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Reviewed by Katelyn Hagerty, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Premature ejaculation, or PE, is a common sexual performance issue that can affect men of all ages and backgrounds. It’s common — in fact, research suggests that about 30 percent of men are affected by some form of PE.
If you suffer from premature ejaculation, you might find it hard to have sex for long (think seconds to a minute or two) before reaching orgasm. In some cases, you might ejaculate before you penetrate your sexual partner, such as during foreplay.
Dealing with premature ejaculation can be a frustrating and stressful experience, especially if it’s starting to get in the way of your relationship.
However, the good news is that premature ejaculation is treatable, often with simple techniques that you and your partner can perform together and over-the-counter medications that you can use before sex.
Below, we’ve explained what premature ejaculation is, as well as how it can affect your ability to have satisfying sex with your partner.
We’ve also discussed how to deal with premature ejaculation in a relationship, from behavioral techniques that can control excitement and prevent ejaculation to medications you may want to consider for long-term PE relief.
Premature ejaculation is a common form of male sexual dysfunction. It involves ejaculating too early during sexual activity, such as before penetration or after having penetrative sex for just a few minutes.
If you have premature ejaculation, you may find it hard to control your level of excitement during sexual encounters, or simply feel like your penis is overly sensitive to stimulation.
Experts aren’t yet aware of precisely what causes premature ejaculation, but research suggests that it’s mostly psychological.
You may have a higher risk of dealing with PE if you have a mental health issue, such as sexual performance anxiety or depression, or if you have unrealistic beliefs about sex, control problems with your partner, feelings of guilt or a lack of self-confidence.
Evidence also suggests that certain physical health issues, such as abnormal hormone levels, brain chemistry, diabetes, sleep problems, erectile dysfunction (ED) and nerve damage are also linked to the development of PE.
Our guide to Is Premature Ejaculation Mental? goes into more detail about the premature ejaculation psychology.
Premature ejaculation can be extremely frustrating to deal with, especially if you’re in a healthy, happy sexual relationship and find that your inability to maintain control over ejaculation gets in the way of having satisfying sex.
Over the long term, untreated PE can often result in feelings of anxiety about sex, as well as an increased risk of experiencing relationship issues.
Thankfully, premature ejaculation is almost always treatable with a mix of simple changes to the way you and your partner have sex and, if appropriate, medication to help you develop a higher degree of sexual control and increase your average time to ejaculation.
Below, we’ve covered your options for successfully dealing with PE in your relationship, starting with techniques that you and your partner can perform together.
Before using medication or other treatment options, you may want to consider trying behavioral techniques with your partner.
There are numerous behavioral therapy techniques that are used to treat PE, including two that you can perform during sex to slow orgasm and ejaculation. These include the squeeze method and the start-stop technique.
The squeeze technique involves having sex as normal, then stopping when you feel like you’re about to reach orgasm and ejaculate. At this point, either you or your sexual partner can gently grasp the head of your penis and squeeze at the point where it joins the shaft.
After a few seconds, you may notice that you feel less excited and ready to start having sex as normal. This technique can be repeated, with several breaks during sex to let you recover and increase your stamina.
The start-stop technique is very similar to the squeeze technique, but simply involves stopping sex when you feel orgasm approaching. When you pause sexual activity, you might want to try thinking about something unrelated to sex to distract you from the moment.
Like with the squeeze method, you can repeat the start-stop technique as needed during sex to improve your stamina and sexual functioning.
If behavioral techniques alone don’t get your premature ejaculation under control, or if you and your partner find it inconvenient to take short breaks during sexual intercourse, you might want to consider using an over-the-counter medication to treat PE.
There are several effective over-the-counter medical treatments for PE, including sprays, wipes and anesthetic creams that can reduce sensitivity in your penis and help you to last longer.
These treatments can be used a few minutes before sex, letting you quickly and easily get more control over your level of penile sensitivity and last for longer in bed with your partner.
If you have long-lasting or severe PE that doesn’t seem to get better with behavioral techniques or over-the-counter medication, you may want to consider talking to a healthcare provider about prescription medication.
Currently, there aren’t any medications that have been approved by the FDA specifically as PE treatments. However, several existing medications are used “off-label” to slow down ejaculation and increase the period of time before you ejaculate.
At the moment, the most effective medications for treating PE are antidepressants referred to as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs.
For the most part, these medications are taken daily, meaning you may not need to apply cream or use a wipe before you have sex. Research shows that medications in this class can produce real improvements in sexual function and intravaginal ejaculation latency time, or time to ejaculation.
When premature ejaculation is caused by an emotional issue, therapy is often an effective form of treatment.
Several different types of therapy are often used to treat PE, including individual psychotherapy and couples therapy. The process often involves addressing underlying issues, such as anxiety about sex or a lack of confidence in bed, that can contribute to PE symptoms.
As part of therapy for PE, you may work with a sex therapist or other therapy provider to learn how to practice behavioral techniques, manage performance anxiety, or overcome issues that prevent you from being intimate with your partner.
If you and your partner take part in therapy together, you may also learn different strategies for improving communication and overcoming habits that affect your ability to enjoy sex.
Premature ejaculation is a common problem that can potentially have a serious impact on your relationship, especially if it’s severe or persistent.
If you have PE, it’s important to be open and honest with your partner. Let them know that your issues are treatable, then work together using behavioral techniques, medication or other types of treatment to improve your stamina and enjoy more satisfying sex together.
You can also find out more about your options for successfully managing PE and improving your sexual satisfaction in our full guide to stopping premature ejaculation.