Although studies show that around three per cent of men are currently experiencing premature ejaculation, estimates suggest up to 30 per cent of men may be affected by it. Many men feel embarrassed to seek help for this condition, but it’s nothing to be ashamed or worried about – and it can be treated

What is premature ejaculation?

Premature ejaculation is when a man feels that he ejaculates too soon during sex.

A study looked at 500 couples from five different countries and found that the average time taken to ejaculate during intercourse was around five-and-a-half minutes. However, this is highly variable and will depend on what the couple feels is satisfying for both partners. 

Any man can experience premature ejaculation at one time or another. When it happens regularly, it can have an impact on the couple's relationship.

What are the types of premature ejaculation?

For a small number of men, premature ejaculation can be lifelong (primary), where premature ejaculation has occurred since the start of sexual activity. Secondary premature ejaculation develops after the man has had a period of time without any instances occurring.  No matter how long you’ve been experiencing premature ejaculation, there are ways to treat the problem. 

What are the causes of premature ejaculation?

These can include:

• Medical causes, like thyroid conditions or prostate problems
• Alcohol and recreational drug use
• Psychological causes, such as depression, anxiety and stress
• A traumatic early sexual experience

When should I see my GP?

Consider making an appointment with your GP if:

• You're worried you may have premature ejaculation or you feel upset about experiencing premature ejaculation
• You think your symptoms may stem from a physical condition or a medicine you're taking
• Your premature ejaculation is causing tension in your relationship with your partner

It's important to go to your GP so they can rule out or diagnose an underlying physical condition that may be causing your premature ejaculation. Your GP will be able to assess you and may run some tests to check if your symptoms are due to a medical condition. If needed, you'll receive the appropriate treatment. Treating any underlying physical condition should help resolve premature ejaculation.

Psychological causes like anxiety and depression can often be effectively managed, either with medicines prescribed by your GP, with talking therapy or a combination of both. There are also self-management techniques you can try at home. You're likely to see an improvement in symptoms once the underlying condition is well controlled.

Speak to your GP if you need help to reduce your alcohol intake or to stop taking recreational drugs. This can help to reduce your premature ejaculation symptoms, as well as being likely to improve your overall health and wellbeing. 

How can I manage symptoms myself?

Wear a condom

This can help men who have a particularly sensitive penis. You may be able to find thicker condoms or condoms with local anaesthetic, both can help to reduce sensitivity. Your pharmacist will be able to advise you about the most suitable condom option for you.

Take a deep breath if you feel you're about to ejaculate

This is a reflex that can temporarily halt the progression of your climax.

Stop for a short moment during sex

This can help to clear your head. Try thinking of something completely different to help put off ejaculation.

Have sex with your partner on top. 

This will allow them to pull away when you are close to ejaculating.

Avoid having long periods of time between sexual activity

This includes between sexual intercourse and masturbation, as this makes premature ejaculation more likely. Masturbating two to three hours before having sex may help with your symptoms.

Speak to your pharmacist

They may be able to recommend a spray you can apply to your penis before sex to decrease sensation. However, your partner may also feel its effects during penetrative sex.

Treatments for premature ejaculation

If self-help methods don't work, you may want to speak to your GP who may prescribe a medicine if appropriate or consider an online service like the Boots Online Doctor Premature Ejaculation Treatment service .*

How does therapy for couples help?

Premature ejaculation can put a couple's relationship under strain, and a stressful relationship can itself cause premature ejaculation. Discussing any problems with a psychologist can often improve the relationship and help to resolve premature ejaculation symptoms.

During therapy, couples may also learn about different techniques you can try to help delay ejaculation.  Common ones are the 'squeeze' technique and the 'stop-go' technique.

Is it premature ejaculation or erectile dysfunction?

Erectile dysfunction is when a man can't achieve or maintain an erection. Some people will find themselves affected by both conditions, particularly as both can be caused or made worse by anxiety. In such circumstances, typically erectile dysfunction should be addressed first and then premature ejaculation symptoms often resolve naturally. 

Next steps

• Visit your GP to have the cause of your premature ejaculation diagnosed
• Try self-help methods, such as wearing thicker condoms or practicing self-management techniques

• Seek therapy as a couple where you may be able to resolve relationship difficulties and learn techniques that help delay ejaculation

*Access to treatment is subject to a consultation with a clinician to assess suitability and eligibility. Charges apply.