Masturbation Addiction: Signs, Causes and Treatment
Masturbation is a natural and healthy act for both men and women, but it tends to have a negative social perception, and people often avoid discussing it. However, talking about masturbation is important, as it helps normalize it and make it a part of comprehensive sexual education and knowledge.
Although masturbation is a natural, healthy act, a person can become addicted to the pleasurable feelings it provides. Masturbation addiction can impact a person’s relationships and lead to unhealthy behaviors, including isolation. For these reasons, it’s important to understand the signs and causes of masturbation addiction and learn where to turn for help.
Is Masturbation Bad?
Masturbation has many positive health effects, such as providing an increase in dopamine — a feel-good chemical the body releases in response to pleasurable acts. However, there can be a point when someone masturbates too often, and it becomes an unhealthy part of their life.
What Is Masturbation Addiction?
Masturbation, whether in a relationship or on its own, is part of a healthy sexual practice. However, masturbation can become an issue when you feel a compulsion or constant need to masturbate. Masturbation releases dopamine — much like some drugs do — which can make it become addictive. Someone will continue to masturbate more and more, hoping to feel that same dopamine release they did when they first started to masturbate.
Masturbation Addiction Statistics
A survey found that men between the ages of 18 and 30 had the highest rates of excessive masturbation. Another study showed that men are twice as likely as women to participate in excessive masturbation. In addition, up to 70% of people who are diagnosed with hypersexuality participate in excessive masturbation.
How Much Masturbation Is Too Much?
Masturbation causes people to feel good, and a person may want to recreate that feeling as often as possible. Someone can develop an addiction to masturbation when they can’t stop trying to get the dopamine release that occurs when they masturbate.
Masturbation becomes too much when it starts to interfere with someone’s everyday life. It can also be too much if someone has to escalate their masturbation to achieve the same kind of “high” when they masturbate.
Signs of Masturbation Addiction
If you are unsure if you or someone you know is addicted to masturbation, these signs can indicate the presence of a masturbation addiction:
- Preoccupied thinking about masturbation
- Masturbating in inappropriate places (work, school, public bathrooms)
- Using masturbation as a coping mechanism
- Masturbating for long periods of time or very frequently
- Physical injury to genitals due to overuse
- Always choosing masturbation over sex with a partner
- Feeling guilt or shame after masturbating
- Masturbating regardless of being aroused or not
What Causes an Addiction to Masturbation?
Masturbation can be a healthy and normal part of someone’s sexual experience. However, when it becomes a compulsion rather than an occasional act, it can transform into an addiction. Someone may also use masturbation as a coping mechanism for other mental health issues. For example, if someone is struggling with anxiety or depression and finds that masturbation provides a natural dopamine boost, they can start to associate masturbation with the only thing that makes them feel better. Someone may also struggle with hypersexuality or compulsive sexual behavior. In these cases, anything that reminds the person of sex can cause them to engage in sexual behavior. If someone suffers from any kind of emotional distress and is prone to using masturbation as a coping mechanism, it can feel easier for them to isolate and use masturbation as a way to feel better.
Masturbation Addiction Impact
Masturbation addiction can have a huge negative impact on someone’s life. For example, excessive masturbation can harm a person’s sex drive. If someone is constantly masturbating, they run the risk of burning out their dopamine receptors and getting less pleasure when they masturbate.
Relying on masturbation to be your primary source of pleasure can be hard on a romantic relationship as well. The partner of someone who is addicted to masturbation may feel they come second to masturbating, and they may not be sexually satisfied in the relationship. There is also a lot of guilt and shame that can come with masturbation addiction. These negative emotions can lead to anxiety or depression if they go unchecked.
Masturbating may also take up a significant amount of a person’s time, which can negatively impact work, school and other social obligations the person may have. Masturbation addiction can become very isolating, and it can feel very hard to stop.
Tips for Reducing Masturbation
Although overcoming masturbation addiction can seem difficult, there are techniques that can help a person reduce masturbation and begin to have a healthier relationship with it. Things that can be helpful in reducing masturbation are:
- Exercising for a healthy dopamine release
- Reducing exposure to pornographic content
- Identifying triggers for masturbation
- Joining a support group
- Spending time with friends and family
- Exploring new hobbies
Treatment For Masturbation Addiction
While masturbation addiction is not an official diagnosis, there are treatment options available that can help reduce symptoms and move a person toward a healthier relationship with masturbation.
Some medications have been shown to be effective in managing symptoms of hypersexuality and excessive masturbation. Medications that can be prescribed for masturbation addiction include:
- GnRH analogs
SSRIs can help reduce sexual desire and libido, reducing the need for masturbation. Anti-androgens reduce testosterone levels, which have been linked to higher levels of sexuality and masturbation. By reducing testosterone, anti-androgens can help reduce the desire to masturbate. GnRH analogs inhibit testosterone production in the testes and reduce sexual desire as well.
Therapy can be an effective treatment in helping to reduce masturbation addiction symptoms. It can help someone identify what their triggers for masturbation are and learn how to develop healthier coping mechanisms they can use in place of masturbation.
Resources such as the Nobu app help make support for masturbation addiction easy and accessible. The Nobu app has mindfulness practices, mental health lessons, journaling tools and many other supportive services. For an additional fee, you can also connect with a licensed therapist to receive professional support and mental health care. You can download the Nobu app for free on Apple and Android devices.
Edited by – Jonathan Strum
Jonathan Strum graduated from the University of Nebraska Omaha with a Bachelor’s in Communication in 2017 and has been writing professionally ever since. He has written, edited and published content for health care professionals, educators, real estate agents, lawyers and high-level university faculty… Read more.
Written by – Danielle Boland
Danielle is a licensed clinical social worker, currently living and practicing in central Connecticut. Danielle graduated from Columbia University in 2012 with a Masters of Social Work, and always had the goal of opening her own private practice. She specializes in women’s issues, maternal health and postpartum mental health. Danielle is passionate about empowering people of all ages and hopes to use her writing skills to provide more resources for those looking to improve their mental health… Read more.
Medically Reviewed by – Dr. Angela Phillips
Angela is a licensed therapist and clinical researcher, and has worked in public, private, government, and not-for-profit organizations, across clinical and research-oriented roles. Angela’s clinical and research experience has included suicide prevention, cognitive behavioral… Read more.
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