Signs of Masturbation Addiction

Signs of Masturbation Addiction

If you’re wondering what the signs of a masturbation addiction are, you or someone you love may be suffering from it. If that’s the case, take a deep breath!

Masturbation addiction is commonly misunderstood, and therefore intimidating, but that doesn’t mean it’s never-ending. You can overcome a masturbation habit—even an addiction!—with the proper tools, some hard work, and an understanding of the issue itself.

What is Masturbation Addiction?

While we talk about the signs of masturbation addiction in this article, remember that this is a concept that is still debated among the mental health community. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (commonly known as the DSM-5, considered to be the main guide for mental health providers in the US) does not recognize masturbation addiction as an official mental health disorder.

However, when asked if sex and masturbation addictions were similar to substance addictions, the Cleveland Clinic said:

“Yes. The “addiction feeling” is what makes it similar. The craving for sex is similar to cravings felt for alcohol or drugs by those who have addictions to these substances. It’s an overwhelming compulsion or temptation that’s so strong you feel that you have to have it. It’s an out-of-control feeling, never feeling satisfied feeling or a constant battle to take control of something that’s on autopilot. You return to the behavior — over and over again — despite the negative consequences.”

There are a few reasons why, but the main controversy is that excessive masturbation would be considered a behavioral addiction, instead of a substance addiction. These are harder to qualify, and so a medical provider won’t have a specific list of criteria with which to diagnose you, like they would for obsessive-compulsive disorder, ADHD, or depression.

The signs of addiction that we will go over today are not a checklist to see if you really have a problem, but more a list of red flags to consider as you try to understand if your problem is as bad as you think it is.


Is Masturbation Really Bad For You?

Here’s the thing. Most sites will say that masturbation is normal, even healthy. And that may be true! But if masturbation is causing you distress to the point where you’re worried you may be addicted to it, then it’s left the ‘healthy and normal’ territory, and become something negative, even toxic.

If you feel that masturbation is something you need to cut out of your life, listen to that feeling. Don’t allow yourself to be consumed by your struggle, but make sure that you’re listening to the signs coming from your brain, as well as the signs coming from your behavior.

The “Addiction” Label

Be honest with yourself as you think about your masturbation habits.

Many people find relief in identifying as “addicted” to something, as it gives them an understanding of the negative choices they’ve made, and a more definite path towards recovery. In a clinical sense, masturbation addiction is referred to as “hypersexuality disorder”, and those who identify with the “addict” label may find some relief in researching that. You can find some great information here.

But that isn’t the case for everyone.

Some people benefit from taking a more fact-focused approach, sticking to what the DSM-5 says, and viewing masturbation as more of a negative habit to overcome than an addiction. This makes it all feel a little less dramatic, and higher-anxiety individuals may benefit from not immediately assigning themselves the label of “addict”.

As we review the signs of a masturbation addiction, keep in mind that whether or not you feel that you are truly addicted to masturbation, there are many resources available to you to help you break free of this habit, and live a life that better aligns with your values. Therapy is a fantastic resource, as are online support groups.

Signs of a Masturbation Addiction

These are a list of signs from us here at Relay Health, as well as some from the Mayo Clinic. If you feel that you meet these qualifications, it’s time to get help so that you can live a life free from masturbation addiction.

  • Sexual urges, fantasies, and behavior (masturbation, watching pornography) take up a lot of your time, and feel out of your control.
  • You masturbate even when you’re not aroused.
  • You feel a need to masturbate, you feel a little bit better after you do, but you feel incredibly guilty or ashamed afterwards.
  • When you feel negative emotions like stress, anxiety, depression, or loneliness, your go-to coping method is masturbation.
  • You masturbate in public or other inappropriate places because you can’t wait until you get home.
  • You continue to masturbate even if there are consequences or risks—you find yourself ignoring them.
  • It’s difficult for you to stop thinking about masturbating.
  • You change your planned activities to allow yourself to masturbate—like skipping a meeting, being late for school/work, or leaving an event early.
  • You have difficulty making and maintaining healthy relationships.

Should I Be Concerned?

Odds are, if you’re looking up the signs of a masturbation addiction, you’re already concerned. Masturbation addiction—or hypersexuality—does have some negative side effects. If you met several of the above criteria, it may be time for a lifestyle change to avoid experiencing the following:

  1. Guilt and shame for masturbation lead to a lowered self-image and poor self-esteem. Poor self-esteem can trigger many underlying mental health concerns, or lead to their development. Those with a masturbation problem are at risk for developing anxiety, depression, or even obsessive-compulsive disorder to try and cope with the repeated feelings of guilt and shame from their actions.
  2. Needing more/more intense sex or masturbation in order to be satisfied. According to the Mayo Clinic:“Compulsive sexual behavior, over time, might cause changes in the brain's pathways, called neural circuits. This may happen especially in areas of the brain that are related to reinforcement. Over time, more-intense sexual content and stimulation are usually needed to get satisfaction or relief.”
  3. Lack of satisfaction with real sex and real relationships, or even difficulty climaxing at all.Consuming pornography and frequently masturbating can set expectations for sexuality within relationships far too high. Real sex is nothing like what you see on the screen when watching pornography, and the goal of real sex isn’t orgasm: it’s connection.

Steps to Overcome Masturbation Addiction

If you’re ready to quit masturbating and live a life that’s more in harmony with your values, you’ve come to the right place! Whether or not you’ve been exhibiting the signs of masturbation addiction that we talked about, you will benefit from following the steps listed below!

Get Help as Soon as Possible

Issues as personal as masturbation and sexuality are best addressed with a professional, or with others who know exactly what you’re going through. Therapy is a fantastic option, as are online support groups.

Here at Relay, we’ve developed a unique recovery app, where you work with a team of others who are in the same boat, hold each other accountable, and work on recovery together. We’ve based it off of science-backed mindfulness techniques, and have found that many of our users have had awesome success in permanently changing their habits. You can give it a try here!

Understand and Avoid Triggers

What usually triggers your need to masturbate, whether or not you want to? Is it pornography? Is it being all alone?

Take a moment to write down the things that usually lead you to masturbate. Think about 1) your emotional state when it happens, 2) the time of day, 3) and any other issues that you may be using masturbation to cope with.

For example, one may write:

When I come home from school really tired and stressed out is when it usually happens, especially if I’m alone in the evening. Sometimes I’ll masturbate when I’m angry as a way to kind of release. It happens more if I’ve been worrying about work, or if my family members have been fighting.

It’s important to understand what goes on in your brain that may trigger a “need” to masturbate. Once you’ve thought about and identified some triggers, make a plan to avoid them. Pick behaviors you’ll replace masturbation with if you are triggered—if you simply focus on “not masturbating,” it’s much harder to be successful.

Let’s return to our previous example.

When I come home from school really tired and stressed out, I’m going to eat a snack and then take the dog for a walk. If I find myself alone in the evening, I’ll call my mom or invite a friend over. If I find myself getting angry, I’ll go to the gym, or go for a drive with some loud music blasting as a healthier way to release that tension. If I’m worried about work or about my family fighting, I will talk to my friend, or write about it in my journal instead of masturbating.

You may find success in sharing your plan with a close friend or trusted family member, with your therapist or Relay group. They can help you stay accountable to these goals.

Be Open and Connect with Others

It’s no secret that a masturbation addiction—no matter how you choose to classify it—thrives in isolation. The guilt and shame we feel can lead us to want to stay far away from our friends and family, and others that care about us.

It might feel like the best option, but this is actually incredibly counter-intuitive. Taking time to connect with others will increase your own ability to avoid masturbating, as well as help you to remember the kind of person you want to be. Plus, a schedule filled with friends is one that doesn’t leave much time for masturbation.

If you feel like you don’t have any friends, now is a great time to meet some! Connect with those around you at school or work, or reach out to your Relay group. Go to events that seem interesting, and then be approachable and chat with the people you meet there. Go to sports events, concerts, art shows—whatever you like! And then just be yourself and smile and talk to those around you. This is a great way to find like-minded people.

The best part of it is, you don’t even have to talk about your struggles or masturbation addiction—you just need to spend time being around people who like you!

Set Realistic Goals for Yourself

Although you may feel ready to quit cold turkey and never masturbate again, it’s important to remember that healing is not always linear. You may have really high days where you forget you’ve ever had a struggle at all, and really low days where you mess up a few times.

Be patient with yourself!

Allow yourself to just do your best as you implement what you learn from your therapist or from Relay, as you learn about and avoid your triggers, and as you replace isolated masturbation with joyful human connection. Give yourself time to grow into a new, healthier, life, and enjoy the benefits that come from it!

It won’t be an easy journey, especially if you are dealing with a behavioral addiction to masturbation, but your brain was built to be capable of changing for the better.

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Find Effective, Evidence-Based Treatment in the Relay Program for Compulsive Pornography or Masturbation

There is help available to you if you or a loved one has a physical dependence or psychological dependence on pornography, masturbation, or sex. These urges and compulsive behaviors can control your life, but you can take back control. Relay's addiction recovery program provides a comprehensive, outpatient approach to behavioral change - at home, at your own pace. To each new program member, we provide a personalized recovery plan, a peer support group, progress tracking, journaling, and intelligent insights about your behavior patterns, all within a simple and secure mobile app Our proven approach helps program members achieve the best chance at long-term recovery without the time or expense of rehab or therapy. Try the Relay program for free here; if you need help as you get set up, contact us now at

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