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What Is NoFap? What Are the Benefits?

Mike Bohl, MD, MPH, ALM

Reviewed by Mike Bohl, MD, MPH, ALM

Written by Geoffrey Whittaker

Published 05/12/2022

Updated 01/31/2024

If you’re reading this article, you’re probably starting to get a little concerned about your porn and/or masturbation habits. Frankly, good for you — these reflective glances inward are an important step towards a path of better health. Before we dive in, we just want to remind you that masturbation is completely normal. That said…

NoFap is an internet community (originating as a sub-Reddit) where men and a few women discuss their struggles with porn addiction and masturbation addiction, engaging in abstinence pledges to avoid both.

Devout followers of the NoFap movement swear by their no porn, no masturbation detoxes, but experts aren’t quite convinced. In the first place, both  pornography addiction and masturbation addiction are controversial topics, with many experts not even sure that they exist.

Does masturbation play in your mental health or physical health? Can you benefit from abstinence challenges? The answer isn’t very simple, but here’s what we do know to be true.

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What's NoFap?

“What does NoFap mean?” is question numero uno in this conversation. “Fap” is a slang term for masturbation that has become increasingly popular over the last decade or so. So NoFap, meaning no masturbation, is about… Well, not masturbating.

The so-called NoFap Challenge is a commitment to masturbatory abstinence for the benefits that self-restraint is alleged to bring. In other words, NoFap.com and the NoFap movement are essentially one great big abstinence support group.

NoFap has gamified the experience of “rebooting” over a period of time chosen by the participant. Both 30- and 90-day reset challenges exist in the NoFap community, including the well-known “No Nut November.”

These community-driven and -supported reboots aim to reset the addiction pathways in your brain and, in the process, “fix” the symptoms associated with porn addiction.

At the heart of NoFap is the idea of treating both pornography and masturbation as addictions that need to be treated through self-control, self-improvement and a cold-turkey break from internet porn.

Compulsive sexual behavior (also called hypersexuality) does exist, but in the NoFap book, porn also takes the place of real relationships — it replaces partnered sexual activity with solo time. Which, according to the movement, is bad.

Porn addiction, according to NoFap, is caused by the habit-forming nature of our brain’s reward system and how porn forms strong pathways with neurotransmitters to make the addiction powerful.

Despite its internet focus and origin, NoFap isn’t really a new concept — abstinence and anti-masturbation movements have been around for centuries.

But this Reddit-based community of pro-abstinence crusaders has rebranded those ideas into two guiding principles:

  • Internet pornography is bad for your brain and avoiding it is good for your mental health.

  • Masturbation is generally bad for your health (particularly in excess) and abstaining from masturbation is, therefore, good for it.

In summation? NoFap things to avoid: masturbation and pornography.

This modern take on abstinence (mixed in with a little anti-porn messaging) may seem harmless — even worthy of support on the surface — but the medical community isn’t so sure.

The NoFap movement receives a lot of flack, and most of it is due to NoFap’s association with radical or extreme political groups that have co-opted the NoFap philosophy as part of their own.

Some detractors have labeled the group as “porn-critical,” because NoFap fits into the dogma of extremely conservative, religious and misogynistic groups both on and off the web.

It’s fair to say that enforcing social stigma or shaming a person for healthy sexual behaviors is not productive, but it’s also fair to say that the beliefs of some members don’t necessarily represent an entire organization.

That said, it’s certainly not a small group: the online community of NoFap Redditors alone boasts a membership of well over a million by sticking to the apolitical part of the promise: free yourself from porn for a major life upgrade.

According to the NoFap movement, the health benefits of the NoFap lifestyle include better erections and more. There are also benefits to your relationships to consider.

And they say this can all go away with a quick and easy “reboot.”

Rebooting, then, offers a number of alleged benefits according to NoFap practitioners, including both mental health and physical ones:

Alleged Mental Health Benefits

  • Better mood, attitude and sense of self

  • Increased motivation

  • Reduced stress levels

  • Increased self-esteem and confidence

  • Reduced feelings of shame

  • Reduced brain fog

  • Low self-esteem

  • Fewer symptoms of depression

  • Stronger relationships

Alleged Physical Health Benefits

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Does NoFap work? Unfortunately for NoFappers, there’s not much in the way of scientific evidence to correlate sexual dysfunction or sex addiction with porn addiction or excessive masturbation.

Many of the proposed benefits of NoFap are anecdotally offered by members. But thus far, research has fallen short of proving a link between excessive amounts of porn (or masturbation) and any dysfunction — mental or physical.

You can see what we know about premature ejaculation and NoFap benefits on our blog.

As for the rumor on the street that regular ejaculation improves prostate health or lowers your risk of future prostate cancer, yes, you can find studies that claim to show a link, but there’s insufficient replication of this research to prove it’s “real.” Not yet, anyway.

The only science behind NoFap seems to point to a correlation between people who have sexual dysfunction and a self-perceived porn addiction.

Though the study’s authors went so far as to recommend healthcare professionals consider porn addiction a contributing factor when someone with it experiences erectile dysfunction, they did not believe that the two have a precise cause-and-effect relationship.

Basically, they concluded that more research is needed.

That said, there’s a thread of truth running through this argument: self-perception is important, and if you feel ashamed of your masturbation or porn habits, that may be worthy of a conversation with your healthcare provider, regardless.

Is NoFap real? Maybe not. But if the perceptions represented in its culture speak to you, maybe it’s worth talking to a professional about why you feel that way.

Want to learn more about the benefits of not ejaculating for 7 days? Check out our other article.

If you’re interested in experiencing the alleged benefits of NoFap, you should also understand the potential risks. NoFap is not without its critics, controversies and accusations of pseudoscience, but in the same way that there are more questions than answers about NoFap benefits, the risks aren’t fully understood, either.

Semen Retention

Some experts have argued that the risks of total masturbatory abstinence can reduce the quality of semen through a process called semen retention.

Effects on Semen

There’s very little research into the consequences and benefits of semen retention as a whole, but some research has looked into the outcomes as they relate to fertility. At least one study has suggested that after about four days, the quality of your sperm and the health of their respective DNA can experience negative effects of this ejaculatory gridlock.

However, the same research suggested that one day of ejaculatory abstinence can greatly improve chances of pregnancy, so there’s some truth to the idea of exercising a little self-control if you and your partner are trying to increase the size of your family.

What you’re dealing with may not be solved by porn addiction recovery, so much as your porn habit might be a side effect of a bigger problem like mood disorders — including depression or anxiety. If this is the case, you may want to seek therapeutic support.

Therapeutic techniques like cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT may be able to help you with those urges, but they may also help you reframe negative thoughts about pornography and masturbation to better suit your ideal life — that’s up to you.

They may also suggest the use of certain antidepressants as a treatment for premature ejaculation (PE), believe it or not. A side effect of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), a popular category of antidepressant, is delayed ejaculation. Consequently, they’re prescribed off-label in some instances to help men suffering from — you guessed it — PE.

A mental health professional can provide this support, so if you’re suffering or noticing things like your interpersonal relationships not doing well, it may be worth taking the time to get in touch with one.

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You probably came here with a number of questions like “Is NoFap good for my health” and “Can I improve my sex life and my life in general by cutting out pornography use, social media and changing my sexual behavior?”

Call us old-fashioned, but we’re just not convinced the answer to problems regarding addiction — addiction of any sort, really — can be found on a Reddit thread. Help? Sure. Support? Absolutely.

But is “quit porn” one of the actionable remedies? Hardly.

Here’s the lowdown on NoFap, as we see it:

  • NoFap claims that porn and masturbation addiction cause problems. It allegedly may lead to brain fog, low self-esteem and many other issues.

  • The claims that NoFap has made aren’t medical advice. They’re generally low on scientific support and high on anecdotal evidence. More research is needed to see what (if any) of their platform is valid.

  • If a habit is causing you distress, mental health support should be part of your plan to address it, regardless of how much time you spend jerking it.

Experts are, however, available on the internet to help you. If you’re not feeling good about your porn use or masturbation habits, you might consider starting that professional conversation with online counseling.

If something more serious like erectile dysfunction is going on downstairs, it may be time to progress from internet sleuthing to a healthcare professional (and, dare we say, skipping Reddit altogether).

Consider reading our medically reviewed guide to premature ejaculation causes, symptoms and treatment options to learn more.

Learn more with Hims’ guides to all things sexual health. And head back to Reddit when you’re ready for some memes.

5 Sources

  1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2018, March 8). Feeling stressed? National Institutes of Health. Retrieved December 21, 2021, from https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/2014/12/feeling-stressed.
  2. Whelan, G., & Brown, J. (2021). Pornography Addiction: An Exploration of the Association Between Use, Perceived Addiction, Erectile Dysfunction, Premature (Early) Ejaculation, and Sexual Satisfaction in Males Aged 18-44 Years. The journal of sexual medicine, 18(9), 1582–1591. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34400111/.
  3. Chu A, Wadhwa R. Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors. updated 2021 may 10. In: StatPearls internet. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK554406/.
  4. Porn addiction - what is it? NoFap. (2022, February 27). Retrieved March 23, 2022, from https://nofap.com/porn-addiction/.
  5. Yang, B. B., Xia, J. D., Hong, Z. W., Zhang, Z., Han, Y. F., Chen, Y., & Dai, Y. T. (2018). No effect of abstinence time on nerve electrophysiological test in premature ejaculation patients. Asian journal of andrology, 20(4), 391–395. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7145784/
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, MPH, ALM

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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