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What is premature ejaculation?

Though the majority of men will experience some form of premature ejaculation in their lives, there can be some confusion over what the term actually means. We understand that many men might feel uncomfortable discussing sexual problems with their GP, or even with a friend or partner, so we’ve provided a short overview of the basics of premature ejaculation.

Premature ejaculation is a type of male sexual dysfunction, characterised by the inability to control ejaculation. This often means that when a man has sex, he cannot continue long enough to satisfy both himself and his partner. In specific terms, premature ejaculation (PE) usually involves a male partner ejaculating shortly after penetration occurs, or - in some cases - beforehand.

There are generally two broad types of PE: primary, which starts since first becoming sexually active and is often psychological, and secondary, which occurs later in life and can be caused by both psychological and physical factors. Within these two categories, however, there are various forms of PE, each of which tend to be dependent on the individual and their preferences when it comes to sex. Some men may orgasm within two minutes of penetrative sex but, if they and their partners found the experience sexually satisfying, might not consider it to be an example of premature ejaculation.

How can I tell if I am suffering from premature ejaculation?

This is a difficult question to answer, as what defines premature ejaculation tends to be very subjective and based upon personal sexual preference. Generally speaking, ejaculating very soon after penetration or ejaculating quickly during sex is only a problem if it makes you feel uncomfortable or embarrassed, or causes problems in your relationship.

Doctors usually use three features to define premature ejaculation:

  • Ejaculation which occurs always or nearly always within two minutes of penetration with little sexual stimulation
  • Having difficulty in controlling ejaculation
  • Finding sex frustrating or distressing and tending to avoid it.

Common causes of premature ejaculation include:

  • Psychological strain such as lack of self-esteem, stress, anxiety, depression and problems with your sexual partner.
  • Being in the early stages of a relationship or with a new partner, particularly if it has been a long time since the last ejaculation. Inexperience causing anxiety during your initial sexual encounter can contribute towards premature ejaculation, however with increasing sexual experience and age, men often learn to delay orgasm.
  • Medical conditions such as prostate disease or an underactive thyroid. PE can also be associated with erectile dysfunction.
  • A lifestyle which involves using recreational drugs or drinking too much alcohol.

It is also important to consider that your PE may be caused by multiple factors. For instance, you may find it originates as a physical condition which then causes you emotional stress, leading to further sexual dysfunction.

What should I do if I suffer from premature ejaculation?

There are several different types of treatment for PE, ranging from counselling to prescription medicines such as Priligy. If you have found yourself ejaculating too quickly during sex, and would like to change this, then it is probably a good idea to think about what might be causing the problem, before seeking the appropriate treatment.

Typically, treatments involve a local anaesthetic cream to numb the penis, allowing you to last longer during sex due to the reduced sensitivity, a tablet that delays your ejaculation taken before sex and/or, behavioural techniques that allow you to train your body to resist ejaculation taken before sex and/or counselling can be helpful to root out any psychological causes. Medicine does not provide a permanent solution for PE, however using it in combination with the behavioural techniques and counselling may help to provide a longer term solution.

If you are suffering from PE and unsure about how to proceed, it is best to talk to a trained medical professional about it, whether it is your GP, a counsellor or one of our NHS experienced clinicians via our online service.

For more information, see PE Causes and Treatments.