It Was Tough Admitting My Erectile Dysfunction at 19 Years Old

A young man shares his experience with early-onset erectile dysfunction.

Erectile dysfunction (ED) is the inability to get or maintain an erection firm enough for sex. The dysfunction affects up to 30 million people in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

While the prevalence of erectile dysfunction can increase with age, it is not uncommon in younger people. However, regardless of age, it can be emotionally distressing.

Jonathan*, 25, shared his ED experience with Health.

Experiencing Symptoms of Erectile Dysfunction

I first realized something was wrong when I was 19 and my girlfriend at the time told me that it wasn't normal to lose your erection in the middle of sex. So I started thinking more about it. If I can get decently hard, it's gone in about 10 or 15 minutes. I'm 25 now, and I shouldn't have this problem. If I were 55, it would be a different story.

It's surprisingly not uncommon for younger people to experience symptoms of erectile dysfunction. One study in the journal Sexual Medicine Reviews explained it may be as high as 30% in males under age 40.

But I didn't get help right away. It took a while to admit that I had any problems at all. I looked up information online and didn't find a lot of answers. By the time I finally worked up the nerve to talk to my doctor, I was married to a very understanding partner. And my problem frustrated us both.

For many people who suspect they have erectile dysfunction, it can be a challenge to seek help. A 2021 survey conducted by SingleCare found that 39% of people who reported having ED never sought treatment for the condition; another 26% reportedly waited one or more years before seeking professional help.

Seeking Treatment

My doctor wasn't much help. I tried Viagra and Levitra, and both of them have helped me to get a fuller erection, but from what I understand, it's not as full as it should have been. And both medications have the strangest side effects, at least for me.

In addition to giving me sinus congestion and headaches, the pills make me feel depressed very quickly. It really kills the mood, and I beat myself up over not being able to satisfy my wife.

I know a lot of doctors say it's often a psychological issue—especially when ED happens in younger guys—but I don't know. I want to say it is because that means it's something I can eventually fix with therapy. But the fact is that I've had this all my life, and that makes me think there's a physical cause.

According to a 2017 study published in Translational Andrology and Urology, ED in younger people can often be overlooked or dismissed under the assumption that it is a self-limiting condition.

Erectile dysfunction can result from a number of underlying physical or psychological conditions, according to a 2016 article published in JAMA. Physical causes can include vascular disease, damage to the nerves involved in getting erections, low testosterone, and side effects of certain medications.

Additionally, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease lists numerous other health conditions related to erectile dysfunction. These include diseases and conditions such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and multiple sclerosis.

After my experiences with the pills, my doctor recommended that I see a urologist. Unfortunately, the first few urologists I called refused to see me because I'm not a 55-year-old with a heart condition. It was just the doctors' policy. It was so hard to be turned away. I wondered if would be able to find any help at all.

Not Giving Up Hope

When I finally found a urologist who would see me, sitting in the waiting room was a little uncomfortable. I was the only guy under 40. The doctor gave me a quick five-minute examination and said I might have leaky veins.

Basically, the blood flows into my penis at a normal rate but leaves much quicker than it enters. He described a test where they give you an injection to achieve an erection and inject a dye so they can see the blood flow. Ironically, you have to take another medication to get rid of the erection.

But the doctor didn't recommend the test and wouldn't give me a clear reason. The whole experience left me wanting more answers, and I was turned off by how little time he spent talking to and examining me.

I'm planning to get a second opinion. Basically, his idea of a treatment plan was just to deal with it. And at my age, I know that I don't have to accept that.

A Quick Review

While erectile dysfunction is common, it can be associated with other serious health conditions. Additionally, erectile dysfunction can also cause personal stress and impact relationships.

If you are experiencing erectile dysfunction it is important to reach out to a healthcare provider for advice. They can help determine what additional testing is necessary and work with you to develop an appropriate treatment plan.

And, if you feel that a healthcare provider is not addressing your concerns, reach out to a different provider for a second opinion when necessary.

*Jonathan is not this writer's real name.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles