Emotional Causes: performance anxiety, fear of sex, fear of not being good enough, anxiety, sexual shame and guilt
Although we may see sexual arousal and emotional arousal – i.e. anxiety, depression, anger and grief and so on – as quite separate and distinct states of mind, they are mediated by similar neurological mechanisms.
This means that the arousal which precedes orgasm may not just be sexual, it can be emotional as well. When we refer to “emotional arousal” we mean a particular state of mind and body which involves heightened awareness, heightened mental activity, a more active SNS (sympathetic nervous system), a raised heart rate, and various other physiological symptoms such as mild perspiration and a subjective sense of an emotional state such as anxiety. If you think about it for a minute, you’ll see how similar these symptoms of emotional arousal are to the symptoms of sexual arousal.
This link between a heightened state of emotional arousal and a heightened state of sexual arousal means that a man who is experiencing a high state of anxiety is quite likely to have a more rapid increase in his level of sexual arousal during sexual activity, and he may experience a much lower level of control over his progress towards ejaculation and orgasm. In other words, he may experience premature ejaculation.
Video – premature climax
And sex can be a very anxiety provoking event: for a man, the most common fears around sex consist of: the fear of being judged as inadequate in some way either by his partner, or indeed by himself – this inadequacy may centre on a man’s perception of his penis size, his ability to satisfy his partner (whatever that means for the couple concerned), or his ability to control his ejaculation; a fundamental fear of sex which originates in childhood shaming, where a boy has been shamed by his mother or father or both for exploring his own sexuality, particularly around masturbation, an association which makes sex in later life and anxiety charged event; and fear of intimacy, which again results from negative childhood experiences.
Anxiety and Emotional Arousal
Few of us approach sex without some degree of emotional arousal: for those who interpret this arousal is joy excitement or fun, sex tends not to be problematic; for those who interpret the emotional arousal as fear or anxiety, sex can become a highly charged event where an association between sex and anxiety can produce some kind of reinforcing positive feedback.
For example, a man who fears coming too quickly will worry about this; this increases his level of anxiety; this increase increase feeds back to his conscious awareness, which makes him even more anxious about coming too soon.
The end result, of what we commonly call “performance anxiety”, is that he does indeed ejaculate far too quickly. And once this has happened he expects the same thing to happen again so his anxiety tends to be reinforced. There are various approaches to dealing with this type of anxiety which are covered in the section on treatment.
Sexual shame and guilt work in essentially the same way: they increase a man’s arousal and his level of anxiety so that he is more likely to ejaculate quicker than he otherwise would.
Shame and guilt around sex stem from negative childhood associations which have rendered sex or sexuality into an anxiety-provoking entity. At some level, too, a boy who has been shamed for his very existence may find sex threatening because it deals with life force energy.
If he was punished for sexual activity such as masturbation or just simple sexual curiosity, the association between guilt and sex can be extremely anxiety-provoking.
(More information on the role of anxiety in PE: The role of anxiety in premature ejaculation: A psychophysiological model Donald S. Strassberg , John M. Mahoney, Michael Schaugaard and Valerie E. Hale Archives of Sexual Behavior Issue Volume 19, Number 3 / June, 1990 Pages 251-257.)
Lack Of Sexual Experience
It stands to reason that the first time a young man has sex he’s going to be very aroused and sexually excited: no matter how much porn he’s watched, no matter how many books he’s read, no matter how many pictures he’s looked at, this is the real thing – the thing he’s been waiting for all his life.
Not only is it naturally exciting, because we’re all programmed to respond to the sight of the opposite sex, he is also extremely excited because of all the anticipation that’s preceded this event.
And, no matter how experienced he may be, such a high level of sexual excitation and arousal, will definitely shorten the time between penetration and climax. So, lack of sexual experience is a risk factor for premature ejaculation (in other words, something that will increase a man’s chance of experiencing PE).
If he does experience PE then he should have at hand a variety if techniques designed to help a woman achieve orgasm – the ordinary variety, or, in the case of a man who has taken the trouble to learn some specialist sexual skills, a powerful G spot climax.
Other risk factors include: not understanding male and female sexual responses; fear about causing woman to become pregnant; anxiety about contracting a sexually transmitted infection; anxiety about poor sexual performance; and interpersonal relationship problems between sexual partners.
Habituated Fast Ejaculation Responses Learned During Masturbation
It’s been suggested that a particular habit of masturbation developed during puberty can lead to rapid ejaculation in later life.
A boy who is frightened of discovery, or feels guilt or shame around his sexual activity, may well seek the release of ejaculation and at the same time desire that the experience is as short-lived as possible because of the conflicting negative emotions which he is experiencing.
But while there is a lot of evidence that idiosyncratic masturbation habits such as traumatic masturbatory syndrome can affect the ejaculatory competence of a man later in life, there is little evidence that rapid masturbation as a teenager is a factor in the development of early ejaculation as an adult.
It’s much more probable that sensitivity to sexual arousal, a factor which may be both biologically and psychologically determined, is the key to rapid climax; in other words, the factors which lead to rapid ejaculation during masturbation as a teenager may also be the ones which lead to rapid ejaculation during intercourse as an adult.
The way to deal with this is to learn to appreciate a slower approach to sexual arousal, a relaxed form of sex play and more gradual sexual stimulation, to engage in a process of releasing shame and guilt and inhibitions around sex, and to use techniques to heighten awareness of the level of physical arousal and physical sensations in the body.
This may be especially important for men who wish to know how to make a woman come and who may want to give her the extreme pleasure of squirting.
All these approaches, which are used by sex therapists when dealing with PE, seem to be practical ways of reducing the rapidity of sexual arousal and slowing the rate at which a man approaches his point of ejaculatory inevitability.
Lack of awareness of the level of one’s sexual arousal
Although we generally regard sexual arousal as a process that is beyond conscious control, this is only true in the sense that, say, breathing is beyond conscious control: in other words, it is actually possible to exert some level of conscious influence over the autonomic functions of the body.
Generally speaking, though, we’re not aware of breathing, just as we’re often not aware of our increasing sexual arousal.
Taken to its extremes, this lack of awareness may well explain why a man may suddenly finds himself ejaculating even though he had no sense of approaching his point of no return.
It follows that the first step in developing a level of control over ejaculation is learning to be aware of how aroused one is during sexual activity.
As with all autonomic functions, one has to learn how to do this. In the initial stages it’s simply a matter of paying conscious attention to one’s level of arousal while continuing with sexual activity — all this takes is the ability to pay attention to one’s feeling.
The next stage is to develop a higher level of control over the rate at which one becomes sexually aroused and excited.
For that, other techniques are required, including relaxation, deep breathing, techniques of mental control, and possibly more making more fundamental psychological shifts such as lowering sexual performance anxiety, reducing sexual shame, and eliminating other negative aspects of thinking and beliefs.
This might include, for example, eliminating the belief that sex is about pleasing your partner rather than pleasing yourself, or changing the attitude which suggests that the needs of your partner are more important than your own needs.
(The latter is a very common belief amongst men who are driven to satisfy their partners at all costs – a highly anxiety-provoking state in which to enter sex – after all, how can you ever fully satisfy someone else’s needs? – and a sure-fire route to some kind of sexual dysfunction such as PE or anorgasmia – trouble reaching climax at all.)
Finally, any interpersonal relationship issues which may be getting in the way of trust and intimacy need to be resolved, since a couple who are resentful for some reason at any level will not be able to engage in the full expression of their deepest sexuality.
For example, a man who is angry, either overtly or covertly, at some level with his partner is likely to experience sexual dysfunction including possibly premature ejaculation.
Hypersensitivity To Sexual Stimulation
We’ve already discussed the possibility that a man may have a hyper-sensitive penis. But is it possible to just be too sensitive to sexual stimulation in your mind? Certainly we know that different people respond with different levels of arousal to the same emotional stimuli – and this seems to be because some people are naturally more sensitive.
So it’s not particularly challenging to imagine a similar mechanism at work in sexual responsivity. However, we can all adapt our natural emotional responses and there is every reason to believe we can do the same with our sexual responses.
In other words: it’s your ability to control your arousal that’s important in determining whether or not you suffer from premature ejaculation, not how aroused you are in the first place.