Masturbation Addiction: Psychology, Effects, and Statistics

Last Updated: January 21, 2021

Authored by Nena Messina, Ph.D.

Reviewed by Michael Espelin APRN

People who engage in masturbation achieve maximum sexual pleasure during orgasm, just like in a normal sexual act between two people. It must be pointed out that engaging in masturbation often does not necessarily mean being addicted to masturbation, so there needs to be a good understanding of masturbation addiction. With the advancement of information and technology, more ways to increase pleasure through masturbation have been introduced. Almost everyone who is sexually active or is experiencing sexual urges can masturbate.

It does transcend generation and gender. Even people who have sex partners sometimes engage in it. Masturbation in teenagers is also a common phenomenon as they grow up and start experiencing sexual urges. It’s usually a time of great experimentation since their bodies are maturing and undergoing a lot of changes. When done in moderation, it can be beneficial as it can be an ideal way of relieving sexual urges and preventing sexually transmitted infections and diseases. Excessive masturbation, on the other hand, has a lot of negative effects.

The Psychology of Masturbation Addiction

In masturbation addiction, two key substances play a role, dopamine and endorphins. Dopamine is a reward neurotransmitter that allows a person to feel pleasure. Endorphins are chemicals that the body uses to counteract stress and physical exertion, making one relax and recover. While a person is masturbating, dopamine is released, and the person experiences a pleasurable high that peaks off during a climax. After the orgasm, endorphins are released, making the person feel sated and sometimes fall asleep.

Masturbation effects on brain are complex. When a person becomes dependent on these feelings and uses them to escape stressful life situations or mental problems, it opens the window for masturbation addiction to occur. Masturbation addiction can become a cause for concern when it transforms into a means to cope with issues instead of facing them head-on.

A man watches an adult video on a phone.

Causes Of Excessive Masturbation

As normal as masturbation may be, there is a level of indulgence that becomes excessive, and several reasons can cause this:

Depression and Anxiety

A person may be going through a rough period due to trauma or innate reasons. The depression or anxiety experienced may trigger the need to lift this mood by clinging to the effects of masturbation in order to reduce mental stress.

Compulsive Sexual Behavior

This is essentially a behavioral problem linked to an escalated response to sexually explicit resources. In a particular study, it was stated that individuals with compulsive sexual behaviors possess a neural region that is activated and seeks necessary reward, comparable to a drug addict when the individual comes in contact with sexual materials such as images, videos, audio, and others. These materials, however, often they are present, trigger a sexual-cue that prompts the individual to engage in excessive masturbation.

Emotional Agony

Whether past, present, or an unsettling future, many circumstances may trigger levels of emotional distress, which can cause self-isolation, retreating into one’s shell, and spending alone time seeking console. This can result in over-indulgence in too much masturbation.

Does The Problem Differ Between Males and Females?

There isn’t much difference between masturbation addiction in men and women. Both sexes generally pleasure themselves with the penis until they get an orgasm. Society tends to be more receptive to male masturbation as opposed to females. It all has a lot to do with how sexual liberty is perceived differently in men and women. Thus, many women shy away from talking about their sexual fantasies because of how society may judge them.

Young couple in bed.

Studies show that more men masturbate than women. In a publication of The Social Organization of Sexuality, a group of researchers reported that after interviewing almost 3000 people, they found out that 41.7% of the women had masturbated that year compared to 63.3% of the men.

According to the Janus Report on Sexual Behavior by Samuel and Cynthia Janus, 10% of the women who participated in their survey say they often masturbate (a few times a week). For men, the percentage was 25%.

Masturbation Addiction Statistics

Men between the ages of 18 and 30 form the biggest percentage of those who excessively masturbate. This was according to a survey conducted by Promise Keepers Organization. The survey also found that masturbation addiction is common among religious people just as much as it is among people who don’t pay much attention to matters of faith. People engage in masturbation at a much earlier age presently because of access to pornographic material on the internet.

The empirical findings related to masturbation have been extensive. A survey in the UK found that 95% of males and 71% of females indulged in masturbation at least once.

In the United States, a report showed that in older adults, 63% of men and 32% of women within the are a range of 57-64 years often indulged in masturbation. Another report stated that compulsive masturbation is recorded in 30 to 70% of patients who have been diagnosed with hypersexuality. A report comparing the frequency of masturbation in males to females showed that even in recent times, men, there are still twice as many men who indulge in excessive masturbation as opposed to females.

Benefits of Controlled Masturbation

Masturbation effects on brain and general health are numerous. It has a few benefits when done in a controlled manner. A man who wants to donate his sperms can masturbate to do so. An individual who is not in any sexual relationship or does not have a steady sexual partner can masturbate to relieve his or her sexual urges and, at the same time, reduce the possibility of contracting sexually transmitted diseases and infections.

Here are Some Scientifically Proven Facts That Buttress the Benefits of Controlled Masturbation:

Improve Cognitive Functions

A 2017 journal on coordinated Gerontology research on test subjects showed that individuals who participated in sexual activities, whether solo or with a partner, scored significantly higher on a memory test and verbal fluency than those completely abstinent.

May Prevent Prostate Cancer

For men, Masturbation may reduce the risks of prostate cancer in the future. Research conducted on the regularity of masturbation and the likely effects found that men who ejaculated 4-7 times on average across their lifetime were more likely to develop prostate cancer than men who ejaculated at least 21 times or more every month. Those with higher ejaculation frequency had a 31% lesser risk of the disease.

Doctor man holding light Blue Ribbon for supporting prostate cancer awareness.

Improve Skin Quality

The famed post-orgasm glow is not only attributed to sex but also to masturbation. A medical journal revealed that an orgasm from either sex or masturbation might increase estrogen levels in the body. Estrogen improves the quality of the skin and hair. Masturbation also reduces stress and increases sweat production, which is a skin detox process.

Enables Quality Sleep

Masturbating frequently can help with sleep. This statement is confirmed in medical journals. The act itself, if it reaches orgasm, leads to the release of a chemical called oxytocin, which relaxes the body and promotes sleep. Other chemicals such as serotonin and norepinephrine, which are also released during orgasm, help to regulate your REM cycle and ensure better sleep.

May Increase Pain Threshold

Masturbation isn’t a “silver bullet” to high degrees of pain such as joint-related pains and others. Still, stress-related conditions such as headaches and body pains due to workouts can be numbed through the release of dopamine, oxytocin, and serotonin during orgasm. A study found that vaginal stimulation increases pain tolerance by as much as 40%.

Improves Mood

Often times, a good jolly mood has been attributed to active sex life, and for a good reason too. Masturbation, just like sex, is known to activate the thalamus and hypothalamus, which can be referred to as the brain’s pleasure part. The activity also inhibits the lateral orbitofrontal cortex- a part of the brain that is responsible for fear.

Studies have confirmed the concentration of neurotransmitters such as oxytocin and dopamine during an orgasm, which is the cause of the “high.”

Symptoms Of Compulsive Masturbation

Chronic masturbation is not uncommon and is usually diagnosed by a therapist, alongside other physical and mental health problems. When done excessively, it becomes a real problem. It is then categorized into what is clinically referred to as compulsive sexual behavior. How can a person tell that they are suffering from chronic masturbation? Upon close observation, one may spot out characteristics that are similar to a person with chronic masturbation.

These are Some of the Symptoms of Compulsive Masturbation:

Indulging More than Usual

When an individual spends more time than usual masturbating, this is definitely a clear sign of masturbation addiction. A person who goes from 4 times to 7 times a day to meet satisfaction is certainly suffering from excessive masturbation.

Indulging in Risky Masturbation

Usually, the act is done in secret. However, if a person often finds themselves unable to wait to get to a private place before indulging in the act, then such a person has a masturbation addiction. Masturbating in public places is a sign of compulsive masturbation.

Girl in webcam sex chat session.

Managing Mood Swings with Masturbation

Masturbation addicts may try to tackle stress, anxiety, depression, and other negative feelings as often as they come by masturbating every time they experience a change in their mood. People who do this use masturbation as a coping mechanism or a getaway from certain feelings.

Sex isn’t as Enjoyable

Persons in this category indulge in masturbation to the extent that sex may feel less pleasurable to it, and this may lead to problems with their partners as sex with them may no longer be fulfilling or exciting.

Masturbation Steals Social Life

When a person spends a significant amount of time masturbating in isolation rather than go out and socialize with friends, it is a clear indication of masturbation addiction.

Spending too Much Time on Pornography

Whether it’s an online video, a magazine, picture images, or any other form of visual pornography, spending time and possibly money on the material inadvertently leads to masturbating more often than normal.

Inability to Stop or Maintain Abstinence

Kind of like drugs and alcohol; when you find that you are unable to stay without masturbating, then it is a big problem. No matter how often you make a pact to stop completely, you find yourself continually overindulging- then, the individual certainly needs help.

Impact of Too Much Masturbation

There are no particularly debilitating aspects of excessive masturbation. This does not mean that too much masturbation is without consequences.

Dangerous Impact of Excessive Masturbation on One’s Health Includes:

  • Low productivity due to compulsive pornography watching
  • Unrealistic sexual expectations due to porn, leading to broken marriages and unhappy families
  • Low self-esteem and anti-social behaviors
  • Irritation of the genitals
  • Depression caused by negative feelings about moral values and spiritual beliefs
  • It may lead to reduced sexual sensitivity

The individual in question might need a therapist to proffer the right treatment regimen or refer the addict to a support group.

Curbing Masturbation Addiction

If one looks for information about stopping this habit, read our article about certain helpful tips and activities that can help to prevent excessive masturbation.

Excessive masturbation can be stopped by doing a combination of different things. One can find an alternative route to channel the energy, such as participating in volunteer programs, engaging in sports, and exploring creative talents through writing and art. If one finds oneself mostly masturbating just before one goes to work, find something else to do, like taking a morning jog to calm one down or go for treatment therapy. It’s also good to avoid solitude and interact with people. In case a person has pornographic material on the phone or computer, delete them. This is an important step. Develop the right mindset and believe that addiction can be curbed. It’s also not a bad thing to share what one is going through with family and friends and also seek counseling services.

Many people suffer from masturbation addiction but often fail to acknowledge that they have a problem.

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Page Sources

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Published on: July 15th, 2016

Updated on: January 21st, 2021

About Author

Nena Messina, Ph.D.

Nena Messina is a specialist in drug-related domestic violence. She devoted her life to the study of the connection between crime, mental health, and substance abuse. Apart from her work as management at addiction center, Nena regularly takes part in the educational program as a lecturer.

Medically Reviewed by

Michael Espelin APRN

8 years of nursing experience in wide variety of behavioral and addition settings that include adult inpatient and outpatient mental health services with substance use disorders, and geriatric long-term care and hospice care.  He has a particular interest in psychopharmacology, nutritional psychiatry, and alternative treatment options involving particular vitamins, dietary supplements, and administering auricular acupuncture.