Erectile dysfunction in teenagers

Written with
Amanda Barge

Erectile dysfunction (ED) is when you can’t get or maintain an erection. It can happen when you’re masturbating (sometimes we call this solo sex), or when you’re having sex with someone else. 

People often believe that ED only happens to older guys. This is an annoying rumor, because it means if you’re a teenager with erection issues, you might feel like you’re the only young guy in the world who’s going through it. 

You should know off the bat, this isn’t true. 

At Mojo, we think teens deserve to know what’s going on with their sexual wellbeing. Especially because dealing with sexual issues early on can help set you up for a happier, healthier sex life as an adult.

So, with our team of psychosexual and relationship therapists, we’ll be covering:

Can teens have ED?

Yes, you can have erectile dysfunction in your teenage years. Even if you’re not sexually active yet, you might have spotted erection issues during masturbation.

Here’s 3 key things to remember:

  1. ED can occur at any age
  2. It’s not as unusual as you might think
  3. If you have erection issues as a teen, it doesn’t mean your boners have to be broken forever

It’s also important to note that having erection issues in your teenage years doesn't definitely mean you have ED. Random or unreliable erections can be a completely normal sign of puberty (or delayed puberty).

How common is ED in teenagers?

Most people think erectile dysfunction only impacts guys over 40, but this just isn’t true – over a quarter (26%) of men under 40 have ED.

Another study found that more than a third (35.6%) of men aged 18 to 25 have ED. 

There haven’t been many studies done on erectile dysfunction in teenagers specifically, but we know that over 100,000 guys a year are Googling information about having erectile dysfunction as a teenager. That’s a lot of teenage boys trying to figure out what’s up with not getting it up.

When you put all this evidence together, it doesn't take an erection detective to figure out that ED in teenagers is a lot more common than we first thought. 

Teenage erectile dysfunction symptoms

The symptoms of ED tend to be the same at any age. Some signs of ED include:

  • not being able to get an erection
  • losing your erections when you don’t want to
  • erections not being as hard as you’d like

Teenage erectile dysfunction causes

When it comes to teenage erectile dysfunction, it’s probably psychological factors that are causing your erection issues.

Physical erectile dysfunction is more likely to impact older men than teenagers. This just means that as we grow older, we’re more likely to have underlying health issues that could throw off our erections. 

With that said, it’s best to go and see your doctor about your erection issues anyway, just to rule out any physical problems.

If you’re nervous about it, you could ask someone you trust to come with you. And if the thought of that makes you want to crawl into a hole of embarrassment, you could check out the possibility of doing an online consultation or Zoom appointment instead. 

Some psychological causes of ED in teens

Teenage turmoil

It’s no secret: being a teenager is a rollercoaster. As a teen, your body and your brain will change dramatically. So will your social life, your romantic life, and just about everything else. Unsurprisingly, this change can all lead to stress

As a teenager, you might be stressed about:

  • dealing with puberty (hair growth, acne, a growth spurt, wet dreams, general awkwardness – it’s all happening)
  • trying to keep on top of school or college work 
  • sitting important exams
  • comparing yourself to people on social media
  • feeling like you’re not experienced romantically or sexually
  • meeting new people and making new friends
  • feeling romantic and sexual feelings for the first time
  • getting into your first relationships
  • starting a new job
  • arguing with parents and siblings, and dealing with other family stresses
  • coping with mood swings, new-found horniness, and other hormonal surprises thrown your way 
  • feeling peer pressured to do things like drink alcohol or have sex
  • worrying about body image, such as body shape or penis size
  • figuring out your sexuality and learning about your sexual preferences
  • worrying more about world issues like climate change and social injustice than older generations

Your biology teacher may have skipped over the chapter on erections in class. But this is a pretty important lesson:

“When you’re stressed, the body can go into fight or flight mode. When this happens, the brain preps the body for defense, and directs blood to the muscles (and away from the penis). This means that stress can stop you from getting an erection.”

Dr Matthew Chan, Medical Doctor

Is porn problematic?

Lots of teenage boys will have watched porn before they’ve had sex. 

We’re not saying porn is a bad thing. But if you mix up porn and real life sex, it could lead to problems with your erections. You can read more about porn and ED here. 

Being new to the world of sex

The average age to lose your virginity is 19. So, if you’re a teen and you think you’re inexperienced, trust us, your friends are too (they just don’t like to tell you that).  

  • Losing your virginity

If you’ve never had sex before, it’s extremely normal to be nervous for your first time.

You might put pressure on yourself about how you’ll ‘perform’ – if you’ll be able to get and stay hard, if the other person will enjoy themselves, if you’ll be able to last – the list goes on.

This will result in some teenagers struggling to get an erection during their first time, or even avoiding sex altogether to avoid the worry.

This is known as sexual performance anxiety (SPA). Other teenagers in our community have opened up about having SPA, so you’re definitely not alone.

  • Building sexual experience

Losing your virginity probably won’t turn you into a sexual wizard overnight. Even after your first time, you can still feel like you don’t know what you’re doing, and sexual performance anxiety can stick around.

You might also find that you can get great erections by yourself, but when you’re with someone else you get more anxious and go soft.

Some guys who can’t get it up one time may carry that experience with them for years. Mojo’s sexperts are here to help you make sure that doesn’t happen.

Some lifestyle-based causes of ED in teens

Teenage kicks

We know some teenagers like to party.

Teenage guys may even feel like they need to be under the influence to build up the confidence to have sex – they don’t call it liquid courage for nothing.

But drinking alcohol, taking drugs like cocaine, and smoking cigarettes can all cause erection issues.

We don’t want to sound like your mom here, but making unhealthy lifestyle choices really can have a negative impact on your mind, body, and therefore erections.

“If you have an experience of not being able to get an erection when you’re drunk or on drugs, that could then sow the seed of doubt, making it harder to get erections when you’re sober.

It’s not that you have to become a saint when it comes to lifestyle choices in your teens, you just need to be mindful, to make sure you're looking after your erections.”

Amanda Barge, Psychosexual and Relationship Therapist

Physical factors that could impact erections in your teens

To be clear, what we’re talking about here isn’t actually erectile dysfunction. These are just possible physical reasons for why you might be having trouble with your erections at a young age. It’s not dysfunction, it’s puberty, and puberty can be tough.

Plain old puberty 

While you’re going through puberty, it’s totally normal for erections to be spontaneous, infrequent, or unreliable. This is a result of the changes in hormones you experience when you hit puberty. It might be annoying, but it’s just part of growing up. 

Delayed puberty

For males, puberty normally starts between the ages of 9 and 14, but some boys won’t hit puberty by 14.

Delayed puberty could be down to: 

  • familial factors – this just means that if delayed puberty runs in your family, you could be more likely to go through it
  • problems with hormone production
  • chronic illness
  • malnutrition (including eating disorders)

If puberty is delayed, it’s likely that your erections will be more infrequent or unreliable than other guys your age, because your body just hasn’t settled into that stage of development yet.

Other underlying health conditions 

Remember that if you’re a teen, it’s unlikely that your erection issues are physical, but it’s a good idea to visit your doctor anyway, just in case. They’ll check for any underlying health conditions and advise you on what to do next.

And we’ve got a full deep-dive into all the causes of ED for guys of all ages if you want to know more. 

Teenage erectile dysfunction treatment

Psychological treatment for ED in teenagers

First things first – you’re in an amazing position right now. As a teenager, your brain is still really flexible. Our experts call this flexibility ‘neuroplasticity’.

It means that your brain can quickly learn new habits or adopt new perspectives. If you work on healthy routines and thoughts now, your brain is going to be well set up for adulthood (and a successful future sex life). 

“When it comes to erectile dysfunction, teens can improve their situations really quickly. Part of psychosexual therapy is helping you have positive experiences around sex.

If teens learn helpful and healthy ways to enjoy their erections, they will build confidence that will hopefully last them a lifetime.”

Amanda Barge, Psychosexual and Relationship Therapist

One study showed that boys aged 14 to 19 suffered with ED for an average of 2 years before seeking help. You don’t have to wait – you can start learning the skills you need now, to work towards a lifetime of great erections and amazing sex.

Techniques you can use by yourself

  • Taking care of your mental health (and your erections)

We don’t need to tell Gen Z how important mental health is in every area of life. By listening to podcasts and watching video therapy sessions with our sex experts, you can understand what’s going on in your mind and body, which will help you to get consistently strong erections. 

You can learn how to conquer ED, even if you’re not ready to talk to anyone about it yet. Headphones in, world out. 

  • Erection training

Picture this: Headspace but for your erections.

Mojo’s simple, practical meditations and exercises will help you if you need to rebalance your relationship with porn or reduce any sexual performance anxiety. You’ll learn how to masturbate in a way that will help your sex life, not hinder it.  

  • Patience is a virtue, guys

Sorry, we know this isn’t the quick fix you’re after. But if you’re young, there’s a good chance your erections will be a bit all over the place – popping up when you don’t want them and going down when you least expect it. 

Don’t be hard on yourself, don’t rush yourself, and remember that your body needs time to develop and adjust to new sexual instincts.

Community support

  • Vent, ask questions, and share your feelings (anonymously)

Our anonymous community forum is an amazing place to hear from other teens about their ED experiences (and how they overcame them). Just knowing there are real people out there who improved their erections at a young age could be enough encouragement to help you get yours back on track.  

You can sit in your bed on your phone, and switch TikTok scrolling for Mojo scrolling. Productive mode on.

  • Mojo Connect

You’ll hear from real guys in our live video calls. They will share their tips and tricks, to help you tackle your own erection issues. And no pressure, you can keep your webcam off the whole time.  

  • Open up irl

We get it – talking to someone about your penis problems in real life sounds like a terrible idea. But talking to a parent, older brother, or a school counselor could help you feel immediate relief from keeping your worries bottled up. 

If a face-to-face chat feels too overwhelming, try sending a text to break the ice.

Lifestyle changes to help with ED in your teens

  • try to minimize drinking, smoking, and taking drugs
  • get active – join a sports club at school or college (or if sports aren’t for you, focus on getting 10,000 steps a day)
  • get 8 to 10 hours of sleep each night
  • take care of your mental health (we know things are stressful out there) 
  • if you’re living at home, convince your family to start buying healthier food for the fridge. If you’re cooking for yourself, these foods are especially good for your erections
  • keep an eye on your BMI

In a nutshell, better physical and mental health = better erections.

TLDR for ED in teens

You’re not alone, you’re not abnormal, and your future sex life is not doomed. You have a whole world of sexual experiences ahead of you, and we can make sure your erections are ready for that.

Our trial is here if you want help. To recap, you’ll find:

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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