Reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
It’s incredible how many “hacks” and quick fixes echo around the world of health. But, we know that most things aren’t so simple when it comes to your body and mind. We know there’s no such thing as a “magic pill,” and yet we keep searching for ways to optimize our health. That’s probably why you’re here — you’re wondering how not ejaculating for seven days benefits your health and wellness.
Abstinence isn’t going to cure any diseases or give you superpowers — that much we know. Your orgasm frequency isn’t a combination lock to the safe that holds your maximum potential, and trying to use abstinence like a cheat code to unlock said potential isn’t really how the body works.
At the same time, we do have to acknowledge that a few scientific studies have demonstrated a link between ejaculation abstinence and physiological changes to your body.
But you might still have a lot of questions. Are these changes important? Are these changes permanent? Do these changes cause lasting or significant benefits for your health, wellness, happiness or quality of life?
The answers to those questions and more shortly. First, however, let’s look at the simple question of what a week of “sexual self control” does to your brain and body.
So what are the positive effects of not ejaculating for a week? Will seven days of abstinence offer physical benefits?
Most of the conversation you’ll see on the internet about the benefits of seven days off the masturbation train come from a 2002 study conducted in China. A study of just 28 men examined their serum testosterone levels during a week of abstinence.
From days two to five, the study found that changes in serum testosterone concentrations varied little throughout the group, but at the seven day mark those levels peaked to nearly 150 percent of baseline levels.
In other words, they found that ejaculation (and the lack thereof) had a substantial effect on serum testosterone at the one-week mark.
But what about the bigger picture — what happens beyond one week? One 2001 study essentially confirmed the seven-day study’s results. Examining just 10 patients, the study found that after three weeks of abstinence, testosterone levels increased and stayed elevated.
The study looked at other things besides testosterone as well. They specifically examined levels of cortisol, adrenaline, noradrenaline and prolactin — all different types of hormones — both before and after the three-week abstinence period. They didn’t find significant differences in any of these hormone levels, though it’s important to note that between these two studies the entire study group is still less than 50 people, which is very small.
If you’ve headed to this article because of the NoFap community on Reddit or elsewhere, we have some bad news to share: thus far, there’s been a total lack of evidence to substantiate claims about the mental health, energy levels, focus and productivity benefits of not masturbating that you may have read about elsewhere on the internet.
There are relatively few peer-reviewed studies about the potential benefits of abstinence and most of those haven’t found any suggestion of benefits. Many of the anecdotes you see online could be simply chalked up to placebo effects or the side effects of elevated testosterone levels — and we have a small amount of evidence that can happen if you stop masturbating for at least a week.
Studies have shown that your levels of testosterone play a role in mental health and mood regulation. Though the exact mechanisms can be unclear, studies have noted that testosterone replacement therapy improved mood, energy, and a sense of well-being, and reduced anger and irritability over the course of a six-week trial.
It’s possible that people who suddenly see a spike in testosterone after the seven-day abstinence could be seeing some of the same benefits, but questions about original testosterone levels and other issues related to testosterone in general would need to be assessed on an individual basis to corroborate that theory.
Some sources on the internet and elsewhere suggest that an abstinence break may have benefits for sexual function — specifically for issues like premature ejaculation and erectile dysfunction. To date, we’ve yet to see evidence.
In 2018, one study examined the link between premature ejaculation and reduced masturbation or abstinence. What they found was, well, no link of note — abstaining didn’t lead to any changes in premature ejaculation issues.
As for erectile dysfunction, it does not appear to be meaningfully connected to abstinence practices. Studies have yet to suggest a link between erectile dysfunction and masturbation, ejaculation, porn or any of the other “NoFap” community’s central theories about sexual health.
That’s not to say that future studies won’t identify some link between excessive porn consumption and erectile dysfunction, but it’s just as possible that both pornography usage and sexual dysfunction can be linked to already-defined psychological risk factors like isolation, depression and low self-esteem.
On the other hand, masturbating (like sex) has been linked to reduced stress and anxiety symptoms. That is, as long as you don’t feel any moralistic guilt about the practice — and you shouldn’t, since it’s perfectly normal.
In short, if you want to address a problem like premature ejaculation or erectile dysfunction, you’re going to need to go about it in a different way.
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Let’s talk about sexual activity — specifically daily ejaculation.
If you’re masturbating compulsively, like at an absolutely breakneck (or break-shaft) pace, you probably need to reduce your frequency. The data is a little fuzzy on the risks of too much masturbation, but any habit that is affecting your relationships, quality of life or ability to function in your daily responsibilities is probably something you need to cut back on.
As for the health benefits, we’re not convinced. Abstinence didn’t significantly impact any biochemical or physiological functions in research subjects aside from serum testosterone levels, and we’re far from defining any optimized abstinence schedules to improve performance in other areas of your life.
If you’re dealing with premature ejaculation or erectile dysfunction, however, you have other options at your disposal for treating those conditions.
Premature ejaculation is something that can be managed with physical techniques to a certain degree, though the science on these is only moderately better than the “NoFap” guys’ research.
Kegel exercises for your pelvic floor muscles can give you better orgasmic control. We’re not exactly sure of the best technique for doing them — how many reps, etc. — but with practice, you can find a system that provides benefits.
The squeeze technique is a PE treatment in which you stop having sex and gently squeeze the tip of your penis to decrease your arousal, sort of like taking the popcorn off the stove for a moment right before it begins to start popping. Make sure to explain this to your partner ahead of time — they may mistake it for some mild BDSM.
You can read about premature ejaculation causes and treatments on our blog to learn more, but we’ll end with one more recommendation: benzocaine wipes. The same active ingredient that dentists use can be effective in reducing your sensitivity and improving your performance and satisfaction, to your partner’s delight too.
For erectile dysfunction, your best resource is something called a PDE-5 inhibitor. These medications, like sildenafil (the generic version of Viagra) and tadalafil (generic Cialis), block the enzyme that blocks your erections, which can help you achieve liftoff when you want.
You’ll also want to go over the causes of erectile dysfunction with a healthcare professional to help figure out what might be causing your ED and take action to eliminate those potential causes in your own life.
For example, psychological causes like low self-esteem, performance anxiety, intense fear of intimacy and existing depressive disorders can keep you from performing well, but luckily therapy can manage those.
Not ejaculating may pose some benefits, and if you’re trying to improve your sex life, cutting back on excessively frequent ejaculations may be a place where you can make a difference. But there’s not a lot of evidence for this, and there is evidence for better ways to pursue help.
The treatments we mentioned above are just a few of the many, proven ways to get your sexual health in the green — and get back to satisfying activities. The best part? You don’t need to play the abstinence game.
Ready to solve some problems? We can help you get the right treatment, and help you work through complicated issues like retrograde ejaculation, questions of sperm quality and more. Reach out to us today.