Premature ejaculation occurs when a man ejaculates sooner during sexual intercourse than he or his partner would like. Premature ejaculation is a common sexual complaint. Estimates vary, but as many as 1 out of 3 men say they experience this problem at some time.
As long as it happens infrequently, it's not cause for concern. However, you might be diagnosed with premature ejaculation if you:
- Always or nearly always ejaculate within one minute of penetration
- Are unable to delay ejaculation during intercourse all or nearly all of the time
- Feel distressed and frustrated, and tend to avoid sexual intimacy as a result
Both psychological and biological factors can play a role in premature ejaculation. Although many men feel embarrassed talking about it, premature ejaculation is a common and treatable condition. Medications, counseling and sexual techniques that delay ejaculation — or a combination of these — can help improve sex for you and your partner.
The main symptom of premature ejaculation is the inability to delay ejaculation for more than one minute after penetration. However, the problem might occur in all sexual situations, even during masturbation.
Premature ejaculation can be classified as:
- Lifelong (primary). Lifelong premature ejaculation occurs all or nearly all of the time beginning with your first sexual encounters.
- Acquired (secondary). Acquired premature ejaculation develops after you've had previous sexual experiences without ejaculatory problems.
Many men feel that they have symptoms of premature ejaculation, but the symptoms don't meet the diagnostic criteria for premature ejaculation. Instead these men might have natural variable premature ejaculation, which includes periods of rapid ejaculation as well as periods of normal ejaculation.
When to see a doctor
Talk with your doctor if you ejaculate sooner than you wish during most sexual encounters. It's common for men to feel embarrassed about discussing sexual health concerns, but don't let that keep you from talking to your doctor. Premature ejaculation is a common and treatable problem.
For some men, a conversation with a doctor might help lessen concerns about premature ejaculation. For example, it might be reassuring to hear that occasional premature ejaculation is normal and that the average time from the beginning of intercourse to ejaculation is about five minutes.
The exact cause of premature ejaculation isn't known. While it was once thought to be only psychological, doctors now know premature ejaculation involves a complex interaction of psychological and biological factors.
Psychological factors that might play a role include:
- Early sexual experiences
- Sexual abuse
- Poor body image
- Worrying about premature ejaculation
- Guilty feelings that increase your tendency to rush through sexual encounters
Other factors that can play a role include:
- Erectile dysfunction. Men who are anxious about obtaining or maintaining an erection during sexual intercourse might 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 related to other issues.
- Relationship problems. If you have had satisfying sexual relationships with other partners in which premature ejaculation happened infrequently or not at all, it's possible that interpersonal issues between you and your current partner are contributing to the problem.
A number of biological factors might contribute to premature ejaculation, including:
- Abnormal hormone levels
- Abnormal levels of brain chemicals called neurotransmitters
- Inflammation and infection of the prostate or urethra
- Inherited traits
Various factors can increase your risk of premature ejaculation, including:
- Erectile dysfunction. You might be at increased risk of premature ejaculation if you occasionally or consistently have trouble getting or maintaining an erection. Fear of losing your erection might cause you to consciously or unconsciously hurry through sexual encounters.
- Stress. Emotional or mental strain in any area of your life can play a role in premature ejaculation, limiting your ability to relax and focus during sexual encounters.
Premature ejaculation can cause problems in your personal life, including:
- Stress and relationship problems. A common complication of premature ejaculation is relationship stress.
- Fertility problems. Premature ejaculation can occasionally make fertilization difficult for couples who are trying to have a baby if ejaculation doesn't occur intravaginally.