Many men occasionally ejaculate sooner during sexual intercourse than they or their partner would like. As long as it happens infrequently, it's probably not cause for concern. However, if you regularly ejaculate sooner than you and your partner wish — such as before intercourse begins or shortly afterward — you may have a condition known as premature ejaculation.
Premature ejaculation is a common sexual disorder. Estimates vary, but some experts think it affects as many as one out of three men. Even though it's a common problem that can be treated, many men feel embarrassed to talk to their doctors about it or seek treatment.
Once thought to be purely psychological, experts now know that biological factors also play an important role in premature ejaculation. In some men, premature ejaculation is related to erectile dysfunction.
You don't have to live with premature ejaculation — treatments including medications, psychological counseling and learning sexual techniques to delay ejaculation can improve sex for you and your partner. For many men, a combination of treatments works best.
Experts are still trying to determine exactly what causes premature ejaculation. While it was once thought to be only psychological, we now know premature ejaculation is more complicated and involves a complex interaction of both psychological and biological factors.
Some doctors believe that early sexual experiences may establish a pattern that can be difficult to change later in life such as :
- Situations in which you may have hurried to reach climax in order to avoid being discovered
- Guilty feelings that increase your tendency to rush through sexual encounters
Other factors that can play a role in causing premature ejaculation include :
- Erectile dysfunction. Men who are anxious about obtaining or maintaining their erection during sexual intercourse may form a pattern of rushing to ejaculate which can be difficult to change.
- Anxiety. Many men with premature ejaculation also have problems with anxiety — either specifically about sexual performance, or caused by other issues.
Experts believe a number of biological factors may contribute to premature ejaculation, including:
- Abnormal hormone levels
- Abnormal levels of brain chemicals called neurotransmitters
- Abnormal reflex activity of the ejaculatory system
- Certain thyroid problems
- Inflammation and infection of the prostate or urethra
- Inherited traits
Rarely, premature ejaculation is caused by :
- Nervous system damage resulting from surgery or trauma
- Withdrawal from narcotics or a drug called trifluoperazine (Stelazine), used to treat anxiety and other mental health problems
Although both biological and psychological factors likely play a role in most cases of premature ejaculation, experts think a primarily biological cause is more likely if it has been a lifelong problem (primary premature ejaculation).
Risk Factor :
Various factors can increase your risk of premature ejaculation, including :
- Impotence. You may be at increased risk of premature ejaculation if you occasionally or consistently have trouble getting or maintaining an erection. Fear of losing your erection may cause you to rush through sexual encounters. As many as one in three men with premature ejaculation also have trouble maintaining an erection.
- Health problems. If you have a medical concern that causes you to feel anxious during sex, such as a heart problem, you may have an increased likelihood of hurrying to ejaculate.
- Stress. Emotional or mental strain in any area of your life can play a role in premature ejaculation, often limiting your ability to relax and focus during sexual encounters.
- Certain medications. Rarely, drugs that influence the action of chemical messengers in the brain (psychotropics) may cause premature ejaculation.
When to seek medical advice :
Talk with your doctor if you ejaculate sooner than you and your partner wish during most sexual encounters. Although you may feel you should be able to fix the problem on your own, you may need treatment to help you achieve and sustain a satisfying sex life.
There's no medical standard for how long it should take a man to ejaculate. The primary sign of premature ejaculation is ejaculation that occurs before both partners wish in the majority of sexual encounters, causing concern or distress. The problem may occur in all sexual situations, including during masturbation — or it may only occur during sexual encounters with another person.
Doctors often classify premature ejaculation as either primary or secondary :
- You have primary premature ejaculation if you've had the problem for as long as you've been sexually active.
- You have secondary premature ejaculation if you developed the condition after having had previous, satisfying sexual relationships without ejaculatory problems.
Doctors diagnose premature ejaculation based on a detailed interview about your sexual history. Your doctor may ask a number of very personal questions and may want to include your partner in the interview. While it may be uncomfortable for both of you to talk frankly about sex, the details you provide will help your doctor determine the cause of your problem and the best course of treatment. A mental health professional may help make the diagnosis.
Your doctor will want to know about your health history, and may perform a general physical exam. You doctor may ask you questions about :
- How often you have premature ejaculation
- Whether you have premature ejaculation only with a specific partner or partners
- Whether you have premature ejaculation every time you have sex
- How often you have sex
- How you feel premature ejaculation affects your enjoyment of sex and your quality of life
- Whether you also have trouble getting and maintaining an erection (erectile dysfunction)
- Your use of prescription medications and recreational drugs
To evaluate whether psychological factors may influence your premature ejaculation, your doctor or mental health professional may also want to know about :
- Your religious upbringing
- Your early sexual experiences
- Your sexual relationships, past and present
- Any conflicts or concerns within your current relationship
If you have both premature ejaculation and trouble getting or maintaining an erection, your doctor may order blood tests to check your male hormone (testosterone) levels or other tests.
While premature ejaculation doesn't increase your risk of serious health problems, it can cause distress in your personal life, including :
- Relationship strains. The most common complication of premature ejaculation is relationship stress. If premature ejaculation is straining your relationship, ask your doctor about including couple's therapy in your treatment program.
- Fertility problems. Premature ejaculation can occasionally make fertilization difficult or impossible for couples who are trying to become pregnant. If premature ejaculation isn't effectively treated, you and your partner may need to consider infertility treatment.
Treatment options for premature ejaculation include sexual therapy, medications and psychotherapy. For many men, a combination of these treatments works best.
In some cases, sexual therapy may involve simple steps such as masturbating an hour or two before intercourse so that you're able to delay ejaculation during sex. Your doctor may also recommend avoiding intercourse for a period of time and focusing on other types of sexual play so that pressure is removed from your sexual encounters.
The squeeze technique
Your doctor may instruct you and your partner in the use of a method called the squeeze technique. This method works as follows :
- Step 1. Begin sexual activity as usual, including stimulation of the penis, until you feel almost ready to ejaculate.
- Step 2. Have your partner squeeze the end of your penis, at the point where the head (glans) joins the shaft, and maintain the squeeze for several seconds, until the urge to ejaculate passes.
- Step 3. After the squeeze is released, wait for about 30 seconds, then go back to foreplay. You may notice that squeezing the penis causes it to become less erect, but when sexual stimulation is resumed, it soon regains full erection.
- Step 4. If you again feel you're about to ejaculate, have your partner repeat the squeeze process.
By repeating this as many times as necessary, you can reach the point of entering your partner without ejaculating. After a few practice sessions, the feeling of knowing how to delay ejaculation may become a habit that no longer requires the squeeze technique.
Certain antidepressants and topical anesthetic creams are used to treat premature ejaculation. Although none of these drugs are specifically approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat premature ejaculation, some treatment guidelines recommend their use for this purpose. You may need to try different medications or doses before you and your doctor find a treatment that works for you.
A side effect of certain antidepressants is delayed orgasm. Doctors suggest men who have premature ejaculation can take antidepressants to benefit from this specific side effect.
- Your doctor may prescribe one of several selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) such as sertraline (Zoloft), paroxetine (Paxil) or fluoxetine (Prozac) to help delay ejaculation.
- If the timing of your ejaculation doesn't improve, your doctor may prescribe the tricyclic antidepressant clomipramine (Anafranil), which also has been shown to benefit men with this disorder.
- You may not need to take these medications every day to prevent premature ejaculation. Taking a low dose several hours before you plan to have sexual intercourse may be enough to improve your symptoms.
Other side effects of these antidepressants can include nausea, dry mouth, drowsiness and decreased libido.
Topical anesthetic creams
Topical anesthetic creams containing lidocaine or prilocaine dull the sensation on the penis to help delay ejaculation. Applied a short time before intercourse, these creams are wiped off when your penis has lost enough sensation to help you delay ejaculation.
Some men using topical anesthetic creams report reduced sexual pleasure because of lessened sensitivity. Although the cream is wiped off before intercourse, in some studies female partners reported that it also reduced their genital sensitivity and sexual pleasure. In rare cases lidocaine or prilocaine can cause an allergic reaction.
This approach, also known as counseling or talk therapy, involves talking about your relationships and experiences with a mental health professional. These talk sessions can help you reduce performance anxiety or find effective ways of coping with stress and solving problems. For many couples affected by premature ejaculation, talking with a therapist together may produce the best results.
In some cases, premature ejaculation may be caused by poor communication between partners or a lack of understanding of the differences between male and female sexual functioning. Women typically require more prolonged stimulation than men do to reach orgasm, and this difference can cause sexual resentment between partners and add pressure to sexual encounters. For many men, feeling pressure during sexual intercourse increases the risk of premature ejaculation.
Open communication between sexual partners, as well as a willingness to try a variety of approaches to help both partners achieve satisfaction, can help reduce conflict and performance anxiety. If you're not satisfied with your sexual relationship, talk with your partner about your concerns. Try to approach the topic in a loving way and to avoid blaming your partner for your dissatisfaction.
If you're not able to resolve sexual problems on your own, talk with your doctor. He or she may recommend seeing a therapist who can help you and your partner achieve a fulfilling sexual relationship.