Can masturbation cause ED?

Written with
Amanda Barge

In the US you’re probably jacking off. In the UK you might be wanking, bashing the bishop, or strangling the goose.  And if it were 2003, you’d likely be Buffing the Vampire Slayer. 

Whatever you like to call it, one thing’s certain: masturbation is a pretty popular pastime. 

A recent survey revealed that 75% of Americans believe masturbation improves their mood and helps them manage stress. But despite us seeing the benefits, lots of us are still embarrassed by the subject of solo sex.

There are also plenty of masturbation rumors flying around. From hairy palms to going blind – you've probably heard some made-up masturbation myths which are out there scaring men. 

One of these rumors suggests that masturbation can cause erectile dysfunction (ED). 

So, we’ve teamed up with our top Mojo experts to discover the truth when it comes to masturbation and ED. We’ll be investigating:

Does masturbation really cause erectile dysfunction? 

Some men worry that ‘excessive’ masturbation, or a particular way of masturbating can cause ED. 

But we’ve got good news. There is no proof to show that masturbation itself directly causes erectile dysfunction. 

“Masturbation is generally considered both healthy and harmless, and there’s no scientific evidence to prove that it directly causes ED.

Unless your masturbation habits are getting in the way of your wellbeing or happiness, there’s no such thing as masturbating ‘incorrectly’ or ‘too much’.” 

Dr Matthew Chan, Medical Doctor

What a relief, right?

But there are certain masturbation methods that could indirectly lead you to having difficulty getting or staying hard. We’ll dive into these soon.

Don’t get ED and the refractory period mixed up

If you’re having trouble getting it up straight after you’ve masturbated, this is likely to be down to something called ‘the refractory period’.

The refractory period is the time your body needs to recover from the biological wonder that is an orgasm.

Some men will be good to go again in a few minutes, and others will need 24 hours or more before they can even think about getting hard again. The refractory period tends to get longer with age, but everyone is different.

This isn’t erectile dysfunction, but the two things can get mixed up sometimes. 

If you’re a man who loves Lone Rangering, you might just need to give yourself more time to recover.

But can masturbation lead to ED? 

We’re all agreed that straightforward masturbation-induced-ED doesn’t exist.

But certain kinds of masturbation can cause issues that could then lead to problems with your erections. 

When masturbating alone, it’s common to have a set route to orgasm. And certain parts of your masturbation routine could cause physical problems or psychological roadblocks. 

These issues could then trigger issues with getting or staying hard. 

What are the physical side effects of masturbation?

The basics

If you’re always cumming in the exact same way when you’re by yourself, it could be harder to get and stay aroused with a partner.

For example, when masturbating, you might never use lube, consistently keep a fast rhythm, stick to a particular position, or always use a firm grip. 

The sensations of a dry, fast, tight masturbation session will likely be very different from a sexual act involving a mouth, vagina, or anus. So, some masturbation methods are very difficult to replicate when having sex with someone else.

Prone position problems 

Prone masturbation is when you lie on your front and rub your penis against a pillow or mattress – or anything else you fancy, really. 

As long as you’re not putting too much pressure on your penis, the prone masturbation technique isn’t harmful. There’s also no scientific evidence to say that it directly causes ED.

However, it’s hard to perfectly copy this sensation when you’re with a partner.

So, if you’re used to masturbating in the prone position, you might have trouble getting or keeping a boner during partnered sex (or alone, when you’re not going prone). 

Death grip gripes

Over time, you may end up gripping your penis harder and harder when pleasuring yourself.

This tight grasp is known as a ‘death grip’. Not the most appealing term, we know.

When having coupled sex, the ‘death grip’ experience may not be replicated by a partner’s hand, mouth, or penetration, and you might not be able to get or stay aroused.

If you’ve got into the habit of using the ‘death grip’, don’t worry. According to Amanda, it’s a super common pitfall – and it doesn’t mean you’ll never enjoy partnered sex again. 

In fact, we have tons of expert guidance geared towards diversifying your solo sex life and being more mindful during masturbation.

What are the psychological effects of masturbation?

Stuck in a rut

We know that masturbation methods can determine what physical sensations turn you on. Annoyingly, this can also set off a psychological response. 

If you start to believe that you can only get hard using specific masturbation methods, or get in your head that you’re masturbating ‘too frequently’, you could be planting a seed of doubt in your mind.

“Whether it’s always relying on a hard pressure, always watching porn, or always lying on your back, this repetition can create a pesky little voice in your head convincing you that you can’t stay hard if you can’t stick to your usual solo sex strategy.”

Amanda Barge, Psychosexual and Relationship Therapist

Guilty pleasure

For lots of us, masturbation can trigger feelings of shame or guilt. 

This could be for personal, religious, or cultural reasons, or it could just be the societal taboo around solo sex.

For the record, this is not how we think it should be. As far as we’re concerned, no one should be embarrassed about having a date with Pamela Handerson. 

If you have a partner, you might even feel guilty about masturbating without them. Men in our anonymous community have opened up about this exact issue.

Guilt can create anxious feelings, which can ultimately lead to erectile dysfunction.

Porn predicaments

It’s not really a surprise that lots of people use porn when they masturbate. It’s designed to make us horny, and it works.

The good news is there’s no concrete evidence to prove that porn directly causes ED. 

But problematic porn usage can contribute to pre-existing issues, and these issues could indirectly cause problems with your erections.

If you want to find out more about this, our deep-dive into all things porn and ED is here to help. 

Signs that your masturbation habits may have led to erection issues

If you can relate to the following statements, it might be time to change some of your masturbation habits:

  • You can only get and/or stay hard when you’re masturbating
  • Masturbating negatively impacts your relationships
  • You feel like you’re ‘addicted’ to masturbating
  • You’re masturbating at work or in other inappropriate settings
  • Masturbating interferes with your work or social life in general
  • You continue to masturbate even when it’s not making you happy
  • You think about masturbating all the time – so much that you can’t get on with your day-to-day activities 
  • You can only cum from solo masturbation

If these statements don’t feel relevant to you, then your erections are less likely being impacted by masturbation. 

What else could be causing my ED?

Once you’ve ruled out masturbation as the root cause of your ED, you might be wondering what is to blame. 

Well, erectile dysfunction can be caused by a whole variety of different things – both physical and psychological. 

The best thing you can do is to talk to your doctor to cross out any underlying physical issues that may be impacting your erections. And if you discover that it’s a psychological ED cause, we’ve got you covered. 

What to do if you think masturbation is having an impact on your erections

If you think your masturbation habits are impacting your erections, don’t worry. We’re pretty good at helping men with all kinds of sex stuff. 

Here’s a list of expert-advised things you can try: 

Switch up your solo sex life

Maybe you’ve fallen into the habit of using the ‘death grip’ or always masturbating in the prone position. Or maybe you’re just set in your ways.

Well, if this is you, Amanda has some advice:

“It’s important for a man to look at the way he’s masturbating. Is it quite different to how he has sex with a partner? If it is, it’s going to be helpful for him to practice masturbating differently. 

It doesn’t mean that he can’t have a quickie – but it would be useful to try some different techniques too, to be more reflective of partnered sex”

 Amanda Barge, Psychosexual and Relationship Therapist

For starters, Amanda recommends trying these simple techniques:

  • Using lube
  • Slowing down your rhythm
  • Exploring new positions – like masturbating on all fours or kneeling
  • Masturbating without porn

By diversifying your masturbation habits, you’re opening yourself up to getting turned on by a wider variety of sensations. This makes it more likely that you’ll be able to get and stay hard during partnered sex.

Mojo’s expert advisors have loads more insights, tips, and exercises to help you reclaim your erections. 

Mindful masturbation

Techniques like mindful masturbation can be extremely helpful for men who are experiencing erection issues. 

These methods will help you:

  • Take a step back and tune into physical sensations
  • Not rely on porn
  • Focus on the feeling rather than an end goal of cumming
  • Avoid switching to autopilot or going through a standard routine when masturbating

Basically, they’re designed to get you out of your head and into your body.

If you don’t believe us, take it from one of our users:

“I practiced mindfulness meditation where I just tried to keep an erection by myself without external stimulation (i.e. no direct touch or porn).

After success with that for a couple of weeks it made it much easier to not worry about, or even wonder if I could maintain an erection during sex.”

Anonymous user on Mojo’s Community

Our expert-led program will guide you step-by-step through exercises like mindful masturbation.

Open up and offload 

Because masturbation is (unfortunately) such a secret act, loads of us just don’t talk about how it makes us feel.

Like any difficult mental load, sharing with other people can be the first step to feeling better.

We know it’s cliché, but studies have shown that talking about stuff really can help reduce anxious feelings and improve your mood. 

Unsurprisingly, reduced anxiety and improved mood are likely to help you get better erections. 

Dozens of men in our anonymous online community have opened up about how masturbation makes them feel, and what’s helped them change their masturbation habits and their mindsets.

Can masturbation help with ED?

In a word, yes – solo or partnered masturbation can play a role in treatment for erectile dysfunction, and is often suggested by therapists to help clients with overcoming their ED.

“Becoming comfortable with getting, losing and regaining erections – and getting comfortable with your penis when it's soft – can be hugely beneficial in overcoming erection issues.”

Amanda Barge, Psychosexual and Relationship Therapist

Plus, masturbation can be a great way to figure out whether your ED is physical or psychological. If you can get hard by yourself but not with a partner, it’s likely there’s nothing physically wrong. 

The other benefits of masturbation

After all that, it’s time for masturbation to get the praise it deserves. 

Masturbation really can help with:

  • Relieving stress and anxious feelings
  • Exploring what you like
  • Getting to sleep
  • Discovering your erotic template
  • Understanding what you want from a physical relationship
  • Releasing sexual tension

Not to mention, solo sex is an amazing way to feel sexual pleasure without having to worry about STIs or pregnancy.

Our final words of masturbation wisdom

Masturbation is fun! And erectile dysfunction caused directly by masturbation doesn’t exist. As long as solo sex isn’t hurting your body or getting in the way of your sex life, you’re free to have as much solo sex as you like. 

But if you feel like your masturbation habits are becoming problematic and no longer making you happy, Mojo is here to help you get back to great erections.   

You’ll find a program that includes:

  • Videos of expert-led advice
  • Clinically proven exercises 
  • Community support

Mojo aims to provide useful wellbeing resources to its users; however, you should not solely rely on opinions or advice available on the Website or given by the Community. Always seek advice from a qualified medical doctor or other healthcare professional before acting.

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