What’s the Difference Between Erectile Dysfunction (ED) and Premature Ejaculation (PE)?

Written by HeyDoctor Medical Team

They're both common, but have some important differences.

Premature ejaculation and erectile dysfunction are different conditions that can sometimes be related, but can also occur separately. Premature ejaculation can be a sign of erectile dysfunction, but it also could mean a lot of other things.

You’re in good company

But hey, before we get started: both of these things are common issues and will probably happen to you at some point in your life if you’re sexually active and have a penis. Neither one means you’re bad at sex, and that goes for your partner too! Both premature ejaculation and erectile dysfunction, if they happen often enough to be a problem, are highly treatable. There are so many taboos and so much shame around these topics—a lot of the cultural messages we see tie our ability to perform sexually to our self-worth, and that can be stressful to say the least!

If you have a long-term partner, talk with them about it (ideally not after a negative sexual encounter) openly, lovingly, and blame-free. And know that premature ejaculation and erectile dysfunction don’t mean that your sexual abilities are lacking. Similarly, they don’t mean that your partner is just that good, in the case of premature ejaculation, or not good enough in the case of erectile dysfunction. Take the issue of whose fault it is out of the conversation: it’s either just a thing that happens sometimes, or it’s a sign of some deeper psychological or physical issue that needs addressing. You (or both of you) might have some work to do to fix it, but don’t think of it as a failure—in fact, that could make the problem worse.

So! These conditions don’t mean you’ve failed as a person and a partner. Easier said than done, I know, but try to keep that in mind, okay? Okay. Let’s get to the info.

Premature ejaculation

Premature ejaculation is just that: a person with a penis having an orgasm before they want to, despite their efforts. There’s a lot of shame and taboo around the topic, but the truth is it’s extremely common, and often not a cause for concern.

If it happens a lot, though — nearly all the time — or if it causes you anxiety to the point where you avoid sex, it’s probably time to see what you can do about it. Premature ejaculation is highly treatable, but there are a lot of factors that can cause it, both physical and mental/emotional.

Some physical factors that can cause premature ejaculation:

  • Erectile dysfunction (more on that in a bit)
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Inflammation
  • Genetics

Psychological factors include:

  • Stress
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Sexual trauma
  • Relationship issues
  • Shame/guilt about sex

The bottom line is, if you feel unsatisfied with your sexual performance, or get anxious about it, talk to a doctor. You won’t be the first or the last, and there may be easy solutions—don’t subject yourself to an unhappy sex life just because you’re afraid to approach a difficult topic!

Erectile dysfunction

Erectile dysfunction is a blanket term that can describe symtpoms like the inability to get or keep an erection that’s firm enough for sex, or not being able to ejaculate. Like premature ejaculation, it’s very common, and happens to just about everyone from time to time. Also similar to premature ejaculation, it’s usually very treatable. There’s a lot of misinformation out there: for example, it doesn’t only happen to older people; it can happen at any age. But although it’s more common as you age, it’s also not an inevitable part of aging.

Erectile dysfunction can have a lot of the same psychological causes as premature ejaculation—stress, trauma, depression, anxiety, and the like are common culprits.

However, erectile dysfunction might be a symptom of a more serious health concern. A few common conditions that can cause erectile dysfunction are:

  • Obesity
  • Sleep disorders
  • Nerve damage
  • Alcoholism
  • High blood pressure
  • Tobacco use
  • High cholesterol

That list isn’t comprehensive, but as you can see, there are a lot of potential reasons you might be experiencing erection issues.

You probably already know what I’m going to say: if this happens to you often enough that it’s seriously impacting your sex life or mental health, see a doctor. Or, you can always see us, quickly and discreetly. Don’t suffer in silence!

The views expressed in this article intend to highlight alternative studies and induce conversation. They are the views of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of HeyDoctor, and are for informational purposes only, even if and to the extent that this article features the advice of physicians and medical practitioners. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment, and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.

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