Does Masturbation Cause Erectile Dysfunction? What to Know

There is no evidence that masturbation—or even masturbating "too much"—can cause erectile dysfunction (ED). However, some studies have suggested that masturbating frequently to porn may indirectly contribute by desensitizing you to sexual imagery and physical intimacy.

Other research suggests that habitually excessive masturbation—referred to by some as masturbation addiction—is a sign of emotional distress that can also indirectly contribute to ED. Viagra With Caffeine

Does Masturbation Cause Erectile Dysfunction? What to Know

This article takes a look at the role masturbation plays (and doesn't play) in erectile dysfunction. It also describes the risk factors for ED and what can be done to treat it a condition that affects around 30 million people in the United States.

Masturbation does not cause erectile dysfunction.

The myth that "jerking off" can do so stems from misconceptions about the actual causes of ED, coupled with moral beliefs and personal attitudes that can often demonize masturbation, portraying it—and sexuality in general—as anything less than healthy and normal.

These misconceptions helped fuel a growing online community of over 780,000 followers, called NoFap, which challenges members to abstain from masturbation to "strengthen mental and physical health" and "improve social and romantic interactions."

While there is no scientific evidence that masturbation affects the penis or the ability to achieve or maintain an erection, some studies suggest that there may be an indirect link.

The myth that masturbation causes ED was founded in part on the belief that masturbating "too much" traumatizes the penis, damaging blood vessels and nerves that enable erections and provide sensations to the penis.

While it is true that a traumatic injury such as a penile fracture can cause ED, there is little to no evidence that masturbation is a cause in the absence of injury.

One exception may be a practice known as prone masturbation. This is when you masturbate while lying on your stomach, either with your hand or by rubbing your penis against the underlying surface. Research conducted in 1998 theorized that this could lead to ED, a loss of sensation, and the inability to orgasm by exposing the penis to undue pressure and friction.

The theory, referred to as traumatic masturbatory syndrome, is not widely recognized by the medical community, in part because only four participants were included in the study. However, a 2023 investigation involving 1,819 participants found that prone masturbation was associated with a 57% greater risk of ED, suggesting a possible link. More research is needed.

With respect to masturbating in excess, a 2023 review of studies in the International Journal of Impotence Research found no association between the frequency of masturbation and the risk of ED.

It has long been suggested that masturbating to porn is "bad" for you and can adversely affect sexual performance and function. To date, there is little evidence that porn in and of itself "causes" ED or any other sexual problem, such as delayed ejaculation.

Porn can cause sexual dissatisfaction. This, in turn, can contribute to ED and other sexual issues.

A 2019 review of studies in the Journal of Clinical Medicine suggests that compulsive porn use (porn addiction) gradually reduces a person's responsiveness to sexual stimuli. In time, even watching porn itself may fail to produce an erection.

This is evidenced by a 2016 study from Belgium in which lower sexual satisfaction and lower erectile function were reported among compulsive online porn users. Studies suggest that the risk increases in tandem with the amount of porn watched per year.

On a deeper level, compulsive porn use is linked to an increased risk of anxiety and depression, which, in turn, can contribute to the risk of ED. A 2020 study involving 1,031 university students found that more than 20% of compulsive porn users reported "severe" to "extremely severe" levels of depression, anxiety, and stress.

Erectile dysfunction, the inability to achieve or sustain an erection suitable for sexual intercourse, has both physical and psychological causes. The causes often overlap and make the other worse.

Stress at home or work

Pinpointing the exact cause of ED can be complicated because physical and psychological causes are often deeply intertwined. A person with physical causes of ED will often develop depression and anxiety, which can lead to increased drinking and worsening ED symptoms.

While older age doesn't cause erectile dysfunction—younger people get it, too—the risk increases as you get older. By age 40, roughly 40% of people with penises will experience ED, increasing to 70% by age 70.

In the same way that masturbating doesn't cause ED, masturbating frequently is not a strategy to avoid it. The adage "use it or lose it" doesn't apply to ED as there are many possible causes, some of which you can control but others you can't.

With that said, masturbation offers health benefits that may indirectly improve psychogenic ED. This is a form of ED caused by psychological factors.

Masturbation may indirectly help by:

Even if it is not able to entirely overcome ED, masturbation can help people explore their sexuality and learn about their bodily responses in ways that help build healthy sexual relationships.

The treatment of erectile dysfunction can vary by the cause and may involve lifestyle changes, medications, devices, psychotherapy, and even surgery.

A combination approach is often needed and may include:

Even if the cause of your ED is entirely physical, counseling may be recommended to help you better cope with emotions, increase communication between you and your partner, and find ways to have a satisfying sex life despite the challenges.

It is a myth that masturbation—even frequent masturbation—causes erectile dysfunction (ED). However, some studies suggest that masturbating compulsively to porn can lower your response to sexual stimuli and reduce erections. Compulsive porn use is also linked to high rates of anxiety and depression, both of which contribute to ED.

While it is also a myth that masturbation can help prevent ED, masturbation can help relieve stress and anxieties that contribute to erection problems.

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National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Treatment for erectile dysfunction.

By James Myhre & Dennis Sifris, MD Dennis Sifris, MD, is an HIV specialist and Medical Director of LifeSense Disease Management. James Myhre is an American journalist and HIV educator.

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Does Masturbation Cause Erectile Dysfunction? What to Know

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