Erectile dysfunction in your 20s

Written with
Amanda Barge

Erectile dysfunction (ED) is when you can’t get or keep an erection. It can happen during masturbation or when you’re having sex with someone else.

There’s a common misconception that ED only happens to older men. 

This is a particularly pesky myth, and if you’re struggling with erection problems at 20, you might think you’re ‘abnormal’ or ‘alone’.

Well, Mojo is here to tell you that’s absolutely not true. Having ED problems at 20 is tough, but there are millions of other men in their 20s going through it across the world.

With some help from our team of sexperts, we’ll be covering: 

Can a 20-year-old have erectile dysfunction?

The short answer here is yes. Having ED at 20 is possible – and it’s a lot more common than people think. 

How common is erectile dysfunction in your 20s?

Statistics show that erectile dysfunction impacts more men in their 20s than you realize, and ED in young men is on the rise:

We touch on why these numbers may have increased here.

So, if you’re young and have ED, let these stats comfort you that you’re definitely not alone.

Signs of erectile dysfunction in your 20s

Whether you’re 20 years old or 120 years old, if you’ve got erectile dysfunction, the symptoms stay pretty much the same. Some typical signs of ED include:

  • not being able to get an erection at all
  • erections going soft during sex
  • erections not being as hard as you’d like

Causes of erectile dysfunction in your 20s

Physical, psychological and lifestyle-related factors all have a part to play in making sure your boners stay sturdy. There are also certain risk factors that can make ED more likely.

The reasons for erectile dysfunction in your 20s tend to be rooted in psychological issues or lifestyle choices, rather than physical causes.

Physical risk factors can increase your chances of having ED, particularly for older men.

However, regardless of your age, it’s a good idea to visit your doctor to rule out any physical problems, just in case. 

For now, we’re focusing on what can cause ED in your 20s specifically.

Psychological causes of ED in your 20s

Stress central

Rapid change is what makes your 20s so exciting, but it’s also what makes this time of life so hard and stressful. 

In your 20s, you could be:

  • moving out of your family home or college
  • supporting yourself financially for the first time
  • finishing your education and sitting exams
  • hooking up with new people
  • making new friends
  • trying to start or build a career
  • getting into your first relationships, either romantically or sexually
  • literally just figuring out how this ‘adulting’ thing works

All of these changes can be stressful, and your body may de-prioritize sex until things feel calmer.

Plus, people in their 20s are more anxious than previous generations. This may be due to things like:

  • increased social media pressures
  • additional competition and stress around their education and career
  • younger generations being more aware of world issues like climate change, political unrest, and social injustice (such as racism, misogyny, and homophobia)

In a nutshell, more stress and anxiety = more erection issues. This is why ED could be on the rise for younger guys.

“Any kind of stressor can make a difference to your erections. I ask my clients: ‘What weights are hanging on your penis?’ If you are stressed about any life event, it will have an effect on desire or arousal.”

Amanda Barge, Psychosexual and Relationship Therapist

Building sexual experience

Globally, the average age to lose your virginity is 19. So, it’s safe to say that most people in their 20s are just making their first strides into the world of sex.

Your first time – or your first few times – can be pretty nerve-racking. And if things don’t go as planned, this can affect you (and your erections) in the future.

Plus, it’s easy to lack confidence if you feel like you don’t really know what you’re doing yet. 

If you’re feeling nervous or self conscious, this could stop you from getting or maintaining an erection.

“First sexual experiences can be very impactful, so if that hasn’t gone well, that can really stick with a man for years, until he finds a helpful relationship or finds a way to regain confidence.”

Amanda Barge, Psychosexual and Relationship Therapist

Porn predicaments 

If you’re in your 20s, it’s likely that you were watching porn online before you had the chance to experience sex.

Porn is much more accessible now than it was for older generations, who had a secret stash of porn magazines under their bed.

So, by the time you’ve turned 20, porn may have had an impact on your view of sex. And if you have an unhealthy relationship with porn, there’s a chance it could contribute to erection issues, by giving you false expectations of yourself and your partners.

We asked the 20 year olds in our community what the biggest stress on their erections was, and one guy told us:

“Porn and its effects (insecurities over your body). Also, the mental effects it can have on you, such as being desensitized to real life women.”

Anonymous user on Mojo's Community 

Lifestyle-related causes of ED in your 20s

The roaring 20s

Partying can be a big part of life in your 20s. We get it, blowing off steam feels totally necessary when you’re dealing with everything your 20s have to throw at you.

But smoking, drinking alcohol to excess, and taking recreational drugs like cocaine can all have a negative impact on your erections.

Digital dating

Meeting people on dating apps is now the norm for people in their 20s. And this can make hooking up pretty impersonal.

You might not have a chance to get comfortable with each other before having sex, which can increase sexual performance anxiety, and you may not be able to get or stay hard. 

If this sounds like you, don’t worry. It’s a totally normal response.

“I hooked up with this girl from Tinder, just because that was the normal thing to do, but my dick just didn’t want to listen to me. I couldn’t get hard.

I learned hook ups aren’t for everyone, and they aren’t for me. When I slowed it down and built a connection, that’s when it felt amazing.”

Lateef, Mojo user

Other causes of ED

These aren’t specific to being in your 20s, but can affect men of all ages.

Some other psychological causes of ED

  • sexual performance anxiety
  • issues in your relationship
  • infidelity, whether you’ve done the cheating or you’ve been cheated on 
  • depression
  • general anxiety
  • body image issues
  • insufficient sex education
  • associating sex with feelings of guilt or shame 
  • low self-esteem 
  • some masturbation styles, like death grip or prone masturbation

Read more about psychological causes of ED here.

Some other lifestyle choices that could cause ED (and lead to physical or psychological issues): 

  • not sleeping enough
  • excessive cycling (we know this one is a wild card, but it can cause damage to nerves and arteries)
  • Not eating well or exercising enough

Some physical causes of ED

  • high blood pressure
  • prescribed medicine side effects
  • high cholesterol levels
  • heart disease
  • narrowing of the penis blood vessels
  • hormone imbalances or issues
  • diabetes
  • pelvic floor issues (weak pelvic floor and tight pelvic floor can both cause problems)

If you want more information, we’ve got a whole deep dive on the causes of ED. And remember, the physical stuff usually applies to older men, so if you’re in your 20s, don’t panic. 

The good news is that treatment for psychological ED is Mojo’s area of expertise – so we’ve got you covered.

Erectile dysfunction in your 20s: treatment

Treatment for psychological ED in your 20s

  • Watch or listen to our sex therapy sessions and podcasts: Expert advice from professionals can help you understand what’s going on in your body and how to fix it. And hearing real life accounts of ED from other guys in their 20s can show you how you’ll overcome your own erection problems.
  • Open up (anonymously, if you prefer): As a 20-year-old, erectile dysfunction can feel isolating, but it doesn’t have to be. Our community forum is like Reddit, but it’s dedicated to having better sex. 
  • Mojo Connect: Our live video calls give you a chance to talk to other guys who have had erection issues. You can share your struggles and successes, so you know you’re not on your own out there. And don’t worry, you can keep your webcam off for the whole thing if you want to. 

Lifestyle changes to help with ED in your 20s

  • cutting down on cigarettes, recreational drugs, and alcohol (sorry to ruin the fun)
  • getting enough sleep
  • avoiding steroids
  • eating a balanced diet. There are even specific foods that could boost your boners
  • staying fit and active (it’s true: getting those steps in is key)
  • looking after your mental health
  • checking your BMI

Treatment for physical ED in your 20s

If you have a health condition that’s causing ED, your doctor will let you know what to do. 

They might advise:

  • exercises
  • physiotherapy
  • good lifestyle choices
  • surgery 

And if you want a short-term solution or one-off erection, these tools could work for you:

  • medication, like ED pills
  • cockrings
  • penis injections

If you’re in your 20s, it’s unlikely that your erection problems are down to physical issues. So, if you’re feeling uneasy about some of these treatments, try not to worry – you can probably tackle your erection problems without taking pills or injecting anything into your dick. Phew.

Mojo has helped thousands of young men overcome ED. You can get practical help with reclaiming your erections – and you can do it all from the safety of your bedroom, anonymously, with incognito mode activated.

Mojo aims to provide useful wellbeing resources to its users; however, you should not solely rely on opinions or advice available on the Website or given by the Community. Always seek advice from a qualified medical doctor or other healthcare professional before acting.

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