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Does Masturbation Cause Erectile Dysfunction?

Written by
Dr. R. Y. Langham

November 20, 2023

Medically Reviewed by
Dr. Dianne Steven

A common societal belief is that excessive or chronic masturbation can cause erectile dysfunction (ED). Erectile dysfunction occurs when you are unable to attain or maintain an erection (a firm penis) long enough to complete a sexual act, namely sexual intercourse. The belief that masturbation too much leads to ED is a myth. In other words, there is no scientific basis for this assumption. 

The belief that masturbation, even excessive or chronic masturbation, can lead to sexual dysfunction (i.e., ED) ignores the bodily process (or lack thereof) involved in the act of self-pleasure or masturbation. It also dismisses the psychological and emotional components that play a role in the development of ED – most of which have little-to-no involvement in masturbation or porn-induced masturbation. 

But where does this myth come from? Probably from the same place that other masturbation myths come from – a lack of research. Other myths that are floating around include beliefs that chronic masturbation affects your kidneys, causes weight loss, blindness, hairy palms, hair loss, height reduction, and much more. These myths have become cemented in the minds of society because there is nothing to refute them. 

But, regardless, they are myths – nothing more. Now, masturbation can cause stress that can affect various bodily processes, but this link, if any, is indirect and the result of something, such as the shame and guilt of masturbating to porn. If you want to learn more about masturbation, its causes, and why it is not directly linked to ED, you have come to the right because, in this article, you will learn why this is just another myth in a long line of myths linked to masturbation.

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What is Masturbation?

Masturbation is the act of self-pleasuring” or “self-stimulating” oneself for sexual arousal and satisfaction. Masturbation typically involves hands, fingers, a tongue, and/or sex toys, such as vibrators or anal plugs. The goal of masturbation is to help a person experience an orgasm – with or without ejaculation and the release of semen. The goal? Sexual satisfaction. Some people engage in masturbation due to a lack of time (i.e., a busy work schedule). Others do it out of shyness or because they do not have a romantic partner. 

Yet, some do it out of boredom and as a way to “escape” from their current realities, such as relationships or financial problems. Regardless of the reason, masturbation is convenient. Thus, masturbation, for the most part, can be really healthy and normal. It only becomes unhealthy or dangerous when it is linked to something else, such as porn addiction. Or, when it becomes excessive or chronic and interferes with your quality of life. Then, it is a problem. 

So, while masturbation can improve your self-esteem and self-confidence, help you learn more about your body, preferences, and dislikes, aid in creativity, foster empowerment, boost your mood, and even bring you closer to your partner, there are some downsides to it, if it gets out of control, such as child exploitation, sex trafficking, feelings of shame and guilt, low self-esteem and self-confidence, loss of employment, breakups or divorces, a lack of hygiene, anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation. 

Porn-induced masturbation can lead to broken relationships, mistrust, betrayal, and so much more. It can thrust you into a world you may not be able to emerge from with porn addiction treatment. The good news is there are plenty of porn addiction treatments available, like Stop Together, an online porn addiction recovery treatment program that can help you get out of the porn/masturbation web you entered. 

So, while occasional masturbation is usually nothing to worry about, if it becomes excessive and/or involves porn addiction, an involuntary obsession with porn that negatively affects your life, then it can quickly become unhealthy and dangerous. Although masturbation can affect your mind and emotions it does not directly lead to ED. 

The stress of “performing” like the people in the porn videos, clips, pictures, and movies may cause you to experience high levels of stress, anxiety, and depression, which could indirectly trigger or worsen sexual dysfunctions like ED. 

What Is Erectile Dysfunction (ED)?

Erectile dysfunction (ED), a sexual dysfunction, also known as impotence, is one of the most reported sexual problems in men. More than 30 million men around the world struggle with ED. ED is defined as a persistent inability to get or keep an erection that is hard enough to complete a sexual act. ED Untreated ED can cause a wide range of issues, such as sexual performance anxiety, infertility, an unsatisfactory sex life, chronic stress, low self-esteem and self-confidence, relationship issues, avoidance behaviors, etc.

What Causes Erectile Dysfunction (ED)?

Keep in mind that both psychological and/or physical factors may play a role in the development of ED.

While porn-induced masturbation or chronic masturbation does not lead to ED, there are other things that can trigger or worsen ED, such as:

  • Alcoholism and alcohol abuse
  • Smoking or tobacco use
  • High or low blood pressure
  • Obesity
  • Substance abuse or drug addiction
  • High cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Neurological conditions like multiple sclerosis (MS) or Parkinson’s disease
  • Sleep disorders
  • Low testosterone
  • Excessive or chronic stress 
  • Intimacy issues within a romantic relationship 
  • Stress or anxiety stemming from workplace or personal issues
  • Depression or another mental health condition

What Do The Experts Say?

Studies on masturbation and erectile dysfunction are limited at this time. However, some studies have indirectly explored the bodily processes involved in ED and masturbation. The results are listed below. 

According to researchers, depressed married men, who are unable to obtain or maintain an erection, may benefit from a diagnosis, sex education, and marriage counseling. More specifically, these individuals may be able to recover their sex lives and mend the tears in their relationships in a few months.

Other studies indicate that masturbating to porn can desensitize a man to certain physical sensations, such as sensual touches and kisses, and imagery, such as his partner’s lingerie. While the neurological effects of porn on the body have been studied, no research currently exists that suggests that watching porn can trigger a physical reaction in the body that leads to ED.

Researchers also found that men suffering from ED, who are in couples, and who are attending behavioral therapy to help them communicate better and articulate their sexual wants and needs more clearly experienced fewer ED “episodes” following therapy. Understand, however, that this study did not mention masturbation, but it did demonstrate the effectiveness of communication in sexual dysfunctions like ED.

What Do The People Say?

The best way to get an idea of the views of people who masturbate is to hear them in their own words. Listed below are the real-life views of people who are struggling with masturbation and ED or those who have struggled with these two conditions. 

  • I have quit masturbating and porn for a little over a year now. I did not have a girlfriend at that time, but when I went on a date, I found out about my ED. It continued to the end date as well, and then I started taking tadalafil 10 or sildenafil 25 on sex nights. In the meantime, I did some exercises, on and off, chose some diet and vitamins for a month, and burned 10 kilos. Now, I have had a girlfriend for 4 months and get ‘morning woods.’ Now, when I initiate the makeout, it gets hard! My partner and I now have to plan a date for getting intimate, so I can take 5mg of tadalafil that morning on an empty stomach.”
  • My boyfriend thought he had ED from it, so he quit watching porn for the most part. But he admitted to me that he still watches from time to time which is alright by me because… drum roll… his ED got cured and it turned out it was more of a mental thing along with tiredness, bad positions, and not having enough morning sex.

    Now that I know him a bit longer, I know he gets erect a lot of times. I can’t stop touching him. He was so limp from fear the first time we had sex. He would get off me and be in pain and have a performance fear. The issue is he still can’t orgasm from penetration, but he is getting closer and closer.

    We want to start trying for a baby, so he masturbates and then cums inside me. The sex is also very good, although in order to keep him lasting, he likes to lay on his side which is not a great position. But it helps ejaculate. He needs stamina in order to do this. I am going to put him on maca root too, as a natural Viagra.”

  • “I’m thinking it’s either because of over masturbation (usually 1-2 a day, occasionally thrice) or it’s because of stress, I’ve been with 2 partners, it’s just when we get to the sex part it goes soft. I’ve also seen someone that I’ve had sex with last year to make sure that I’m to blame not the other partners because I’m nervous with them or something of that sort.

    Even with the partner I was with last year my D was normal and erect and had sex normally last year with them, but when we tried now I got ED when we moved on from the foreplay to sex (during foreplay and bj I was hard but the moment we moved on to sex I went soft).

    They even asked me, “Why aren’t you as hard as the last time?” Can it be over masturbation or stress? because of the university. I don’t smoke or drink or take any medication. Since I got into uni the stress has been skyrocketing so masturbate 1-2 a day to relieve stress. EDIT: I just saw this post and I think it’s relevant because I’ve been into non-vanilla stuff lately so maybe my expectations have changed.”

Can Erectile Dysfunction Be Prevented?

Possibly.

The following self-help tools and lifestyle changes may help with your erectile dysfunction: 

  • Getting at least 30 minutes a day of exercise
  • Quitting smoking or ingesting tobacco
  • Eliminating or reducing your alcohol or drug consumption
  • Practicing mindfulness meditation or engaging in activities that can lower your stress and anxiety
  • Getting a physical exam at least 1x a year and taking your prescribed medications to ensure that you are as healthy as possible.

How is Erectile Dysfunction Treated?

ED treatment depends on what is causing it. However, the most common way to treat ED is through psychotherapy and medication. If the ED is severe, surgery may be recommended. The most common medications used to treat ED are Viagra, Levitra, and Cialis – medications designed to help your penis relax so you can attain and maintain an erection. 

A penis pump may also be prescribed. A penis pump pushes blood to your penis to help you achieve and keep an erection (keep your penis firm). Surgery may include inserting a penile implant into you or repairing the blood vessels that lead to your penis so you can control your penis function and have a harder, longer-lasting penis. 

Your doctor may recommend suppositories or injections if the ED is mild. The goal of the suppositories and injections is to help your penis to relax so more blood can reach it, aiding in a firmer, longer-lasting penis. Self-help tools like the NoFap Challenge, semen retention, Reddit forums, etc., may also be good (non-medicine) options to try if you suffer from ED. Therapy can be an option regardless of the severity of your ED. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), along with other therapies, such as substance abuse counseling, trauma therapies, etc., may also be recommended. If you struggle with anxiety or depression, medications, like SSRI antidepressants may be added to your treatment plan.

If you struggle with porn addiction, porn addiction therapies and treatments will be added to it. The belief is that if stress is causing your ED, if you are able to reduce it, along with your feelings of shame and guilt, etc., your ED will get better. Stop Together can help you get a grasp on your porn addiction and masturbation practices by helping you address and cope with the feelings (i.e., stress and shame and guilt) associated with these activities.

References

  • Kessler, A., Sollie, S., Challacombe, B., Briggs, K., & Van Hemelrijck, M. (2019). The global prevalence of erectile dysfunction: A review. BJU international, 124(4), 587–599. https://doi.org/10.1111/bju.14813
  • Dwulit, A. D., & Rzymski, P. (2019). The potential associations of pornography use with sexual dysfunctions: An integrative literature review of observational studies. Journal of Clinical Medicine, 8(7). https://doi.org/10.3390/jcm8070914
  • Chakrabarti, N., Chopra, V. K., & Sinha, V. K. (2002). Masturbatory guilt leading to severe depression and erectile dysfunction. Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, 28(4), 285–287. https://doi.org/10.1080/00926230290001402
  • Brotto, L., Atallah, S., Johnson-Agbakwu, C., Rosenbaum, T., Abdo, C., Byers, E. S., Graham, C., Nobre, P., & Wylie, K. (2016). Psychological and Interpersonal dimensions of sexual function and dysfunction. The Journal of Sexual Medicine, 13(4), 538–571. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsxm.2016.01.019

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