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Is Masturbation Addiction Possible? Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

Last Updated: March 13, 2024

Reviewed by Dr. Ash Bhatt

Human beings, like many other species in the animal kingdom, are inherently wired to experience sexual stimulation. This natural response triggers the release of neurotransmitters, including dopamine, creating a sense of pleasure and reward.

 

In moderation, this aspect of human sexuality is considered normal and even essential for well-being. But when does this natural inclination become a potential hazard habit? This article will clarify the fine line between healthy sexual behavior and the potential pitfalls of masturbation addiction, along with actionable steps toward a journey of healing and recovery.

What is an Addiction to Masturbation?

Masturbation is a natural human behavior rooted in biological and psychological factors that involve the self-stimulation of one’s genital organs to achieve sexual pleasure. This activity is considered normal and harmless and part of a healthy sexual lifestyle.

Usually, people engage in masturbation either because they are not interested in partnered sex or want to avoid pregnancy/sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Masturbation offers benefits such as:

  • Sexual release and satisfaction
  • Stress relief
  • Exploration of own sexuality
  • Insights about bodily responses to pleasure

When masturbation starts interfering with daily life, it may be indicative of masturbation addiction. This addiction, also known as compulsive sexual behavior disorder (CSBD) , is characterized by an inability to control or resist the urge to masturbate, leading to negative consequences in various aspects of life.

Alteration in masturbation habits can be due to the biochemical process of masturbation itself, which involves the activation of the brain’s reward system, leading to the release of neurotransmitters such as dopamine, responsible for the sensation of pleasure.

Although masturbation is not as physically addictive as a substance, people can experience a similar loop that conditions the brain to seek this pleasure repeatedly. In 2019, CSBD was included in the 11th revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) as an impulse control disorder.

Masturbation Addiction Symptoms

Addiction to masturbation manifests through a range of symptoms that indicate a loss of control over one’s sexual behavior. Here are common symptoms associated with masturbation:

  • Loss of Control: Individuals with masturbation addiction often find it challenging to control the compulsive masturbation episodes. There may be unsuccessful attempts to limit or stop the behavior.
  • Excessive Time and Energy: A significant amount of time and energy is devoted to thinking about, engaging in, or recovering from masturbation. This preoccupation can interfere with daily activities, work, and relationships.
  • Continued Behavior Despite Consequences: Despite experiencing negative consequences, such as relationship problems, health issues, or legal concerns, people with masturbation addiction continue the behavior without modifying their actions.
  • Distress and Anxiety: Addiction to masturbation often leads to emotional distress, anxiety or feelings of guilt and shame. People may recognize the negative impact of their behavior but struggle to stop.
  • Isolation: Individuals may withdraw from social activities, avoiding friends, family or intimate relationships due to embarrassment, shame or the need to engage in the behavior in private.

Signs of Addiction to Masturbation

The causes of addiction to masturbation are complex and often involve a combination of biological, psychological and environmental factors. Here are some common factors associated with the development of this disorder:

Biological Factors

Psychological Factors

  • Mental Health Conditions: Co-occurring mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety or obsessive-compulsive disorders, may contribute to the development of compulsive sexual behaviors.
  • Trauma: Experiencing trauma, abuse, or neglect in childhood or adulthood can be a contributing factor, as some individuals may turn to masturbation as a coping mechanism.

Environmental Factors

  • Early Exposure: Early exposure to explicit sexual content, either through media or personal experiences, may contribute to the development of problematic sexual behaviors.
  • Family Environment: A dysfunctional family environment, lack of open communication about sex, or rigid attitudes towards sexuality may contribute to the development of unhealthy sexual behaviors.
  • Poor Sexual Education: Inadequate or misinformed sex education may lead to a lack of understanding about healthy sexual behaviors, leading to potential compulsive patterns.

Masturbation Addiction Treatment

Treatment for addiction to masturbation addiction typically involves a multidimensional approach that addresses the physical and psychological aspects of the condition. Here are common treatment options for this CSBD:

Therapy and Counseling

  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT helps individuals identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviors associated with the addiction, focusing on developing healthier coping mechanisms.
  • Individual Counseling: One-on-one counseling sessions provide a safe space for individuals to explore the root causes of their addiction, set goals for recovery and develop strategies for managing triggers.

Group Therapy

  • Support Groups: Participating in support groups with individuals facing masturbation addiction can provide a sense of community and shared understanding. Group therapy offers a platform for sharing experiences and receiving encouragement.

Medical Intervention

  • Medication: In some cases, medication like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) like Fluoxetine may be prescribed to address co-occurring mental health conditions, such as depression or anxiety, that may be causing the masturbation addiction.

Psychoeducation and Alternative Interventions

  • Sex Education: Providing accurate and comprehensive sex education helps individuals develop a healthier understanding of sexuality, reducing shame and misconceptions associated with masturbation.
  • Mindfulness and Meditation: Practices that promote mindfulness and self-awareness can help individuals regain control over impulsive behaviors and manage stress more effectively.

Recover from Masturbation Addiction

Addiction to masturbation is considered a behavioral disorder that can highly negatively impact life. Understanding these underlying causes can help individuals and healthcare professionals develop effective relapse prevention and treatment strategies.

It’s important to approach this issue without shame. With various treatments available, individuals can explore what works best on their journey to recovery. Embracing this journey is crucial to reclaiming a fulfilling and balanced life.

People Also Ask

Can you be addicted to masturbation?

Yes, addiction to masturbation falls under the umbrella of compulsive sexual behavior disorder (CSBD), which is listed in the 11th revision of the ICD-11 as an impulse control disorder.

Why masturbation can be addictive?

Masturbation can be addictive due to the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure. Repeated exposure creates a reinforcing loop, leading to compulsive behavior as the brain seeks the pleasure associated with masturbation.

How can I find recovery from masturbation addiction?

Recovery from masturbation addiction involves seeking professional help, such as therapy or counseling. Develop coping strategies, engage in support groups, and address underlying issues.


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Retrieved on February 26, 2024.

Published on: July 15th, 2016

Updated on: March 13th, 2024

María José Petit-Rodríguez

About Author

María José Petit-Rodríguez

Medically Reviewed by

Dr. Ash Bhatt

Throughout his professional life, Dr. Bhatt has been conferred with diplomate status by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, certifying him in both adult and child/adolescent psychiatry. His experiences in emergency rooms, frequently encountering patients with simultaneous health and addiction issues, directed his attention to these specific fields.

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