it appears that more and more younger men are developing ED. With that said, age definitely plays an important role in the development of this condition:
ED prevalence in older men
As it turns out, ED is a very common issue for older men. Approximately 50% of men over 60 will experience ED. In fact, a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that many men will experience ED as they age, and that sexual function sharply declines after the age of 50. A University of Wisconsin study also found a possible correlation between the percentage of men affected by mild-to-moderate ED and their ages.
ED prevalence in younger men:
Truth-be-told, most men think ED is an “old man’s condition” when the truth is younger men have also been experiencing it more and more. In fact, a recent study on ED and age, published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, suggests that this condition is actually really common amongst younger men – more than previously thought. Surprisingly, these researchers found that this condition affects approximately 26% of men under the age of 40, with half of these men experiencing severe ED.
Researchers, Feldman, Goldstein, Hatzichristou, et al. (1994), conducted the Massachusetts Male Aging Study, and found that approximately 40% of 40-year-old men suffer from ED. Lastly, in a 2013 study on ED and age, researchers found that approximately 25% of adult men, seeking treatment for ED, were under the age of 40. According to the researchers, there is a higher correlation (41%) between illicit drug use, alcoholism, and smoking, and ED in younger men, than there is for older men, 60 and over. Therefore, the results suggest that lifestyle choices may be linked to ED in younger men.
Lifestyle Risk Factors
It is important to understand that in many cases, ED can be improved or eliminated with lifestyle changes. In other words, adding positive lifestyle choices into your life, while removing ones that can negatively affect you, can make a world of difference in your sex life (health & performance).
A study was conducted, from 2000-2003 at an Italian hospital, to determine the relationship between weight loss and increased physical activity, and erectile dysfunction in obese men (Esposito, Giugliano, Di Palo, et al., 2004). Researchers found that lifestyle changes are linked to a better sexual function in approximately 30% of obese men with ED. The results suggest that ED is a significant contributor to a decline in quality of life in these men. In addition, during a follow-up study, some participants reported moderate-to-severe erectile dysfunction. As a result, the researchers suggest that obese men with ED can reduce symptoms through a variety of lifestyle factors, such as exercise and a healthy diet.
The following lifestyle risk factors can affect your ability to “get it up” and “keep it up”:
- “Junky” Diet – A “junky” diet doesn’t just kill your energy, it also increases your risk for diabetes, blocked arteries, high blood pressure, autoimmune diseases, infections, chronic conditions, and even heart disease – all precursors to ED. A healthy diet, on the other hand, can greatly improve blood flow to your penis, leading to a better performance. Score!
- Smoking – “Be legit and just quit” when it comes to smoking. In fact, according to a recent study, men who regularly smoke cigarettes have a greater risk of developing ED. On the other hand, those who quit smoking, will most likely experience a reduction in ED symptoms. So, put away those cigarettes, it will lower your risk of lung cancer and ED. Can’t get any better than that?
- Inactivity – Hello, Couch Potato! Little-to-no regular exercise can atrophy your muscles – even the ones in your penis. Not good. It can also cause you to become too lazy to even have sex, What?! Yep, oh and it can lead to clogged arteries, obesity, hypertension, and heart disease – you get my point. The good news, however, is that by adding 15-30 minutes of exercise, 5-6 times a week, you can improve your physical health (clear arteries and a strong heart) and your sexual health. And, to top it off, exercising regularly will help you better manage your stress – a contributing factor of ED.
- Excessive Drinking & Drug Usage – “Just say no!” Yep, you know where I’m going with this one – drinking excessively or taking illicit drugs can trigger or aggravate ED. So, if you want to wow your partner under the sheets, well, you should probably get rid of the adult spirits and forego on pot, heroin, crack, cocaine, etc.
Psychological Risk Factors
Did you know that psychological factors account for approximately 15% of all cases of ED? No?
Well, it does. Moreover, psychological distress can be a response to a physical ailment or medical condition. And, in some cases, psychological influences stem from prolonged stress, sexual trauma, and/or childhood physical, sexual, and/or emotional abuse.
Another study explored the role of lifestyle and psychological variables on ED (Langer, Sharma, Gupta, Langer, Kumari, Gupta, 2017).
The researchers found a positive correlation between psychological factors (i.e. prolonged and/or severe stress, low self-esteem, and/or performance anxiety issues) and ED in men, between the ages of 25-45, who were non-smokers (81%), excessive drinkers (55%) and/or who lived primarily sedentary lives (23%).
The following psychological risk factors can interfere with your ability to attain and maintain erections:
- Stress – Stress from work, finances, relationship/marital issues, health, etc. can “play with your mind” and lead to ED.
- Anxiety – Anxiety can have a cyclic effect on men. For instance, if a man suffers from an anxiety disorder, or experiences prolonged extreme anxiety, he is at-risk for developing ED. Conversely, if a man is already experiencing ED, he is at-risk for developing anxiety, in response to the condition. In other words, if a man experiences ED once, he may worry excessively that it will happen again, leading to “performance anxiety” or the fear of sexual inadequacy or deficiency.
- Guilt – Guilt is another psychological factor that can trigger ED. For instance, a man with ED may feel guilty that he’s unable to properly satisfy his partner, worsening the condition. On the other hand, if a man feels guilty about something he has done to his partner (i.e. cheating, drug abuse, lying, etc.); it can also place him at-risk for ED.
- Depression – Guess what? Depression is the most common psychological cause of ED. In fact, it can trigger ED in men, who have no sexual qualms in the bedroom. Alternatively, it can worsen ED in men, who already suffer from ED. Furthermore, anti-depressants, drugs commonly used to treat depression, can cause ED.
- Low Self-Esteem – Do you have low self-esteem? Well, if you have ED, you may also have low self-esteem. Why? Well, most likely, as the result of repeated episodes of ED and/or prior episodes of secondary sexual performance issues.
- Indifference – This may sound odd, but if you have had ED for a while, you may have become indifferent to sex altogether. This may be due to an age-related decrease in sexual desire, health conditions, medications, and/or relationship issues.
If you are interested in learning more about the psychological causes of erectile dysfunction and how it can affect you, check our blog post on the Between Us Clinic blog: “Psychological erectile dysfunction: Diagnosis, Causes and Treatments”.
False Risk Factors
It is important to understand that not all sexual problems (i.e. premature ejaculation) in men can be linked to ED. In addition, some risk factors disappear once the trigger has been removed, thus, the term “false risk factors” (i.e. medication-related ED)
- Blood Pressure Drugs
- Premature Ejaculation
- Delayed or Absent Ejaculation
- Lack of Sexual Desire
Erectile dysfunction can be distressing for you and your partner. In fact, it can cause (or be triggered by) intense relationship strain, depression, anxiety, self-esteem issues, emotional pain, and severe sexual dissatisfaction. Truthfully, in the past, ED was heavily associated with negative stigmas, but, thankfully, over time and with more astute medical knowledge, it has become clear that this condition can be symptomatic of lifestyle, psychological, or other issues (i.e. physical causes). The good news is that regardless of the cause, the condition can be treated, leading to a better sexual performance.
- Between Us. (2017). Psychological impotence: Diagnosis, causes, and treatments. Retrieved from https://www.betweenusclinic.com/mental-impotence/psychological-impotence-diagnosis-causes-and-treatments/
- Capogrosso, P., Colicchia, M., Ventimiglia, E., Castagna, G., Clementi, M.C., Suardi, N., Castiglione, F., Briganti, A., Cantiello, F., Damiano, R., Montorsi, F., & Salonia, A. (2013). One patient out of four with newly diagnosed erectile dysfunction is a young man—Worrisome picture from the everyday clinical practice. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 10, 1833-1841.
- Esposito, K., Giugliano, F., Di Palo, C., Giugliano, G., Marfella, R., D’Andrea, F., D’Armiento, M., Giugliano, D. (2004). Effect of lifestyle changes on erectile dysfunction in obese men: A randomized controlled trial. JAMA, 24, 2978–2984. Retrieved from doi:10.1001/jama.291.24.2978
- Feldman H.A., Goldstein, I., Hatzichristou, D.G., et al (1994). Impotence and its medical and psychosocial correlates: Results of the Massachusetts Male Aging Study. Journal of Urology, 151, 54–61. Retrieved from http://www.clevelandclinicmeded.com/medicalpubs/diseasemanagement/endocrinology/erectile-dysfunction/
- Healthline. (2017). Can lifestyle changes and natural treatments help erectile dysfunction? Retrieved from http://www.healthline.com/health/type-2-diabetes-lifestyle-factors-and-erectile-dysfunction#3
- Langer, R., Sharma, E., Gupta, R., Langer, B., Kumari, R., & Gupta, G. (2017). Role of lifestyle and psychological variables in erectile dysfunction: a cross-sectional study. International Journal of Research in Medical Sciences, 5(3), 799-805. Retrieved from http://www.msjonline.org/index.php/ijrms/article/view/2113
- Medline Plus. (2017). Erectile dysfunction. Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/erectiledysfunction.html
- WebMD. (2015). Erectile dysfunction: Psychological causes. Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/erectile-dysfunction/guide/ed-psychological-causes
- WebMD. (2003). Erectile dysfunction common with age. Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/erectile-dysfunction/news/20030804/erectile-dysfunction-common-with-age