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Reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Can too much masturbation cause you to develop erectile dysfunction? While this is a common belief, the overwhelming majority of scientific data shows that masturbating doesn’t produce any noticeable effects on your ability to develop and maintain an erection.
In short, masturbation doesn’t cause ED. However, some peer-reviewed studies and papers do show that there could be a potential link between watching porn -- something that most people do when they masturbate -- and the development of sexual dysfunction.
Below, we’ve looked at the scientific research to see if there’s any link between masturbation and erection problems.
We’ve also answered several common questions about masturbation and ED.
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No, healthy and normal masturbation habits will not cause ED. However, while masturbation itself is not a cause of erectile dysfunction, doing it too forcefully, masturbating to the point of penile injury or consuming too much pornography might result in some men having trouble getting erections.
A 2016 review of clinical reports published in the journal, Behavioral Sciences, noted that occurrences of ED in younger men may have been attributed to the use of porn websites and the high expectations of sexual arousal that accompany them. (Check out our guide to the link between porn and ED here.)
There’s also the question of psychological factors, like shame. One study published in the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy proposed that there may be a link between guilt caused by masturbating and erectile dysfunction.
And there’s also the question of the refractory period.
After ejaculation, every male goes through a period of recovery that’s referred to as a refractory period. During this period, you won’t think about sex or become aroused.
Sexual stimulation that would normally produce a response, such as your partner physically stimulating your penis, won’t have as much of an effect.
The refractory period can vary in length based on your age and other factors. For some men, it’s a short window of time that only lasts for a few minutes. Other men may need 12 to 24 hours to fully recover after they reach orgasm and ejaculate.
While masturbation doesn’t directly cause ED, if you masturbate shortly before you plan to have sex, it’s possible that your refractory period could affect your sexual performance.
Because of this, it’s important to know how often a man should ejaculate, plan ahead, and resist temptation if you’re going to spend some time with your partner later in the same day.
A diverse variety of different health issues can cause or contribute to erectile dysfunction, from physical factors to psychological ones.
Common physical causes of ED include:
Heart and blood vessel disease
High blood pressure
Atherosclerosis (clogged arteries)
Type 2 diabetes
Chronic kidney disease
Injuries that affect the nerves around your penis
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These diseases and conditions can affect blood flow to your penis or the sensitivity of nerves, such as the pudendal and cavernous nerves located in your pelvis.
In addition to physical diseases and medical conditions, habits and lifestyle factors that affect your physical health may contribute to ED.
For example, you may have a higher risk of developing erectile dysfunction if you:
Are physically inactive
Drink alcohol excessively
Smoke cigarettes or other tobacco products
Use illicit drugs
In some cases, medications may interfere with your ability to get an erection. Medications that are linked to ED include:
Some medications used to treat high blood pressure
Finally, certain psychological issues and emotional factors can contribute to ED. These mental health conditions include sexual performance anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, stress and feelings of guilt or fear regarding sexual activity.
Our guide to the most common causes of erectile dysfunction provides more information about these factors and their potential impact on your erections and sexual performance.
Erectile dysfunction is a very common issue. In fact, research has found that around 30 million men are affected by ED. However, masturbation is most definitely not the main cause.
If you find it difficult to get or maintain an erection, it’s important to understand that options are available to help you stay hard and enjoy a healthy, fulfilling sex life.
Currently, the most effective treatment options for erectile dysfunction are medications such as sildenafil (the active ingredient in Viagra®, generic Viagra), tadalafil (Cialis®), vardenafil (Levitra®) and avanafil (sold as Stendra®).
These erectile dysfunction medications work by increasing blood flow to the tissues of your penis, which makes it easier for you to get and maintain an erection when you’re sexually aroused.
In addition to medications, options like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and lifestyle changes can also improve your sexual health and function.
We’ve talked about these and other treatment options in our detailed guide to the most common ED treatments. Be sure to seek medical advice before starting any ED treatment.
Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references. See a mistake? Let us know at [email protected]!
Kristin Hall is a board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner with decades of experience in clinical practice and leadership.
She has an extensive background in Family Medicine as both a front-line healthcare provider and clinical leader through her work as a primary care provider, retail health clinician and as Principal Investigator with the NIH.
Certified through the American Nurses Credentialing Center, she brings her expertise in Family Medicine into your home by helping people improve their health and actively participate in their own healthcare.
Kristin is a St. Louis native and earned her master’s degree in Nursing from St. Louis University, and is also a member of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners. You can find Kristin on LinkedIn for more information.