27/01/2015 12:16 GMT | Updated 29/03/2015 06:59 BST

Why Premature Ejaculation is a Sensitive Subject

Male banter about sex may be the norm, but there are certain aspects of it that men are usually less keen to speak openly about - with one of the biggest being the subject of premature ejaculation.

When you're experiencing sex problems, glorified accounts of friends' love lives can make you feel like you are the only one having troubles. The truth though, is that issues related to sexual performance are a lot more common than you might imagine.

If you suffer premature ejaculation (PE), you are certainly not alone. About a third of men say they have experienced it at some point in their lives. However, this may just be the tip of the iceberg, as many simply won't talk about it.

Gone in 60 seconds

Every man has an idea of how long he should 'last' in order to satisfy his partner - from a few minutes to 20 minutes or longer in some men's minds. One study found that, on average, penetration lasted five and a half minutes.

How you define premature ejaculation can be somewhat subjective. However, in medical terms it is generally considered to be a case of 'coming' in less than a minute or two of sex or before penetration.

Being unable to satisfy your partner can be a real concern and if you feel you're letting them down time after time, it can be something that plays on the mind, which can add to the problem.

There are many reasons that PE might occur. Stress and anxiety can play their part, as can depression. So the pressures of modern life, whether work-related or perhaps based around a worry like debt, can definitely act as a trigger.

Certain medical conditions can also be responsible, such as diabetes, as well as problems with the prostate gland, thyroid or arteries. In some cases, there is a psychological cause stemming from a man's sexual past, whereas others simply have an over-sensitive penis.

Let's talk about sex

Whatever the reason, ejaculation problems can be very frustrating and may lead to self-esteem issues and tension within a relationship - particularly for couples who don't discuss the situation.

Sexual problems actually top the list of health conditions men feel embarrassed talking to others about, according to research commissioned by the Pharmacy2U Online Doctor service. 57 per cent admit they'd find it difficult to talk about such issues with others.

The same survey of 979 British men also found that more than half would struggle to consult with a doctor about intimate issues. The reaction of many of those suffering from PE is therefore to keep quiet and ignore the issue.

What can help?

Ejaculating very quickly can happen to most men from time to time and isn't necessarily something to be concerned about, particularly when it only occurs occasionally.

Those who seek help for the condition often have 'secondary premature ejaculation', which means that they haven't always had the problem. However, around one in 50 men have lifelong PE and will have experienced it since first becoming sexually active. Either way, if you find that you regularly ejaculate too quickly and you're worried about it, seeking treatment could help.

So what can be done? For some, counselling or behavioural techniques with a sex therapist can be a solution. It could involve 'training' the penis through distraction techniques or perhaps trying different sexual positions. There is also medicated premature ejaculation treatment available, which can be prescribed following diagnosis by a doctor. This often includes a cream to de-sensitise the penis or a pill to help improve control and increase the time it takes to ejaculate.

Importantly though, many patients say that opening up to someone about the issue was a significant first step forward. So while it may still not be something you choose to discuss with your mates in the pub, getting professional advice or confiding in a partner can help get you on the road to a much more fulfilled sex life.