Masturbation Addiction: What It Is, Symptoms & Treatment
Updated: May 20
When someone is experiencing masturbation addiction, they develop a psychological, physiological, and emotional dependence on the act of masturbating. Many people dealing with this kind of dependence are not open about their problems due to shame or a fear of being judged.
This kind of addiction can be difficult to diagnose or even recognize in yourself because it is hard to admit that there is a problem or seek out help. Getting help for masturbation addiction is possible, but leading up to getting help can be a long journey.
If you’re wondering if your masturbation tendencies are becoming problematic, there are some symptoms that you can look out for. Keep reading to learn more about what masturbation addiction is, the signs that you have a problem, and how you can treat it.
Masturbation: Can It Be Addicting?
The word “addicted” has been used to describe everything from an addiction to a TV show, a certain celebrity, or a favorite food. It’s a term that can be thrown around without any real serious implications, but addiction is a medical condition that impacts many individuals.
It’s not just something you feel; it’s a complex brain condition that makes it extremely difficult to stop a certain behavior. Masturbation is something that many people across the world partake in without developing a problem.
While you can develop compulsions and negative consequences from masturbation use, it’s not recognized as a diagnosable mental health condition by the DSM-5.
Addiction vs. Compulsion
So, what is masturbation addiction? Masturbation addiction is commonly referred to as compulsive sexual behavior. Not taking care of or treating this behavior can lead to hypersexuality disorder or out-of-control sexual behavior (OCSB).
This happens because a person feels urges to masturbate at inappropriate times or frequently throughout the day. Many people have difficulty controlling their urges which can put them in a situation that could get them in trouble. Much of this is tied to our brain's reward center and the dopamine and endorphins released when we engage in activities that make us feel good.
There is not as much research about compulsive masturbation because there is a stigma around the behavior. Not everyone talks about their sexual history or preferences openly, which can make it more difficult to see when there is a problem.
People that feel an uncontrollable urge to masturbate, aren’t able to think about anything else other than masturbating, and don’t care about the negative consequences that can come from it are likely to develop more intense compulsive sexual behaviors.
Healthy Masturbation Is Real
Masturbation is a healthy and normal behavior many people will do in their lifetime. It’s important to know that the act of masturbating itself isn’t what the concern is when it comes to compulsive sexual behavior.
As long as masturbating does not negatively affect your life and the relationships you are a part of, there’s nothing to be ashamed about. There are even health benefits, such as developing a healthier relationship with sex, that have been linked to normal masturbation habits.
Additionally, the frequency with which someone masturbates varies from person to person, so it’s impossible to generalize what is considered normal. You may find that you are someone that masturbates more than your partner, but that doesn’t mean you have a problem.
Symptoms of Masturbation Addiction
Because masturbation addiction is not a part of the DSM-5, it is not always easy to diagnose. Recognizing that a loved one may be struggling with masturbation addiction is more nuanced than figuring out if you have an issue.
For one, unless you have a very close relationship where discussing sexual identity and habits is common, it is hard to discuss your masturbation practices with others. It’s not always the most natural thing to bring up in conversation, and there is a lot of shame and negative emotions associated with it.
You should look out for some symptoms if you’re concerned about yourself or a loved one. Trying to bring it up to a loved one may be tricky, so remember to keep an open mind and create a safe space for them to share. Some of the symptoms that you should look for are:
Having masturbation interrupt your daily life, both personally and professionally
Masturbating as a response to being stressed out or upset
Being unable to stop thinking about the next time you can self-pleasure
Masturbating in inappropriate places because you’re unable to wait until you get home
Being late or unable to meet deadlines because you are constantly masturbating
Feeling guilty or shameful while you masturbate
Having difficulty completing when engaging in sexual behavior with a partner
Genital irritation, chafing, and other injuries
Masturbating, even if you are not sexually aroused
Being unable to stop even though you want to
Lying to a partner about your self-pleasure habits due to embarrassment
What Causes Chronic Masturbation?
Chronic masturbation can happen as a result of a few different factors. Everyone is different, so how one views their own sexual behavior differs from person to person.
No two people are alike, so how they end up with compulsive sexual behavior can vary greatly.
The four main root causes of masturbation addiction are:
They have a history of sexual abuse or physical abuse
They have easy access to pornography or a pornography addiction
They have behavioral addictions that run in their family
They live with high expectations, often related to religious or cultural background
Co-Occurring Disorders May Have an Influence
Some studies have shown that certain health conditions can prompt a person to participate in more frequent masturbation practices. This excessive masturbation can sometimes happen to people suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease.
This might be because people with these diseases experience compulsive behaviors, not always related to sexual activity, but that can lead to more explicit actions such as porn addiction or other coping mechanisms related to impulse control.
Drug abuse can also influence chronic masturbation, as some drugs, like methamphetamines and cocaine, are known to increase the need for self-stimulation. It may be hard to understand how these things can lead to masturbating, but with compulsive behaviors, you don’t get to choose your compulsions, and you especially don’t get to choose when you act on them.
Is Excessive Masturbation Dangerous?
Excessive masturbation can harm you in a variety of ways, but it depends on each person and how it affects them both physically and mentally. Not everyone will consider their masturbation practices dangerous until they begin negatively impacting their life.
For instance, chronic masturbation can lead to severe irritation and even injury. Without allowing your skin to breathe and rest, you can create more problems for yourself, including potential infections.
There tends to be more emotional and mental damage from chronic masturbation than physical effects. You may strain relationships over your excessive masturbation practices, lose out on job opportunities because of your inability to focus on anything else, and feel more shame and guilt, leading to mental health struggles.
If you feel that you are experiencing negative consequences as a result of your relationship with masturbation, it might be time to seek help.
Impact of Masturbation Addiction
There are a few major impacts that masturbation addiction can have on a person. At an interpersonal level, a person that is compulsively masturbating may be experiencing emotional and physical turmoil behind closed doors.
They may begin to lose out on opportunities in their workplace, find that their romantic and sexual relationships are failing, and feel extremely ashamed of their own body and actions. Their self-esteem will begin to fall as they continue to act on their compulsions without getting any help.
People that struggle with masturbation addiction may also experience lower sexual satisfaction in general. Though they may be masturbating consistently, they aren’t getting anything out of it and are only doing it because they feel like they must. This can lead to depression and anxiety, distancing yourself from your close relationships, and feelings of loneliness and isolation.
How To Reduce Masturbation
If you’ve come to the conclusion that you have an unhealthy relationship with masturbation, it might be time to change your ways. Treating masturbation addiction and other compulsive sexual behaviors requires physical and mental health treatment.
You have to take the time to care for yourself and your needs while being mindful of your condition. Not everyone’s goal is to stop masturbating completely, but if you have a problem, reducing the frequency is important to your recovery.
To succeed, you must stay focused on your goals and be mindful whenever you feel unwanted sexual urges. Coming up with coping strategies and understanding where your compulsive behaviors stem from can help you avoid acting on those unwanted urges.
Anyone that has compulsive behaviors is capable of overcoming them, but it does take time and effort to be successful in doing so.
One of the best things that you can do for yourself if trying to get help for your masturbation addiction is to seek out a therapist — whether a licensed marriage and family therapist or a sex therapist.
Finding one that specializes in sexual and compulsive behaviors can begin to help break down what’s truly going on. You may find you have to treat underlying mental health conditions with therapy to successfully reduce your masturbation behaviors.
Therapy can help you to better understand how your past and upbringing may have impacted you. Therapists are meant to get to the bottom of your problems so that they can come up with a personalized treatment plan. This way, you can come up with coping strategies that will actually benefit you, changing them as needed as you continue therapy sessions.
It may take some time for you to understand what your triggers are. Sometimes, it can feel impossible to recognize what is setting you off in a moment, but the point of recovery is learning about your needs and what your body is signaling to you. You can start to do this in talk therapy and seek ways to avoid them in your daily life.
Once you identify your triggers, you can begin to avoid them. If certain places, people, or times trigger you into feeling the urge to masturbate, you will soon pick up on them and know to avoid them. Even when you can’t fully avoid your triggers, you can figure out strategies to better deal with them and not let them impact your entire day.
Being mindful when dealing with masturbation addiction can feel particularly shameful. It’s hard to spend time thinking about the reasons why you’re experiencing this compulsive behavior. Understanding what you’re feeling and thinking through it rationally can help you avoid acting on your compulsive behaviors.
Instead of acting on the compulsions, think through them deeply. It may help you feel more satisfied from figuring out why you’re thinking about masturbating rather than simply acting on it. It takes a lot of effort to fight against any compulsive urges, but practicing mindfulness teaches you how to control your thoughts and actions better.
Join Support Groups
Support groups are out there for people struggling with masturbation addiction. These are confidential and supportive places that want to foster a sense of community, not ostracize people.
When you join these communities, you can feel good knowing your thoughts and feelings are valid. Other people are with you on the journey to overcoming masturbation addiction — you are not alone.
Even online communities are around and may be a better stepping stone for people still feeling ashamed. Community apps like Sober Sidekick help people to connect with others that are dealing with similar addictions.
The people who are a part of this app, which can be downloaded via Android or iPhone, want to see you succeed and overcome your masturbation addiction.
Sign-up today so you can be a part of this community and also gain access to resources that help those with addiction problems overcome them!
The Role Of Masturbation In Healthy Sexual Development: Perceptions Of Young Adults | NCBI
Impulsive And Compulsive Behaviors In Parkinson's Disease | NCBI
Can Masturbatory Guilt Lead to Severe Psychopathology: A Case Series | NCBI
Intervention Strategies of Excessive Masturbation for a 19-Years Youth: Experience of Counseling Intervention | Scientific Research Publishing