Masturbation is a normal part of sexual health. It’s a fun activity that can be a safe way to explore sexuality and self-pleasure.

However, if masturbation prevents you from performing daily tasks or it interferes with your work or responsibilities, it may be time to try to create a better relationship with the activity.

What’s important to remember is that masturbation is not bad. It won’t cause side effects. In fact, it can be quite beneficial. Still, if it’s bothering you, quitting or cutting back is possible. Here’s how.

When masturbating is a problem

Masturbation is common. People who are in satisfying sexual relationships with a partner masturbate. People who aren’t in a relationship masturbate. People who don’t have a pleasurable sex life also masturbate. For most people, masturbation is a normal activity.

Occasionally, masturbation can become problematic. This happens when you:

  • can’t control the urge to masturbate
  • skip work, school, or social functions so you can masturbate
  • plan your day around when you can masturbate

How to stop masturbating>

Learning to stop masturbating is a process. You must overcome urges and behaviors you’ve practiced for months, possibly years. This can take time. But it’s possible.

As with any other behavior that feels out of control, retraining yourself to not masturbate requires a series of steps and strategies. These can include the following approaches.

Find a therapist

When you’re ready to develop a healthier relationship with masturbating or to stop entirely, talk with your doctor. They can refer you to a counselor, psychologist, or psychiatrist who specializes in sexual health.

To find a local sex therapist, visit the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists (AASECT).

These specialists are trained to help people with sexual health concerns like yours and can offer recommendations.

Be honest

Masturbation often carries a stigma. Some religious, cultural, and spiritual traditions associate masturbation with immorality or sin.

Masturbation is neither bad nor immoral. It’s normal and healthy. If you feel guilty or upset because you masturbate, tell your therapist or doctor. It’s very important you two get to the root of your feelings so you can overcome them.

Take your time

Therapy isn’t a one-stop shop. A single visit is a step toward help, but you should expect to see a therapist who specializes in sexual health for several weeks or months.

As you continue to meet and talk, you will begin to feel more comfortable. This can help you be more honest and forthcoming about your feelings and behaviors.

Stay busy

Keeping a full schedule will cut down on the opportunities you have for masturbation. Find activities that are self-soothing, engaging, or exciting.

This can include exercise, mindfulness, yoga, discovering a new hobby, making dates with friends for dinner, or exploring new museums or exhibits. When you keep busy, you reduce opportunities for masturbation.

Take care of your body

A healthy diet and exercise are good for your body in many ways. For people trying to stop masturbating, a new emphasis on caring for yourself may reduce urges or provide motivation to resist. It can also provide a new focus for your energy and efforts.

Develop strategies

With the help of your doctor or therapist, identify your trouble times. Maybe you masturbate at night before bed. Maybe you masturbate in the shower every morning.

If you can identify when you’re most likely to masturbate, you and your doctor can come up with activities and plans to overcome the urge and the learned behaviors.

Find a support group

Accountability is important for anyone trying to modify behavior that feels out of control. It can also help you develop new behaviors. Support groups are available for people with out-of-control sexual behavior.

Ask your doctor or therapist if there’s a support group in your area. Likewise, online support groups may be helpful for people who can’t meet with traditional in-person support groups.

Limit your alone time

Down time can be difficult for people trying to reshape behaviors. Try to move activities you’d normally conduct alone to a more public space.

For example, if you like to watch sports, go to a sports bar or pub instead of staying home. If you’re anxiously awaiting new episodes of a show, host a viewing party so friends come to your house.

Wear extra clothes at night

Underwear provides only a slight physical barrier between you and your genitals. But rubbing or touching yourself at night may mindlessly encourage you to masturbate. Wear an extra layer of clothing or two to reduce the sensation if you do rub yourself.

Stop watching pornography

The stimulation from pornography may be too strong to overcome. Take measures to prevent yourself from accessing pornography.

Throw out any movies, magazines, or other content. Move your computer to a public room in the house so you can’t be alone when using it. You can also install porn-blocking software. More important, identify what the function of your porn use is.

Be patient

Behavior that feels out of control doesn’t form overnight, and it doesn’t end overnight either. Be patient with the process. Commit to the end result and understand you may hit stumbling blocks along the way. Determination can see you through the inevitable mistakes and struggles.

The bottom line

Masturbation is a healthy, normal activity. For some people, however, it can begin to interfere with everyday life and activities. While there are no physical side effects to masturbating frequently, it may interfere with your work, school, and relationships.

If this is happening to you, learning to stop or cut back on masturbation may help you have a healthier relationship with this sexual activity.

Find the help you need to feel more in control of your sexual health. Don’t be discouraged if the process is difficult. Stay focused and reach out for help from a health care professional who is trained in human sexuality.