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    What is premature ejaculation? Causes and treatment

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      Most men will experience premature ejaculation (PE) in their lives, but what the term really means can be confusing. 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 what exactly PE is and what you can do if you think you have it. 

      What is premature ejaculation?

      PE 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.

      Types of premature ejaculation

      There are generally two types of PE:  

      • Primary - this starts when first becoming sexually active and is often psychological  
      • Secondary – this occurs later in life and can be caused by both psychological and physical factors  

      There are various forms of PE within these two categories which will depend on the individual and their preferences when it comes to sex. For instance, some men might orgasm within two minutes of penetrative sex but, if they and their partner found the experience sexually satisfying, they might not consider it to be an example of PE. 

      How can I tell if I'm experiencing from premature ejaculation?

      This can be difficult to tell, since what PE is, usually depends on the individual and their personal sexual preferences. In general, 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. 

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      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 controlling ejaculation
      • Finding sex frustrating or distressing and tending to avoid it.

      Common causes of premature ejaculation include:

      • Psychological factors 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's been a long time since you last ejaculated. 
      • Being anxious because of inexperience when first having sex can contribute to PE. 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 might find that it starts as a physical condition which can cause you emotional stress, leading to further sexual dysfunction.

      What should I do if I suffer from premature ejaculation?

      If you are suffering from PE and unsure about how to proceed, it's 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.

      How to prevent premature ejaculation

      There are several different types of treatment for PE, ranging from counselling to prescription medicines such as Priligy. If you've found yourself ejaculating too quickly during sex, and you'd like to change this, then it's 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 which numbs the penis, allowing you to last longer during sex due to the reduced sensitivity, 
      • taking a tablet before sex that delays your ejaculation
      • behavioural techniques that allow you to train your body to resist ejaculation taken before sex
      • Counselling which help to find the root of any psychological causes 

      Taking medicine won’t provide a permanent solution for PE, however using it alongside behavioural techniques and counselling may help to provide a longer-term solution. 

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