For men, erectile dysfunction and ejaculatory problems are the most common sexual difficulties. With the introduction of Viagra however, problems of erectile dysfunction are much less frequent and more easily treated. In contrast, ejaculatory problems continue to be commonplace among men and often create feelings of shame and embarrassment for those men who struggle with this difficulty.
When does an ejaculation problem become a disorder? This is a subjective question and is based on the level of distress that is experienced by the man or his partner. The time from initiating sexual activity to ejaculation varies from one individual to another. This time period is called the ejaculatory latency. What may be a problem for one man may be acceptable to another. Typically, ejaculatory disorders fall into two categories. These are: delayed ejaculation and early ejaculation. This column will explore some of the psychological factors and treatment options related to these two distinct male dysfunctions.
In the vast majority of cases, the most effective therapeutic approach for ejaculatory dysfunction is a combination of biologic and psychologic therapy. In this way, both the emotional and physical aspects of the problem can be addressed. From an emotional standpoint, it is important to understand the history and background of the individual. Issues such as depression, anxiety, past sexual experiences, psychological trauma and relationship history are important considerations that need to be discussed early in the evaluation.
Regardless of the psychological issues, a good medical or urologic work-up is always encouraged before embarking on a behavioral treatment program. In this manner, any medical considerations that contribute to the problem can to be understood from the onset. From a medical perspective, ejaculatory dysfunction is often considered to be a nerve related issue.
In such cases, penile sensitivity may be evaluated using various instruments that produce vibration. In addition, a medical history is obtained paying particular attention to any previous neurologic injury or trauma to the penis. Other sexual dysfunctions such as low desire and erectile dysfunction may also accompany the ejaculatory problem and need to be addressed.
The psychological definition of delayed ejaculation refers to the inability to have an ejaculation during sexual intercourse. Interestingly enough, ejaculatory issues are rarely defined as a dysfunction if they occur only during masturbation. As a result, an important diagnostic question for sex therapists is the context in which the problem occurs. Does this difficulty occur with self-stimulation, with all partners or with specific partners? This question will ultimately be important as a treatment program is designed and implemented.
Problems of delayed ejaculation tend to be somewhat rare and not well understood by psychologists and sex therapists. In addition, they are not well understood by most medical doctors and urologists. It is not unusual for doctors to minimize the dysfunction and to dismiss it. For many men, finding the right professional, who has experience and realizes the seriousness of the problem may be one of the most difficult aspects in the treatment process.
In many cases, the man himself may tend to delay treatment or to minimize the distress of the situation. At other times, there is the hope that ejaculatory problems will disappear without proper treatment. Unfortunately however, problems such as delayed ejaculation seldom disappear without professional intervention. For many men, feelings of shame prevent them from seeking medical and professional help.
In spite of the lack of information regarding delayed ejaculation, the most successful approach, for sex therapists, is to engage both members of the couple into addressing the problem. Thus, ejaculatory dysfunction is always perceived as a couple’s issue. Resolving the problem is most successful when both partners can work together as a team toward a successful solution. If the man is in a relationship, he needs the support and understanding of his partner. This helps to insure a successful treatment. Otherwise, the partner’s frustration and distress may contribute to the continuation of the problem. Overcoming an ejaculation problem when under stress and pressure from a partner is extremely difficult for any man.
Ejaculatory problems can have a devastating affect on self-esteem. Men with ejaculation problems undoubtedly have feelings of inadequacy, feelings of failure and a negative view of themselves. They feel that they have little to offer in a relationship and to tend to avoid emotional and physical intimacy. Over time, partners become frustrated and communication becomes strained. Thus, resentments, anger and feelings of rejection often accompany an ejaculation problem. In couples where ejaculation is an issue, the partner often internalizes this dysfunction as their mistake; the partner feels responsible ultimately intensifying the man’s stress and performance anxiety.
Ejaculation problems may also contribute to a low libido and lack of interest in sexual activity. Without ejaculation, sex can become a source of frustration and devoid of satisfaction. As a result, sexual activity can be perceived as more work than pleasure. In some cases, the woman may not be interested in sexual intimacy because of her frustration and anger at the situation. Ultimately in such cases, couples agree to avoid sexual contact rather than face the emotional pain of another sexual failure.
For some men, there may be additional psychological issues that underlie an ejaculatory dysfunction. For example, there may be issues of performance anxiety related to infertility, fears of rejection or the desire to please a partner. Early psychological trauma can also be a significant factor. If sexual abuse of the man has occurred, these can have a direct correlation to the sexual dysfunction itself. Sex can serve as a trigger to bring back painful emotional feelings and memories from the past. Ignoring these important emotional issues can lead to difficulties resolving the problem or to a future re-occurrence of the sexual dysfunction.
Traditional behavioral sex therapy for delayed ejaculation is as follows: the man begins by masturbating, then starts intercourse when he is almost ready to ejaculate; the procedure continues with the man beginning intercourse earlier and earlier. The partner may assist the man to masturbate and maintains a supportive and encouraging attitude. Sensitivity may be improved with the use of androgens such as testosterone or by using a vibrator.