Masturbation is a normal and healthy part of sexual expression. However, if it becomes compulsive, there are many ways a person can stop masturbating, such as exercising and avoiding pornography.

In most cases, masturbation is a normal sexual practice that does not cause any physical or emotional distress. Masturbation can relieve stress and help a person determine what they enjoy sexually.

However, it can become a problem if it is interfering negatively with a person’s life.

In the sections below, we discuss why it may be beneficial to stop masturbating, how to stop, and how to recognize when it may be becoming a problem.

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Staying active can help a person lower tension and focus their energy.

In some cases, masturbation can lead to negative emotions or interfere with certain aspects of a person’s life.

For example, if a person limits their interaction with others or misses work to masturbate, it may be time to consider how to stop masturbating.

Although uncommon, frequent masturbation can cause skin irritation and swelling of the penis.

When this is the case, it may be necessary to stop masturbating to ease the symptoms.

If masturbation is becoming a problem, there are strategies and techniques to help a person stop.

A combination of techniques may be helpful, including the following:

1. Avoid pornography

Exposure to pornography may trigger the desire to masturbate.

People who want to stop masturbating should avoid pornographic movies, images, and websites. If a person can place a barrier between themselves and pornography, it can help them break the habit.

It is now very easy to access pornography in just a few seconds. However, people can try to limit their access to pornography by using filters on electronic devices that block certain types of content, such as pornographic material.

Although a person can unblock such websites, taking the time to do so can give them time to regain control of their impulses and allow the urge to pass.

2. Stay active

It can be helpful for a person to find ways to occupy their time that does not trigger the desire to masturbate.

Finding outlets for energy release can replace the time spent masturbating. People can consider taking up a new hobby or learning a new skill, such as learning a musical instrument or trying a new sport.

Developing new goals can help a person refocus their energy and find excitement and fulfillment in other things.

It may also be helpful to determine when the urge to masturbate is highest and plan other activities for that time.

3. Seek professional help

When masturbation is negatively affecting a person’s life, it may be helpful to seek advice from a mental health professional who specializes in human sexuality.

It is possible that additional issues, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, are the underlying problem. Talking with a therapist or psychologist is useful to work through negative feelings and learn behavior modification strategies to stop masturbating.

The American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists offer resources to find help.

4. Spend more time with others

Some people may masturbate because they feel lonely or have nothing else to fill their time with.

Spending less time alone reduces the opportunities to masturbate. Spending time with others will not only keep a person occupied, but it might also redirect their focus.

There are several ways to decrease solitude. People can meet up with friends or family, take a class, or join a gym to stay socially engaged with others.

5. Exercise

Exercise is an effective way to both lower tension and positively focus energy.

Activities such as running, swimming, and weight lifting can strengthen the body and release endorphins that promote feelings of well-being.

Feeling happier and more relaxed may reduce the urge to masturbate as frequently.

6. Find a support group

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Joining a support group can help decrease feelings of guilt and shame associated with compulsive masturbation.

When masturbation is compulsive, it might be due to various reasons. For example, it may be due to:

  • untreated mental health conditions
  • relationship issues
  • restrictive views on sexuality
  • poor sexual communication or conflict resolution skills
  • cultural differences in sexual expression
  • cultural and religious conflicts

However, having support from a trusted group of people may be helpful for some people to quell the habit. Finding a support group can give them the space they need to express concerns and develop positive coping strategies.

When a person talks openly about the challenges they face, others can help them feel validated. This can decrease any feelings of guilt or shame associated with compulsive masturbation.

Masturbation does not typically cause side effects.

However, if masturbation is compulsive, constant, or vigorous, it may cause the following side effects:

  • Edema: In males, gripping the penis too tightly during masturbation can cause mild swelling, or edema.
  • Skin irritation: When masturbation is too vigorous, it might lead to chafing or skin irritation. Skin irritation is usually mild and goes away after a few days.
  • Guilt: Although masturbation is not wrong or unhealthy, some people may experience negative feelings afterward, such as guilt or shame.

Myths that masturbation causes blindness or infertility are not true.

Masturbation becomes a problem if it is negatively affecting a person or impacting other areas of their life.

For example, if it starts to interfere with their ability to orgasm or have sexual relationships with a partner, it may be worth addressing the habit.

Compulsive behavior

In some instances, masturbation can be a compulsive sexual behavior.

A compulsive sexual behavior involves an intense and repetitive preoccupation with sexual urges, fantasies, and behaviors.

It is worth noting that this is not the same thing as having a high sex drive.

Compulsive behavior causes psychosocial issues or distress. This makes it hard for a person to actually enjoy the behavior.

When masturbation is a compulsion, it is a mental health issue. According to a case study report in the Journal of Psychiatry, compulsive masturbation is usually either an impulse control condition or a type of sexual dysfunction.

Feelings of guilt

For some people, masturbation also causes feelings of intense guilt.

One study in the journal Sexual Medicine, which involved 4,211 men attending a sexual medicine outpatient clinic, found that 8.4% of the men reported feeling a sense of guilt after masturbating.

All the participants completed a questionnaire and a structured interview regarding their frequency of masturbation and associated feelings.

Feelings of guilt may also lead to other issues. For example, higher levels of guilt was linked to increased alcohol use, which may cause other mental and physical health concerns.

In most cases, masturbation is a normal part of sexuality. Masturbation frequency varies greatly from person to person, and there is no “normal” frequency.

However, if masturbation begins to interfere with other parts of a person’s life or starts to cause distress, it might be helpful to stop or reduce the frequency.

There are several ways to stop masturbating, including avoiding pornography and focusing on other activities. However, if someone suspects that they have a problem with sexual compulsion, it is best to seek professional help.