What Is Masturbation Addiction?

Masturbation addiction

Verywell / Jiaqi Zhou

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What Is Masturbation Addiction?

Masturbation addiction refers to excessive or compulsive masturbation. While it's not a diagnosable mental health condition, it can have a significant impact on daily functioning for those whose sexual behavior is out of control.

Masturbation itself is not a harmful activity and may be enjoyed by those in a relationship or those using it to compensate for a lack of sex with a partner.

However, for some people, the tendency to masturbate can grow to be excessive or compulsive, to the point that the behavior feels to have gotten out of control. In this case, the behavior is sometimes referred to as masturbation addiction.

Masturbation, sexual addiction, and porn addiction fall under the larger umbrella category of behavioral or process addictions, compulsive behaviors that share many characteristics of addictions to substances. Still, these terms are descriptive rather than established diagnostic categories.

Sexual addiction is also sometimes referred to as compulsive sexual behavior.

Symptoms of Masturbation Addiction

While engaging in masturbation regularly does not necessarily mean that you have a problem, any of the following could signify that it's time to reach out for help:

  • Masturbation takes up a lot of your time
  • Your personal or work life is suffering because of masturbation
  • You choose masturbation over in-person activities (e.g., going home instead of staying at a party, choosing to be alone instead of with a partner)
  • You find yourself engaging in masturbation in public or in places where you would rather not (e.g., a public restroom)
  • You're masturbating when you don't feel like it or when you're not aroused
  • You masturbate to cope with negative emotions
  • You find yourself feeling guilty or upset during or after masturbating
  • You find yourself thinking about it often

Identifying Masturbation Addiction

Since masturbation addiction is not a diagnosable mental disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, there are no set criteria to determine whether it is a problem for you.

However, a doctor or therapist could ask questions to identify whether it is a problem for which you might need to receive treatment.

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Causes of Chronic Masturbation

What are the causes of masturbation addiction? Below are some potential causes of feeling the need to excessively or compulsively masturbate:

  • Underlying depression or anxiety that you manage by using masturbation to lift your mood, relax, or reduce stress
  • An inclination toward addiction because of your neurobiology (e.g., one study showed that people with compulsive sexual behavior showed greater connections between certain brain structures similar to those involved in drug reward circuits)
  • Emotional pain caused by life circumstances that you seek to push away by focusing on addictive sexual behaviors

Impact of Masturbation Addiction

A person who engages in masturbation too frequently or compulsively may feel:

  • Lower sexual satisfaction
  • Reduced self-esteem
  • Their chronic masturbation habits interfere with other areas of life such as personal relationships or work

Treatment for Masturbation Addiction

If you find yourself with a masturbation problem that you can't seem to solve on your own, it may be necessary to seek professional help from your doctor, a counselor, or a sex therapist.

Therapy

Talk therapy may help you to determine the underlying cause of your masturbation addiction, which will allow you to develop strategies to reduce the behavior.

For example, if you are dealing with past trauma, your therapist could help you process the trauma and help you find better coping skills for managing emotional pain.

In addition, if you are using masturbation as a way to cope with life stress, a therapist could help you with that as well.

It's important to recognize that you may need weeks or months to work through underlying problems, even though on the surface the behavior may seem simple and straightforward.

Medication

While there is no approved medication for masturbation addiction, a physician could help you determine if medications might help. Sometimes another mental disorder such as major depression or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is present, which could improve with medication.

Naltrexone, a medication that is FDA-approved to treat opioid and alcohol use disorders, can sometimes be helpful.

Coping With Chronic Masturbation

If you are unable to seek out therapy at this time, below are some suggestions to help get your behavior under control:

Engage in Activities You Enjoy

Taking time to participate in other activities can help shift your focus from masturbation to other fulfilling behaviors. Some activities to try include:

  • Yoga
  • Running
  • Meditation

Join a Support Group

Finding others who are dealing with the same issue as you can be very comforting and validating. For example, you can join Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous or an online forum to meet other people can relate to your struggles.

Consider Reducing Any Stigmas You Feel About Masturbation

Do you perceive masturbation to be shameful or immoral and feel that you must keep it a secret? It may help to examine any religious, cultural, or spiritual influences on your perception of the behavior.

Be Present in Your Personal Relationships

Try to make the effort to go on dates or plan outings with your significant other or family members and friends. This can help to ease the urges you have to be alone to engage in chronic masturbation. This will also help to strengthen your connections with loved ones and build a sense of belonging.

Identify Your Triggers

Do you notice that being bored or being alone leads you to engage in masturbation? Do you attempt to relieve stress with masturbation? If so, you can try to find other activities that alleviate boredom, loneliness, or stress. This way, when you feel these emotions, you'll have other coping skills to rely on instead.

Additionally, it may help to limit or eliminate sexual triggers such as pornography and any sexual devices you may have in your home.

A Word From Verywell

If you are struggling with masturbation addiction, know that you are not alone. There are others who are dealing with this kind of addiction too and will be able to understand and validate your experiences.

If you are unable to alleviate your urges to masturbate and you are finding it increasingly difficult to concentrate on work and your personal relationships, a trained mental health professional will be able to work with you to help identify your triggers and provide you with healthy coping skills.

5 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. DSM-5-TR. American Psychiatric Association Publishing; 2022. doi:10.1176/appi.books.9780890425787

  2. Mayo Clinic. Compulsive sexual behavior - Symptoms and causes.

  3. Voon V, Mole TB, Banca P, Porter L, Morris L, et al. (2014) Neural Correlates of Sexual Cue Reactivity in Individuals with and without Compulsive Sexual Behaviours. PLOS ONE 9(7): e102419. 

  4. Zimmer F, Imhoff R. Abstinence from masturbation and hypersexualityArch Sex Behav. 2020;49(4):1333-1343. doi:10.1007/s10508-019-01623-8

  5. Ryback, R. S. Naltrexone in the treatment of adolescent sexual offenders. The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. 2004;65(7):982–986. doi:10.4088/JCP.v65n0715

Additional Reading

By Arlin Cuncic
Arlin Cuncic, MA, is the author of "Therapy in Focus: What to Expect from CBT for Social Anxiety Disorder" and "7 Weeks to Reduce Anxiety."