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Does Masturbation Cause ED?

Mike Bohl, MD, MPH, ALM

Reviewed by Mike Bohl, MD

Written by Geoffrey C. Whittaker

Published 05/10/2022

Updated 03/04/2024

Does masturbation cause erectile dysfunction? Can too much masturbation cause ED? How strong is the link? Could it be responsible for things like performance anxiety and erectile dysfunction in younger men? Does masturbation help ED in any way?

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.

However, some peer-reviewed studies and papers do show that there could be a potential link between watching porn — something that many people do when they masturbate — and the development of sexual dysfunction.

Assuming you use the proper technique, masturbating won’t damage your penis, nor will it stop you from being able to perform sexually — it actually has some health benefits. 

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.

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.

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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)

  • Heart disease

  • Type 2 diabetes

  • Multiple sclerosis

  • Chronic kidney disease

  • Peyronie’s 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

  • Have obesity

  • 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:

  • Antidepressants

  • Antiandrogens

  • Tranquilizers

  • Appetite suppressants

  • Ulcer medications

  • 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.

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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.

4 Sources

  1. Berger, et al. (2016, August 5). Is internet pornography causing sexual dysfunctions? A review with clinical reports. Behavioral sciences (Basel, Switzerland). Retrieved April 12, 2022, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5039517/
  2. Lakin, M., & Wood, H. (n.d.). Erectile Dysfunction. Erectile dysfunction. Retrieved April 12, 2022, from https://www.clevelandclinicmeded.com/medicalpubs/diseasemanagement/endocrinology/erectile-dysfunction/#bib2
  3. Masturbatory guilt leading to severe depression and erectile dysfunction. Taylor & Francis. (n.d.). Retrieved April 12, 2022, from https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00926230290001402
  4. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Definition & Facts for erectile dysfunction. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Retrieved April 12, 2022, from https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/urologic-diseases/erectile-dysfunction/definition-facts
Editorial Standards

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]!

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Learn more about our editorial standards here.

Mike Bohl, MD

Dr. Mike Bohl is a licensed physician, a Medical Advisor at Hims & Hers, and the Director of Scientific & Medical Content at a stealth biotech startup, where he is involved in pharmaceutical drug development. Prior to joining Hims & Hers, Dr. Bohl spent several years working in digital health, focusing on patient education. He has also worked in medical journalism for The Dr. Oz Show (receiving recognition for contributions from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences when the show won Outstanding Informative Talk Show at the 2016–2017 Daytime Emmy® Awards) and at Sharecare. He is a Medical Expert Board Member at Eat This, Not That! and a Board Member at International Veterinary Outreach.

Dr. Bohl obtained his Bachelor of Arts and Doctor of Medicine from Brown University, his Master of Public Health from Columbia University, and his Master of Liberal Arts in Extension Studies—Journalism from Harvard University. He is currently pursuing a Master of Business Administration and Master of Science in Healthcare Leadership at Cornell University. Dr. Bohl trained in internal medicine with a focus on community health at NYU Langone Health.

Dr. Bohl is Certified in Public Health by the National Board of Public Health Examiners, Medical Writer Certified by the American Medical Writers Association, a certified Editor in the Life Sciences by the Board of Editors in the Life Sciences, a Certified Personal Trainer and Certified Nutrition Coach by the National Academy of Sports Medicine, and a Board Certified Medical Affairs Specialist by the Accreditation Council for Medical Affairs. He has graduate certificates in Digital Storytelling and Marketing Management & Digital Strategy from Harvard Extension School and certificates in Business Law and Corporate Governance from Cornell Law School.

In addition to his written work, Dr. Bohl has experience creating medical segments for radio and producing patient education videos. He has also spent time conducting orthopedic and biomaterial research at Case Western Reserve University and University Hospitals of Cleveland and practicing clinically as a general practitioner on international medical aid projects with Medical Ministry International.

Dr. Bohl lives in Manhattan and enjoys biking, resistance training, sailing, scuba diving, skiing, tennis, and traveling. You can find Dr. Bohl on LinkedIn for more information.

Publications

  • Younesi, M., Knapik, D. M., Cumsky, J., Donmez, B. O., He, P., Islam, A., Learn, G., McClellan, P., Bohl, M., Gillespie, R. J., & Akkus, O. (2017). Effects of PDGF-BB delivery from heparinized collagen sutures on the healing of lacerated chicken flexor tendon in vivo. Acta biomaterialia, 63, 200–209. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1742706117305652?via%3Dihub

  • Gebhart, J. J., Weinberg, D. S., Bohl, M. S., & Liu, R. W. (2016). Relationship between pelvic incidence and osteoarthritis of the hip. Bone & joint research, 5(2), 66–72. https://boneandjoint.org.uk/Article/10.1302/2046-3758.52.2000552

  • Gebhart, J. J., Bohl, M. S., Weinberg, D. S., Cooperman, D. R., & Liu, R. W. (2015). Pelvic Incidence and Acetabular Version in Slipped Capital Femoral Epiphysis. Journal of pediatric orthopedics, 35(6), 565–570. https://journals.lww.com/pedorthopaedics/abstract/2015/09000/pelvic_incidence_and_acetabular_version_in_slipped.5.aspx

  • Islam, A., Bohl, M. S., Tsai, A. G., Younesi, M., Gillespie, R., & Akkus, O. (2015). Biomechanical evaluation of a novel suturing scheme for grafting load-bearing collagen scaffolds for rotator cuff repair. Clinical biomechanics (Bristol, Avon), 30(7), 669–675. https://www.clinbiomech.com/article/S0268-0033(15)00143-6/fulltext

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