People with small penis syndrome do not have a physical condition but experience persistent anxiety about the size of their penis. These individuals worry that their penis is too small or that others will judge them for its size.
Some doctors refer to small penis syndrome as penile dysmorphic disorder (PDD), but the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) does not list PDD as a separate disorder. Instead, it includes PDD as a variant of body dysmorphic disorder (BDD).
What is small penis syndrome?
People with small penis syndrome or PDD do not have an unusually small penis. Instead, they are severely anxious about their penis size.
Having a small penis is not a medical diagnosis. Very rarely, a person’s penis is small enough to interfere with sexual functioning, and doctors will refer to it as a micropenis. People with a micropenis have a penis that is at least 2.5 standard deviations smaller than the average penis.
PDD is a type of BDD, which is a disorder that distorts a person’s perception of their body. BDD can trigger immense anxiety in a person about their appearance.
People with PDD feel shame and anxiety about penis size. They may mistakenly believe that they have a micropenis, even when their penis size is normal.
Average penis size statistics
Estimates on average penis size vary. Many people believe that a typical penis is 6 inches (in) long, but this is false and misleading, potentially triggering anxiety in those who worry about having a small penis.
A 2014 analysis of data from 15,521 men discovered the following about penis size:
- The average non-erect penis is 9.16 centimeters (cm), or 3.61 in long.
- The average erect penis is 13.12 cm (5.17 in) long.
- Penises longer than 6 in when erect are rare, with this length of penis falling in the 90th percentile.
Other research has sought to quantify what counts as a micropenis. A 2014 study defined a micropenis as a penis that is less than 7 cm (about 2.75 in) in length when flaccid and stretched.
Furthermore, research on more than 52,000 heterosexual men and woman found that 85 percent of women were satisfied with the size of their partner’s penis. In comparison, only 55 percent of men were satisfied with their penis size.
It is common for people to occasionally worry that their penis might not be large enough, especially when they feel pressure from the media and from seeing larger male genitals in pornography.
However, people with small penis syndrome obsessively worry about penis size.
Some symptoms of small penis syndrome or PDD include:
- constantly comparing their penis size to that of others, including those in the media
- a belief that the penis is unusually small, in spite of evidence to the contrary
- distorted perceptions of penis size
- placing an unusually high value on penis size
- feeling ashamed or embarrassed about penis size
- difficulty having sex with a partner because of anxiety about penis size
- reduced sexual function, including getting an erection or having an orgasm
Some people with small penis syndrome have other symptoms of BDD. These might include:
- obsessive preoccupation with appearance
- repetitive or compulsive behavior relating to appearance, such as grooming or buying clothes
- chronic distress about appearance
- depression or anxiety about appearance
Although small penis syndrome and BDD might appear to be the same condition, there are essential differences. Small penis syndrome is not a medical diagnosis, whereas doctors can diagnose a person as having BDD.
For people with mild-to-moderate anxiety about penis size, researching data on average penis sizes or asking a doctor about what constitutes a micropenis may help.
If a person is concerned about sexual performance, they may find comfort from a partner’s reassurance and support. Research suggests that the majority of heterosexual women are satisfied with their partner’s penis size.
Medical treatment can help men with BDD or anxiety about penis size. Some treatment options include:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): This type of therapy helps people understand how their thoughts affect their feelings and behavior, and it can help them find ways to reduce anxiety.
- Understanding and addressing triggers. For some, specific triggers — such as pornography or relationship problems — can cause penis size anxiety. Some people can reduce symptoms by identifying their triggers and working to manage them.
- Sex therapy or couples counseling. When penis size anxieties affect a person’s relationship or ability to have sex, therapy can help a couple work together to overcome the anxiety.
Questions to ask a doctor
People who worry about the size of their penis or their feelings about penis size should see a doctor for help and support.
Some questions to ask include:
- Is the size of my penis within the average range?
- Is it common to be anxious about penis size?
- What can I do to overcome my anxiety?
- Can you refer me to a therapist?
- Do I have symptoms of BDD?
- Are there effective strategies for managing sexual dysfunction relating to anxiety?
Anxiety relating to penis size can be frustrating, and it may affect self-esteem and relationships. Misconceptions about penis size can lead people to believe that their penis is smaller than most other people’s, even when it is within the average range.
Sex education, support from a partner, and appropriate treatments can help people with small penis syndrome and those with BDD manage their anxiety.
Medically reviewed by Elaine K. Luo, M.D.
Written by Zawn Villines