Chronic masturbation is an actual problem that many people face, and because it is stigmatized, people have a hard time asking for help.
We will debunk some of the myths about masturbation and talk about how you can stop doing it to the point of excess. We will also offer some treatment options if you think you have a problem.
What Is Chronic Masturbation?
The term chronic masturbation is used to describe a person’s tendency to masturbate excessively, either for long periods or frequently — or both. The behavior is compulsive, and people who struggle with it don’t feel like they can easily stop.
This type of obsessive masturbation typically falls into two categories: routine or binge masturbation.
People who engage in routine masturbation compulsively masturbate at specific times of the day or according to a particular schedule. They may feel a need to be in a certain place to engage in this behavior, which can be a response to an emotional or environmental trigger.
Alternatively, binge masturbation involves engaging in the behavior for long periods, even for hours. People may binge for a few hours a day or a few days in a row, going on a “bender.” On a binge, people may go so far as to injure themselves and still continue to masturbate despite the pain.
Is Masturbation Bad for You Physically?
The simple answer is no. In and of itself, it is a completely healthy and normal activity. It can be uncomfortable to talk about, so some negative associations surrounding the topic may make some people feel it is just bad in general — but this is not the case.
According to a study done in 2020, 71 percent of Americans agreed that masturbation helped to improve their mood or considered masturbation to be an act of self-care.
The only time masturbation can be physically bad for you is if you use unhealthy or unsafe methods. For example, using adult toys without properly cleaning them can lead to bacterial infections. If you masturbate too often, you can get skin irritation or swelling.
In fact, plenty of research indicates that masturbation releases hormones such as endorphins, dopamine, and oxytocin. Coincidentally, these are similar pathways engaged during other addictive behaviors, such as drug use.
Is Masturbation Actually Addictive?
Funny that you should ask. This is a hotly debated topic in the mental health community. Many behavioral addictions or unwanted behaviors are generally questioned because they do not have the same physiological component as drug abuse.
Although in recent years, there has been a push toward the legitimacy of things like porn, sex, and masturbation addiction, others believe that it should be recognized as a compulsion rather than an addiction.
Technically, there is no official diagnosis for masturbation addiction in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), a manual published by the American Psychological Association (APA) to help practitioners diagnose and treat illnesses.
The DSM-5 sets the criteria for diagnosing mental illnesses, so the fact that masturbation addiction is not listed makes it difficult to diagnose and treat.
In the same way, sex and porn addiction are not considered legitimate by many medical professionals. Instead, these behavioral addictions are often called a compulsive sexual disorder, out-of-control sexual behavior, or hypersexuality disorder.
Regardless of what you call it, feeling a compulsion to masturbate at specific times or for long periods is problematic. If you are at a point where you want to change your habits, there are people who can help.
How Can I Tell if I’m Addicted to Masturbating?
There are some surefire ways to tell if your masturbation habits are becoming problematic. If a few of these apply to you, you might want to consider making some lifestyle changes:
- You feel shame or guilt after masturbating.
- Masturbation is causing problems at home, in the workplace, or in your personal life.
- When you’re feeling negative emotions such as anxiety, stress, or sadness, your default reaction is to masturbate to seek relief.
- You change your plans to masturbate — you might cancel a meeting, leave events early, or show up late to work.
- Because you can’t wait to get home, you may masturbate in public or inappropriate places.
- You still masturbate even when you’re not aroused.
- Masturbation consumes a significant amount of your time and energy.
- It’s hard for you to stop thinking about masturbating.
What Causes Compulsive Masturbation?
Like we said before, masturbation in and of itself is not necessarily a problem. It’s only when it becomes an obsession or contradicts your desired life that you may need to worry.
Though masturbation may not be inherently unhealthy, like with any other addiction, you may become obsessed with the rush of dopamine you can get when you orgasm. Some research suggests that compulsive behaviors may have neurological causes, but no conclusive research exists.
One thing we do know for sure is that chronic masturbation rarely exists without some degree of co-occurring mental illness. Many people turn to porn and masturbation when they feel depressed, or their anxiety starts to get the best of them.
Masturbation is instinctual and, most importantly, distracting. It can keep a person from having to focus on their complex and difficult feelings, and instead, they can bury themselves in their obsession. This is true for other compulsions as well.
What Treatment Options Are Available?
If you would like to cut back on masturbation, you can take a few different avenues. Most people want to at least attempt to try to stop on their own, but some struggle with this approach. We have some ideas for ways to shift your habits and more intense treatment options if nothing has worked for you.
Replace Your Habit
It is typically not a recipe for success to simply try to stop a behavior you have become addicted to. Rather, you should replace that activity with something else. Since masturbation is a physical activity, you may want to try other physical activities such as exercising, going for a walk, building or crafting something, etc.
Write About It
Many people find the act of writing to be cathartic. Journal writing can be a helpful way to sort out your feelings and work through why you are having a hard time stopping or changing your habits.
Get an Accountability Partner
Yes, it’s a difficult topic to talk about. However, if you can find someone going through something similar, you may find solace in leaning on them. You don’t even necessarily have to find someone who shares the same compulsion as you; find someone who has any compulsive behavior, and they will be able to relate.
Try a Support Group
Wondering where to find an accountability buddy? A support group is a great place to start. In this day and age, there are online options as well as local in-person support groups. This is an amazing option for those seeking a little anonymity and aren’t excited about the prospect of sitting in an old community center with strangers.
You may have some preconceptions about support groups based on how they are portrayed in movies and television. Still, they are actually incredibly helpful for those struggling with a plethora of issues. It helps to be able to talk to someone who understands.
If you’ve tried some of the things above and still aren't succeeding, it might be time to talk to a therapist. Don’t be hesitant to try.
There’s also no reason why you can’t talk to a therapist on top of some of these other healthy behaviors. Therapists aren’t there to judge; they help you identify your triggers and learn coping strategies.
As we mentioned earlier, compulsive behaviors are often a result of other underlying mental health conditions. Anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and other mental disorders can all be medicated, and that may help with your compulsion to masturbate as well.
You don’t have to feel embarrassed about a compulsion to masturbate. It’s more common than you might think. Though it doesn’t harm you, it can become unhealthy and lead to worse things if it gets out of hand.
If you want to change your behavior, talk to a therapist or your doctor, and try to find other ways to relax and reduce stress. Change is possible!
Is Masturbation Bad for You? What the Science Says | Psych Central
Sex Addiction, Hypersexuality and Compulsive Sexual Behavior | Cleveland Clinic
Compulsive sexual behavior - Diagnosis and treatment | Mayo Clinic