It’s a common belief that masturbating too much can cause erectile dysfunction (ED). ED happens when you can’t get or maintain an erection. This is a myth that’s not based on facts. Masturbation does not directly cause erectile dysfunction in men.
This idea overlooks some of the complexities of masturbation and the physical and mental causes of erectile dysfunction, many of which have nothing to with masturbation or porn.
What the research says
One study looked at the case of a man who believed that his masturbation habits caused him to be unable to get an erection and consummate his marriage, which nearly led to a divorce. He was eventually diagnosed with major depressive disorder. This diagnosis, along with sexual education and marital therapy, allowed the couple to establish a sexual relationship within a few months.
Some research suggests that frequently masturbating to porn can contribute to ED by desensitizing you to certain imagery and physical intimacy. Some neurological effects of porn have been studied. However, no research exists proving that watching porn can cause a physical response that results in ED.
Another study looked at men in couples who underwent behavioral therapy to improve their communication and understanding of each other’s sexual habits. The participants of the study had fewer complaints about ED by the end of it. Though masturbation wasn’t mentioned in the study, it shows that better communication between partners can help with ED.
Real ED causes
Erectile dysfunction can have various physical and psychological causes. In some cases, it can be caused by both.
Physical causes can include:
- excessive alcohol or tobacco use
- high or low blood pressure
- high cholesterol
- cardiovascular disease
- conditions such as multiple sclerosis (MS) or Parkinson’s disease
Psychological causes can include:
- stress or difficulty with intimacy in romantic relationships
- stress or anxiety from situations in your personal or professional life
- depression or other related mental health conditions
Other masturbation myths
Perhaps the most common myth about masturbation is that it’s not normal. But up to 90 percent of men and 80 percent of women claim that they’ve masturbated at some point in their life.
Another common myth is that masturbation can make you go blind or start growing hair on your palms. This is also false. Some evidence even shows that masturbation can have physical benefits.
You can make lifestyle changes that can help with your erectile dysfunction, including:
- exercising 30 minutes a day
- avoiding cigarettes or other tobacco products
- avoiding or reducing the amount of alcohol you drink
- meditating or engaging in activities that reduce stress
If you have a condition that’s causing your ED, talk to your doctor about managing it. Get physical exams at least once a year and take any prescribed medications to make sure you’re as healthy as possible.
A treatment plan for erectile dysfunction depends on the cause of your ED. The most common cause of ED is a lack of blood flow to the penile arteries, so many treatments address this issue.
Medications like Viagra, Levitra, and Cialis are among the most common treatments for ED. These medications can have some side effects, including stomachaches, headaches, and flushing. They can also have dangerous interactions with other medications and with conditions such as high blood pressure and kidney or liver disease. Talk to your doctor if you’re concerned about drug interactions.
Penis pumps can be used to treat ED in case a lack of blood flow is causing your ED. A pump uses a vacuum tube to suck air out from around the penis, which causes an erection by allowing blood to enter the penis.
Two types of surgery can also help treat ED:
- Penile implant surgery: Your doctor inserts an implant made of rods that are either flexible or inflatable. These implants let you control when you get an erection or keep your penis firm after achieving an erection for as long as you want.
- Blood vessel surgery: Your doctor performs a bypass on arteries in your penis that are blocked and preventing blood flow. This procedure is much less common than implant surgery, but it may help in some cases.
Your doctor may also recommend injections or suppositories that help your penile blood vessels relax and allow freer blood flow. Both of these treatments can have side effects like pain and tissue development in your penis or urethra. Talk to your doctor about whether this treatment is right for you depending on how severe your ED is.
If your doctor believes that something psychological or emotional is causing your ED, they’ll likely refer you to a counselor or therapist. Counseling or therapy can help you become more aware of underlying mental health issues, psychological conditions, or situations in your personal life that might be contributing to your ED.