Death grip syndrome

Written with
Amanda Barge

Masturbation is a universally enjoyed hobby. Minimum effort, maximum fun. It even has health benefits, like stress relief and better sleep. Quite frankly, we think it’s great.

But some masturbation styles like ‘death grip’ might make it more difficult for men to get and stay hard during partnered sex. 

Because of the high demand for information about death grip syndrome solutions, thousands of forum posts have popped up online. However, this can make it hard to find concrete advice on the subject.

Well, that’s where Mojo comes in. 

We spoke to our team of psychosexual therapists, so you can stop searching through Reddit threads and get some solid expert information.

We’ll be covering:

What is death grip? 

Death grip is a solo sex style that involves – you guessed it – an extremely firm grip on the penis. It includes lots of friction and pressure, which can’t always be replicated in partnered sex.

Death grip is not a medically recognised condition, but it is a term used by lots of men to describe a masturbation style that is more commonly used than people think.

The particularly scary-sounding phrase was coined by sex columnist Dan Savage in 2003. Nearly 20 years later, men are still keen to find a death grip syndrome ‘fix’. 

The masturbation method is known as death grip syndrome because using a super tight grip on your penis can lead to a range of particular symptoms.

The feeling of death grip can be pleasurable for lots of men. But, if you use it all the time you can get used to the intense feeling, which can then make it harder to cum from more subtle sensations.

But don’t panic – we have plenty of expert advice if you’re looking to break this cycle.

Symptoms of death grip syndrome

To emphasize, death grip masturbation is nothing like having sex with a partner. By definition, it involves strong pressure on the penis. 

This sensation is hard to recreate when having vaginal, anal, or oral sex, because these body parts are not as tight as the death grip feels, and they tend to be a lot wetter than your hand. It could also be hard for a partner to replicate the pressure you’re used to when they’re giving you a hand job.

This can lead to a range of physical and psychological symptoms. 

Physical symptoms of death grip syndrome:

  • Erection issues

On a physical level, your penis doesn’t feel the same during partnered sex as it does during a death grip session.

So, if you’re used to getting aroused and cumming from death grip masturbation regularly, you might find it more difficult to get an erection during foreplay or sex with a partner. 

You could even find that you eventually become less sensitive during solo masturbation sessions – meaning that you need to keep applying more and more pressure to create the same level of sensation. 

  • Delayed ejaculation

If you hadn’t already guessed, delayed ejaculation, also known as impaired ejaculation, means it takes longer for you to climax. 

In some cases, men with delayed ejaculation can’t cum at all.

If you get used to the sensation of death grip masturbation and become dependent on that exact masturbation style to ejaculate, you could find it more difficult to reach orgasm during partnered sex (or on your own).

Psychological symptoms of death grip syndrome:

  • Sexual self doubt

When you’re used to using a masturbation style like death grip, which doesn’t resemble sex, it’s easy to question whether you’ll be able to get hard or cum with a partner.

Annoyingly, just having this thought in your head can be enough to throw off your erection.

This may lead you to finishing yourself off, or not finishing at all. 

“If you don’t trust your penis, you start watching it and paying more attention to it than you usually would. This can cause you to panic during sex, which could cause you to lose your erection. ”

Dr Roberta Babb, Clinical Psychologist & Psychotherapist
  • Performance anxiety

Performance anxiety happens when you start putting pressure on yourself to 'perform' (aka to get hard, stay hard, and cum) during partnered sex. 

If you’ve been depending on death grip when masturbating, you might start to believe this is the only way you can have satisfying sex, and there will be added anxiety if you can’t use death grip to finish.

  • Guilt

If you can get hard and cum from death grip masturbation, but not during sex with your partner, you might start to feel guilty or ashamed about your masturbation habits.

Unfortunately, these negative thoughts could also lead to problems with your erections. 

“When men feel bad about their masturbation habits, they can start to feel ashamed, which can cause psychological erection issues.”

Silva Neves, Psychosexual and Relationship Therapist

If you relate to this, you’re not alone. Countless men out there are dealing with similar feelings about their masturbation habits.

Can death grip cause ED?

Erectile dysfunction (ED) means you can’t get or stay hard. You can experience ED with a partner or during masturbation (solo sex).

Everyone is different, and some guys can enjoy the occasional death grip session and still stay hard in the bedroom. 

But consistently using a masturbation style that doesn’t resemble partnered sex can make it more difficult to maintain strong erections when you’re having sex (and your own hand isn’t involved).

“It’s not that if you use death grip masturbation, you’ll definitely get ED. It’s more that if you are having erection issues, you should then look at how you’re masturbating.”

Amanda Barge, Psychosexual and Relationship Therapist

Is there a death grip syndrome cure? 

Because it’s not a medically recognised condition, there’s technically no ‘cure’ for death grip syndrome.

However, there are lots of very effective treatment techniques for death grip issues. 

Not to brag, but that’s actually our area of expertise. 

We’ve broken these down into physical and psychological tips, so you can cover all your bases.  

Death grip syndrome treatment

Physical treatment for death grip

  • Loosen your grip

Unsurprisingly, loosening your grip is an important part of physically treating death grip syndrome. 

When you practice using a more gentle touch, your penis will start to respond to more subtle sensations again. 

  • Change position

Lots of men masturbate lying on their backs, and this is totally fine. But it can be helpful to try something different. 

Masturbating while kneeling or on all fours will be more similar to missionary or doggy style partnered sex. You’ll get used to getting hard and cumming in different positions, so your body will be prepared to get aroused in a wider variety of ways during sex. 

  • Slow it down

A quick pace can help you push yourself to orgasm – but it can be hard to build up (and maintain) such a high speed during partnered sex.

Slowing down your solo sex rhythm can help you adjust to lighter feelings. And switching to a slower rhythm will help you during sex with a partner, as you’ll be used to a more realistic pace.

  • Lube up

When you’re having a sexual experience involving a vagina, anus, or mouth, it’s going to feel a lot more moist than a masturbation session.

By using lube when you masturbate, you’ll reduce the heavy friction you’ve become used to, and you’ll also make your solo sex more like partnered sex. This will all make it easier to get and stay hard in the bedroom.

Be open minded and patient with getting to grips (literally) with these new masturbation tips. You won’t resensitize your penis overnight, but if you aim to consistently use these techniques in all or most of your solo sex sessions, you’ll soon notice the difference in the bedroom.

Eventually, you’ll have more mind blowing partnered sex than you ever thought was possible. 

Psychological treatment for death grip

  • Discover mindful masturbation

If you start to really pay attention to how your body feels, instead of using death grip by default, you can begin to appreciate different sexual sensations.

The whole point of mindful masturbation is to get out of your head and into the actual feelings in your body. 

This naturally helps ease performance anxiety, because you don’t need to worry about getting or staying hard when you’re enjoying the pleasurable feelings in the moment.

Try Mojo’s trial, where you can learn more about mindful masturbation.

  • Remember: cumming isn’t everything

If you view masturbation as a race to ejaculation, it’s easy to see how you might get impatient and apply more and more pressure in order to reach the finish line.

But if you see masturbation as a whole experience and not just a process that gets you to ejaculate, it’s less likely that you’ll want (and need) to death grip to get yourself to orgasm.

This is the same for partnered sex. Focusing on the intimacy, foreplay, and making your partner cum instead of yourself, could lead you to ejaculation without even trying. 

“If ejaculating is the goal, you might get frustrated and hold it a bit tighter. So, treating death grip is all about creating a new perspective.”

Amanda Barge, Psychosexual and Relationship Therapist

Mojo’s trial can help you change your mindset, stay in the moment, and stop focusing on getting to the finish line.

  • Reframe your thoughts 

Our thoughts can influence how our body (and penis) works.

If you’ve become anxious, or got it in your head that the only way you can get hard (or cum) is from masturbating using a specific pressure, speed, and friction, then it will help to reframe these thoughts.

This will mean you’ll eventually be able to get hard and orgasm from all sorts of different types of sex and sensations. Sounds pretty good, right? 

“These treatments for death grip masturbation really can work quite quickly. A loosening of the grip alongside a change of mindset can make a huge difference.”

Amanda Barge, Psychosexual and Relationship Therapist

Mojo’s platform includes reframing exercises, and a dedicated course about performance anxiety. These will help you learn how to train your unwanted thoughts as they pop into your head.

Death grip syndrome recovery

As we know, death grip syndrome isn’t a medically recognised condition. So we usually avoid words like ‘recovery’. 

But we do believe in an ongoing journey towards a satisfying sex life and consistently stronger erections (even beyond any death grip issues you once had). Mojo is here to help you start this masturbation journey.

What else could be causing ED?

While death grip can lead to problems with your erections, we want to point out that it might not be the root of your issues. ED can be caused by a huge range of other factors, which can be physical or psychological.

You should visit your doctor to rule out anything physical, and then you can start boning up on the causes of psychological ED. 

And if you ever need help with psychological erection issues, Mojo’s trial has all the expert advice and support you’ll need.

Other masturbation habits that could cause erection issues

Masturbation is great. But if you’re struggling with your erections, there are a few solo sex techniques you might want to watch out for.

Other potentially problematic habits include:

  • an unhealthy relationship with porn
  • getting too used to the prone position
  • becoming stuck in a masturbation rut

If you want to learn more about your solo sex life, we’ve created an in-depth guide on how masturbation can impact your erections.

Become a master of masturbation

Mojo can help you master new masturbation techniques and give you the tools you need to get out of any unhealthy sex habits (if you want to!). Our advice is expert-led, practical, and effective – and it’s helped thousands of men already.

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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