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Can Masturbation Cause Memory Loss?

Written by
Dr. R. Y. Langham

October 16, 2023

Medically Reviewed by
Dr. Dianne Steven

Masturbation is a personal act that is often shrouded in mystery. However, contrary to popular belief, masturbating can be healthy (when done in moderation). While most times, masturbation provides positive health benefits, such as balancing hormones and triggering relaxation, happiness, a stable mood, and new sexual experiences and sensations, myths, misunderstandings, and misconceptions surrounding masturbation continue to permeate modern society.

Cultures, especially religious ones, family dynamics, societal views, and even biblical teachings suggest that masturbation is somehow inherently “evil,” “unhealthy,” “immoral,” ‘dirty,” or simply “wrong.” The truth is masturbation only takes on a negative connotation when it negatively affects your life in some way. Basically, whether or not masturbation is “good” or “evil” depends on how you view it and its place in your life. For instance, if masturbating causes you to feel shame and guilt, anxiety, or depression, then that is a problem.

However, on the flip side, if masturbation makes you feel good, boosts your self-esteem and self-confidence, helps you feel relaxed and content, and/or improves your sex life with your partner, then it is not a problem. To determine if masturbation is a good thing for you or something that is wreaking havoc on your personal, social, spiritual, mental, sexual, or emotional lives, you will dispel the myths linked to masturbation. One myth that we will be exploring in this article is whether or not masturbation causes memory loss.

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What is Masturbation?

Masturbation involves engaging in self-pleasure, or self-stimulation. It is a personal choice that can be done alone or with a partner. Fingers, a tongue, hands, and sex toys (i.e., vibrators, dildos, etc.) are used to caress, massage, rub, or touch one’s genitals until a sexual climax (orgasm) is reached. Sometimes, masturbation involves ejaculating sperm and sometimes, it doesn’t (dry orgasm).

But, regardless, the end goal of masturbation is euphoria and sexual satisfaction. Throughout time, however, masturbation or “touching oneself” has been viewed as “taboo.” Because it has rarely been talked about in families and religious and social circles, myths have been created, such as the myth that masturbation causes memory loss.

Is this true? It is unlikely, but the purpose of this article is to determine what is true and what is false when it comes to circulating beliefs about masturbation. Keep in mind that excessive or chronic masturbation or porn-induced masturbation can also become an issue if it starts to interfere with your romantic relationship or prevents you from completing tasks.

Are There Any Health Benefits Linked to Masturbation?

Yes, there are! 

There are several health benefits linked to masturbation, such as:

  • Balances Hormones & Neurotransmitters

Studies suggest that masturbation is linked to the release of certain hormones/neurotransmitters (chemical messengers in the brain) designed to trigger or produce sexual arousal, sexual climax (orgasms), and sexual pleasure. These hormones/neurotransmitters reside in the brain’s pleasure/reward center and play a role in cognition, emotions, and behaviors.

These hormones/neurotransmitters like dopamine (the “happy hormone” responsible for regulating movement, motivation, and reward-seeking behaviors), oxytocin (the “love hormone” responsible for linking happiness and joy with sexual and social actions), and serotonin (the hormone/neurotransmitter responsible for triggering happiness, uplifting one’s mood, regulating one’s behaviors, and aiding in sexual and life satisfaction. Anxiety and depression, along with other mental health conditions, like obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) are linked to low serotonin levels.).

Some researchers suggest that masturbation may also trigger endorphins (the “feel good hormones” responsible for easing physical, mental, and emotional pain. Studies suggest that endorphins are more effective than morphine in easing pain, which could explain why some masturbators turn to this practice when they are in pain. These hormones are also responsible for the euphoria a person experiences after exercising, which may be another reason why masturbators turn to this practice – to experience a “high” similar to the one experienced after a good workout.).

Prolactin is another hormone/neurotransmitter that may be triggered by masturbation. Prolactin is designed to reduce stress and regulate emotions, which may explain why masturbators turn to this practice when they feel stressed, overwhelmed, or upset. Prolactin aids in relaxation and controlling stress responses. Similarly, endocannabinoids (the “reward neurotransmitters” responsible for the pleasure that comes with eating, playing, exercising, socially interacting with others, and having sex).

Endocannabinoids not only help ease pain, anxiety, depression, and inflammation but also support learning and memory. These neurotransmitters also help control addictions. Many times, porn addiction or excessive porn use is associated with masturbation. Researchers suggest that people who are chronic masturbators and porn addicts have a low level of endocannabinoids in their brains.

Other hormones/neurotransmitters linked to masturbation are norepinephrine/noradrenaline (the “excited neurotransmitter” responsible for boosting and controlling the release of dopamine, which is linked to pleasure and happiness), and adrenaline (the hormone responsible for balancing one’s heart rate and breathing, and thereby, reducing stress).

Researchers have also found that the conscious mind shuts off when you orgasm to allow a person to fully experience the sensations and pleasure associated with it. In other words, it promotes mindfulness where you can fully experience the “highs” and euphoria that comes with sexual climax.

Can Masturbating Negatively Affect a Person?

Yes, it can.

Although most people experience happiness, euphoria, joy, and relaxation from masturbating, some people have the opposite experience. For instance, some religious people, especially Christians, who believe that “touching oneself” for pleasure is inherently “immoral,” “vile,” “sacrilegious,” or “evil,” based on their (or other people’s) perceptions of what is in the Bible, may struggle with feelings shame and guilt for engaging in or even thinking about engaging this activity.

Frequent, excessive, or chronic masturbation can also lead to irritated, inflamed, swollen, or chafed genital skin, or muscle cramps in the genital region. Masturbating and porn addiction may also be challenging or upsetting for people who experienced child sexual abuse or who are currently grappling with sexual dysfunction – i.e., erectile dysfunction (ED). When porn use is added to masturbation, masturbators may experience another level of distress.
For instance, porn use is commonly linked to masturbation which presents another set of complications or consequences, such as secrecy and feelings of betrayal from one’s partner, the possibility of human or child trafficking, child sexual exploitation, the loss of employment due to watching porn on company computers or missing work to view porn, and/or porn addiction. Porn use is especially “taboo” in some circles, such as religious communities and certain cultures.

Can Masturbation Cause Memory Loss?

Although masturbation can indirectly cause physical, emotional, spiritual, sexual, and/or mental distress, it does not appear to directly cause memory loss. More specifically, there is no scientific evidence that proves that masturbation causes memory loss. If a masturbator experiences memory loss, it is likely due to fatigue (i.e., staying up late to masturbate or masturbating so much that it “tires you out,” becoming emotionally or mentally drained from the stress or anxiety of others finding out that you are masturbating, the religious implications of masturbating, etc.) but not from the actual act of masturbating.

However, there is some evidence that masturbation may indirectly improve cognitive function, although this evidence is vague and limited.

According to a 2020 study, certain medications (i.e., Ritalin) and masturbation can boost dopamine levels in the brain, thereby increasing one’s focus and encouraging one to complete tasks. This may also apply to masturbation because this act is linked to an increase of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is linked to memory and motivation, so masturbating could *potentially* lead to increased focus and concentration, better memory, and more motivation to stop masturbating or masturbating to porn and start accomplishing one’s goals.

Researchers also suggest that masturbating can boost adrenaline levels in the brain, leading to more focus and concentration, improved memory, higher self-esteem and self-confidence, a better body image perception, and a greater sense of purpose in life. For some, “self-pleasuring” or masturbating can be empowering, rather than defeating.

Moreover, an earlier study found that sexual activities, including masturbation, can trigger the production and release of prolactin and dopamine, which can help people, ages 50-89, remember number sequences. Prolactin is especially important because of its neuroprotective properties, which are designed to limit or reduce stress-related neural damage. While dopamine supports healthy cognition, such as short-term and long-term memory functions. 

Researchers have also found that masturbating or “self-pleasuring” triggers the release of oxytocin, which is designed to lower cortisol, a stress hormone, ease tension, and trigger relaxation. Because masturbation is associated with the hormones and neurotransmitters involved in relaxation and stress relief, there is a chance that it could also ease anxiety and depression in people who turn to masturbation to relieve emotional or mental distress. 

Additionally, masturbation may indirectly improve memory by helping a person get better sleep at night. Masturbating triggers the release of hormones and neurotransmitters designed to ease stress and tension and reduce high blood pressure. When combined, these hormones and transmitters produce a relaxation sense in the mind and body which aids in sleep. 

People who engage in excessive or chronic masturbation, and those who are addicted to masturbating to porn, tend to have a hard time stopping their urges to masturbate (without porn) or urges to watch porn and masturbate. In other words, these individuals have a hard time “turning off” their brains, so they can drift into a peaceful sleep. According to a 2019 study, people who have regular or frequent orgasms typically sleep better at night. More specifically, these individuals tend to fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. They also tend to experience better sleep quality.

Studies also found that orgasms (from any sexual activity including masturbation) can increase blood flow to multiple parts of the brain, such as your sensory region, brainstem, and frontal cortical regions. Orgasms not only cause increased blood to your brain regions, it also increases oxygen to the brain, thereby, providing your brain with a healthy surge of the essential elements needed to grow and thrive. Thus, orgasms act like exercises for your brain, sharpening and refining it. 

So to answer the question, “Can masturbation cause memory loss?” No, it cannot directly cause memory loss. A lack of sleep, fatigue, or an obsession or preoccupation with masturbating without porn or with it can cause cognitive problems, such as memory loss or even confusion. But, this is rare only occurring after days of masturbating without sleep, rest, or or doing something else like working or taking care of one’s children. So, the likelihood that you would experience memory loss from masturbation is slim.

Do People Who Masturbate Think It Can Lead to Memory Loss?

Yes and no. Some people believe there is a connection between masturbating and memory loss, while others do not. 

Listed below are real-life views of people who masturbate on whether or not it can cause memory loss. 

  • “It’s proven that the brain works and improves like muscles, so you need to constantly train it or else it weakens. The problem with masturbating and porn addiction is that, while normal people spend a healthy amount of time remembering their childhood, something that happened during the day, and whatnot, people with a porn addiction spent all that masturbating to porn.

    They end up spending almost zero time remembering things, which means they are not training their brain, which eventually results in a weak memory. I have started trying to remember everything that happened throughout the day before bed. It’s very important when you are masturbating to use that motivation to try and build new habits. The things I said here are not scientifically proven, it just makes sense to me.”

  • I know people say masturbating doesn’t make you forget things, but I believe that porn can make a person who masturbates experience ‘brain fog’ which can lead to poor recall and memory.”
  • “I believe that masturbating makes me more self-aware, and self-reflective. It also helps my memory. My structured thinking has also improved, which has led to better clarification and a stronger ability to reach my long-term goals.”

What Should You Do If Masturbation Is Negatively Affecting Your Life?

If you feel like your masturbation practices are negatively impacting your life, it is important to seek help. It is also important to talk with someone (i.e., your romantic partner, close friends, doctor, and/or therapist) about your masturbation habit. Masturbation is often linked to porn use, so if you are unable to experience sexual arousal or satisfaction without watching porn, then it is time to seek help, especially if this is causing problems in your romantic relationship or marriage. 

Excessive or chronic masturbation and porn addiction can cause problems in relationships, so it is important to address your habit as soon as possible. These behaviors can also wreak havoc on your self-esteem and self-confidence, work opportunities, finances (when porn is involved), friendships and so much more. If you feel shame and guilt about masturbating or want to stop masturbating with porn or without porn, fret no more, because there is help available. 

Psychotherapy like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), medications like antidepressants and antipsychotics, natural remedies, and self-help tools like hypnosis, mindfulness meditation, hotlines, forums, support groups, and online porn addiction recovery programs, like Stop Together, can help you get a grip on your porn addiction and chronic or excessive masturbation habits. More importantly, these treatments can help you reclaim your life and sharpen your memory so you never have to doubt your ability to recall information again! 


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