The term “masturbation addiction” is used to refer to a tendency to excessively or compulsively masturbate.

Here, we’ll explore the difference between compulsion and addiction, and review how to:

  • recognize habits that may be considered problematic
  • reduce or eliminate unwanted behavior
  • know when to talk to a mental health professional

There’s some debate around whether you can truly be “addicted” to masturbation.

Although there’s been a push to medically recognize masturbation addiction, some say it should be recognized as a compulsion, not an addiction.

There’s no clinical diagnosis for masturbation addiction. It’s not recognized as addictive by the American Psychological Association (APA).

Masturbation addiction also isn’t recognized as a mental health condition by the recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), which sets the criteria for diagnosing mental health conditions.

Because the APA doesn’t consider masturbation to be truly addictive, people often refer to “compulsive masturbation” instead of a “masturbation addiction.”

Similarly, some don’t consider sex addiction a clinical addiction.

Instead, sex addiction, masturbation addiction, and porn addiction are usually referred to as:

Frequently masturbating doesn’t mean you have a problem or addiction.

Generally speaking, there’s only cause for concern if you feel your behavior has become excessive or obsessive.

The following scenarios, for example, may be signs of a masturbation compulsion:

  • Masturbating takes up a lot of your time and energy.
  • Your home, work, or personal life is suffering because of masturbation.
  • You might be late to meetings, cancel events, or leave social appointments early to masturbate.
  • You masturbate in public or in uncomfortable places because you can’t wait to get home.
  • You masturbate even when you don’t feel aroused, sexual, or “horny.”
  • When you feel negative emotions — such as anger, anxiety, stress, or sadness — your go-to response is to masturbate for comfort.
  • You feel guilty, distressed, or upset after masturbating.
  • You masturbate even if you don’t want to.
  • You find it difficult to stop thinking about masturbation.

If you want to stop masturbating — or if you want to masturbate less — you may find it helpful to talk to a therapist.

Masturbation has a number of health benefits. It can help you de-stress and lift your mood.

If you’re under a lot of stress, or if you have a mood disorder, you might use masturbation to relax and feel better.

This isn’t wrong in itself, but you might become obsessed with chasing the high of an orgasm. This could lead to masturbation that becomes problematic for you.

Compulsive sexual behaviors might also be neurological, as Mayo Clinic points out. An imbalance of natural brain chemicals and neurological diseases like Parkinson’s might lead to compulsive sexual behavior. However, more research is needed.

Other research in animals suggests behavioral addictions might alter the brain’s neural pathways similarly to substance use disorders. This may lead you to want to do that behavior more often, like masturbate.

Some people do find that they’re able to stop compulsively masturbating on their own.

However, other people may stop without support and professional help.

If you’re struggling to stop masturbating, you may find it helpful to see a sex therapist, ideally one who specializes in treating out of control sexual behavior.

Joining a support group for sex addiction or hypersexual behaviors might also help.

A doctor or other healthcare provider may recommend one or more of the following treatments.

Therapy

Talk therapy can be a great way to figure out whether masturbation is having a negative impact on your life and, if so, how to address it.

Your therapist might ask questions about:

  • your feelings and behavior around masturbation
  • whether you engage in other compulsive sexual behaviors, like partner sex and porn use
  • problems caused by your compulsive masturbation
  • past traumas
  • your current stressors

This will help your therapist determine whether your behavior is considered compulsive.

They can also help you process your feelings, figure out the root cause of your compulsive behavior, and find a way to stop or reduce the behavior.

Remember that what you tell your therapist is entirely confidential. They’re not allowed to discuss your sessions with anybody else.

Support groups

There are a number of different support groups for compulsive sexual behavior.

Your therapist or doctor might be able to recommend one, as could a local addiction center.

Many people prefer online support groups and forums, which you might also find helpful.

Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous might be a good place to start looking for support groups.

Medication

There’s no medication for treating compulsive masturbation.

However, compulsive sexual behaviors are sometimes related to underlying mental health conditions, such as:

In these cases, prescription medication could help with compulsive behaviors.

Compulsive behaviors may worsen over time.

This could put a strain on your relationships — including your romantic and sexual relationships — as well as your mental health.

This, in turn, could lead to lower sexual satisfaction and self-esteem.

Remember that masturbation itself is a healthy, normal human behavior.

Nearly all people masturbate at some point in their lives. Regular or frequent masturbation isn’t necessarily a sign of a problem.

However, if their behavior is affecting their relationships, work, school, or mental health, it could be a sign of a larger issue.

Because of societal stigma around masturbation, your loved one might feel too shy or embarrassed to talk to you about it.

Start the conversation by emphasizing that you’re not judging them, and you aren’t trying to make them feel ashamed.

Suggest some practical solutions — like seeing a therapist or joining a support group — and offer to help them find a few local options.

This might help them feel like they have a solid plan in place.

No matter whether you call it an addiction or compulsion, it’s important to remember that the behavior is treatable.

A trained therapist can work with you or your loved one to overcome unwanted behaviors and improve your quality of life.


Sian Ferguson is a freelance writer and editor based in Cape Town, South Africa. Her writing covers issues relating to social justice, cannabis, and health. You can reach out to her on Twitter.