Erectile Dysfunction
5 minute read

ED and PE: What's the Difference?

Written by
Reviewed by
Dr Joseph Santos

When things don’t work in the bedroom, it can be embarrassing and awkward. But sexual dysfunction actually happens to more men than you might think - about 40% of Australian men have had erectile dysfunction and up to 31% of Aussies have experienced premature ejaculation. Because it can be uncomfortable to experience, let alone talk about, there’s a lot of misinformation and confusion around the difference between ED and PE. Both are forms of male sexual dysfunction, but they’re actually quite different - and depending on the cause, there are treatment options available.

ED (erectile dysfunction) is when a man is unable to get or maintain an erection, while PE (premature ejaculation) is when a man ejaculates quickly during sexual activity.

Here are the key differences between ED and PE and what you can do about it.

What is erectile dysfunction?

Erectile dysfunction, commonly referred to as ED, is defined as the inability for a man to achieve or maintain an erection that is firm enough for sexual intercourse. The three most common symptoms of ED are:

  1. Difficulty getting an erection
  2. Softer erections
  3. Erections that cannot be maintained

What causes ED?

It’s quite common for men to be unable to get it up in the bedroom, but if it’s happening more than 50% of the time, you may have a medical issue that’s worth investigating. Both physical and psychological factors can cause impotence. Common physical causes of ED include:

ED could also be caused by psychological triggers, such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Stress
  • Negative thoughts related to sex

Depending on the underlying reason for your erectile dysfunction, there are different approaches to treatment. For example, counselling and therapy would be good options if you’re feeling anxious or stressed about sex and, in turn, unable to get an erection. If an unhealthy lifestyle is causing ED, losing weight, quitting smoking and adopting a healthier diet could all help treat ED. 

What ED treatments are available?

If you’ve tried lifestyle changes and are interested in prescription medications, there are proven ED medications that can help. These belong to a class of drugs called PDE5 inhibitors which are oral tablets that work by blocking or inhibiting the chemicals that make erections go away, thus making erections easier to attain and also last longer. 

Common PDE5 inhibitors prescribed to treat ED include Viagra and Sildenafil, Cialis and Tadalafil, Levitra and Spedra

It’s important to note that PDE5 inhibitors do not increase sex drive or help delay ejaculation. You will still need to be aroused in order for these tablets to work.

What is premature ejaculation?

Premature ejaculation, also referred to as PE, is when a man ejaculates sooner than he or his partner would like. There are a few indicators that could cause you to seek professional treatment, including:

  1. Always or almost always ejaculating within one minute of penetration
  2. Unable to delay ejaculation during sex every time or almost every time
  3. Avoiding sexual intimacy due to feeling distressed and frustrated from PE

What causes PE?

There are two different types of PE: lifelong premature ejaculation and acquired premature ejaculation.

Lifelong premature ejaculation describes when a man experiences PE during his first sexual encounter and it occurs almost every time, or every time, he engages in sexual activity.

Acquired premature ejaculation develops after previous sexual experiences without ejaculatory problems, but now it happens every time or almost every time. 

Both types of PE can be caused by physical or psychological reasons. Common physical reasons include:

  • Chemical imbalances in the part of the brain that controls ejaculation
  • Hormonal imbalances such as thyroid disease or hypertension
  • Urological conditions concerning the prostate or urethra
  • Hereditary traits

Psychological factors that could cause PE include:

  • Anxiety 
  • Stress
  • Depression
  • Poor body image or self esteem
  • Sexual abuse and negative sexual experiences
  • Interpersonal problems within the relationship

What PE treatments are available? 

There are behavioural techniques that you can try to help control your ejaculation, including the stop-start technique and kegel exercises. However, there are also prescription medications you can try to help delay ejaculation. In Australia, SSRIs can be prescribed to help treat PE. The way SSRIs work for PE is by blocking the 5-HT reuptake and thus delaying ejaculation. 

There are also sprays and topical creams that can be used to help numb sensations and delay ejaculation. 

What’s the difference between ED and PE?

As you can see, there’s quite a big difference between ED and PE. However, it’s possible to experience both at the same time. Here’s an easy breakdown to understand the main difference between the two:

When you get an erection: 

When you ejaculate: 

Treatments available:

Note: If you experience both ED and PE, your doctor may recommend a combination treatment plan to help manage both conditions.

ED and PE treatment online with Rosemary Health

If you’re experiencing trouble in the bedroom, there are proven treatments that can help you rebuild your confidence and perform when you’re ready. Skip the awkward face-to-face conversations and get real ED medications and PE treatments online through Rosemary. Start your online visit today.


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