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What is masturbation addiction?

February 1, 2022
Reviewed by: Rajnandini Rathod

Masturbation addiction or compulsive masturbation is a progressive and compulsive condition in which an individual has emotional and psychological dependence on self-satisfaction. In this condition, one might continue to masturbate despite hampering personal or work life and feel no control over it. 

What is masturbation addiction? 

There is nothing inherently wrong with masturbation. Many people enjoy this in their personal time or even in a relationship. Masturbation is common among teenagers where sexual urges are at their peak. However, sometimes the recurring masturbation can develop into an excessive, out-of-control habit.

It has been long debated if masturbation addiction is really an “addiction” and is more appropriately referred to as “compulsive masturbation” instead. In the latest version of the WHO diagnostic tool, ICD, Compulsive Sexual Behaviour Disorder (CSBD) was added. As per the ICD-11 definition, CSBD is the persistent inability to control intense and repetitive sexual urges leading to frequent sexual behaviour. Masturbation is one of the prominent characteristics of CSBD. 

Despite the arguments among health professionals, compulsive masturbation prevails as one of the common problems. One can feel addicted to masturbation irrespective of gender and age. Even people with sexual partners can engage in uncontrollable masturbation. However, if you engage in daily masturbation doesn’t necessarily mean that it is a problem. So how can one differentiate between healthy and unhealthy masturbation? 

Am I addicted to masturbation? 

Masturbation has many health benefits, such as it promotes better sleep, reduces stress, enhances self-esteem, helps in relaxation, and many more. 

Nevertheless, look out for the following signs of compulsive masturbation.  

  • You engage in masturbation every now and then which disrupts your personal or social life.
  • You use masturbation to get away from a negative or stressful situation. 
  • You unwillingly masturbate even if you don’t feel like it or are not sexually excited. 
  • You find yourself masturbating in public or in settings where you usually wouldn’t do so (e.g., a public restroom). 
  • You feel guilty or upset during or after masturbating. 
  • You cancel social events and prefer to stay back at home. 
  • Irritation or injury in the genital area
  • It hinders your personal and professional life. 

Masturbation is a primary part of adolescent life, where curious minds explore themselves sexually. Few peculiar behavioural patterns can also be seen in young children. Hence, it is crucial to understand the difference between healthy development and unusual sexual behaviours. 

Some of them are:

Children (0-4 years) 

Normal: comfortable being naked, touching one’s own or other’s genital area, or just watching others undress. 

Unusual: Masturbating excessively till injuring oneself, forcing other kids to engage in sexual activity, excessively touching own or other’s genital

Children (5-9 years) 

Normal: Masturbating in private spaces, seeking privacy in the bathroom, developing curious thoughts about sexuality.

Unusual: Forcing other children, or younger children, and animals into sexual activity

Children (10-13 years) 

Normal: Using sexual slang, seeking a romantic relationship, masturbating in private

Unusual: Compulsive masturbation, forcing others into sexual activity, sending sexual images, trading money or goods for the activities 

Children (14-17 years) 

Normal: Viewing erotic materials, talking about sex with friends, and engaging in sexual activities with individuals of a similar age.

Unusual: Spending excessive time on sexual materials, forcing others or young children into the activity. 

Adults: In young adults and seniors, compulsive masturbation could be a perpetual behaviour carried throughout childhood. Other reasons include fulfilling one’s desire due to dissatisfaction from a partner, loneliness, boredom, etc. Masturbation can sometimes open doors to escape from stress and anxiety. It can be harmful to turn heads towards masturbation rather than facing negative situations or emotions. 

Does masturbation addiction affect females? 

When it comes to masturbation, generally, it is associated with men. The notion is often perceived with shame and not expected for a woman. However, that’s not true. Women enjoy pleasuring themselves as much as men. Masturbation can additionally help women to relieve cramps, feel empowered and induce better sleep. According to the Sexual Health of Canadian University study, 38.4% of females are likely to masturbate once a week. The frequency varies significantly in men and women. Men were almost two times more likely to report masturbating at least once a week than women. Despite the difference in statistics, the effects of masturbation remain the same irrespective of gender. 

Debunking masturbation myths

Though masturbation is discussed more among men, the topic still holds some social stigma and shame. This has led to several myths around masturbation. 

  • People in relationships don’t need to masturbate. It is essential to understand that every person has different sexual desires, and it has nothing to do with the relationship status. 
  • Excessive masturbation can lead to erectile dysfunction. Frequent masturbation can temporarily lead to a problematic orgasm with a partner but does not lead to erectile dysfunction
  • It affects fertility. Masturbation does not affect the fertility of men or women. 
  • It will kill your sex life. Masturbation can enhance your sex life and help you understand the likes and dislikes of your partner. 
  • Masturbation has to end in an orgasm. It is essential to slow down and enjoy the pleasure. 

Besides the myths of masturbation, it has several health benefits such as:

  • Relieves sexual tension
  • Promotes better sleep
  • Strengthens pelvic floor
  • Reduces the risk of prostate cancer
  • Improves cognitive functions

What causes compulsive masturbation? 

  • Depression and anxiety: A person dealing with stress and anxiety may seek masturbation as an escape route.
  • Compulsive sexual behaviours: Studies suggest that a neural region gets activated in individuals with compulsive sexual behaviour and seeks rewards when they contact sexual materials. 
  • Emotional anguish: Many stressful situations can lead to self-isolation leading to excessive masturbation. 

How can you help yourself? 

Overcoming compulsive masturbation can be challenging but not impossible. One must be consistent with the recovery process. Adopting the following strategies can help you. 

  • Engaging in regular exercise
  • Pursuing sports
  • Joining self-help community
  • Developing creative hobbies (e.g. painting) 
  • Avoid pornographic materials 
  • Seeking professional help 
  • Avoiding solitude
  • Immersing yourself in friends or family circles. 
  • Using positive affirmations 

Ask for help

The topic is complex and requires a vast understanding, and unfortunately, it has not been recognised as a particular disorder and demands a specialist to comprehend the situation. However, one must seek help when self-help techniques turn out ineffective. If compulsive masturbation interferes with your daily activities, you must seek professional help. Psychotherapy is one of the ideal options to overcome addiction. 

It is vital to address healthy sexual habits and treat unhealthy ones. More importantly, it is essential to understand masturbation is a healthy and fundamental part of human’s life. Don’t let the social stigma associated with it stop you from discussing it or seeking help. 


(2020, Oct). What is Masturbation?.,behavior%20is%20out%20of%20control

What to Know About ‘Masturbation Addiction’. 

(2021, Jan). Masturbation Addiction: Psychology, Effects, and Statistics. 

(2020, September). Masturbation Addiction: Signs, Symptoms & Treatments. 

How Often Do Women Masturbate? 7 FAQs on Touching Yourself. 

Masturbation Effects on Your Health: Side Effects and Benefits. 

Is Masturbation Healthy?. 

(2018, Jan). How to tell if you’re addicted to masturbating.