Does Masturbation Cause Erectile Dysfunction?

Masturbation does not cause erectile dysfunction. Learn about the real causes of ED, and how to prevent and treat this condition.

a man depressed by his erectile dysfunction that might be caused by masturbation

Some people believe that masturbation can cause erectile dysfunction. It’s important not to fall for false rumors, as this is a myth.

Erectile dysfunction, or ED, is defined as a man having difficulty achieving an erection; or not being able to maintain an erection long enough to have sex. This is a common condition. Most men struggle to get or maintain an erection at least once in their lives. But this is not the same as having full-blown ED.

Is there any truth to the idea that masturbation can lead to erectile dysfunction? In this article we will show that masturbation does not cause erectile dysfunction. We’ll take a look at the science behind this debate. Then we’ll cover the real causes of ED and tell you what you can do to treat it.

Key Takeaways

  • Masturbation does not cause erectile dysfunction
  • Erectile dysfunction can have physical or psychological causes
  • Many cases of erectile dysfunction are treatable
  • Masturbation is a normal and health activity
  • Excessive masturbation to porn might contribute to psychological erectile dysfunction

Can masturbation cause erectile dysfunction?

Masturbation does not cause erectile dysfunction. This is a myth. Masturbation is normal, natural, harmless and in fact, healthy. It’s also incredibly common. One survey found that 94% of men admit to masturbating regularly.

Masturbation actually has some significant health benefits. Orgasms in general can help improve mood, reduce stress, release sexual tension and improve self-esteem. Masturbation also leads to a burst of feel good chemicals called endorphins; and this can help lower your risk of depression.

Scientific research has also shown that masturbation may help reduce the risk of developing prostate cancer. Another study showed that masturbation helps to keep the immune system healthy. Finally, masturbating can help you become a better sexual partner, as it allows you to develop a greater awareness of your own sexual responses.

So, given all of the benefits associated with masturbation, how is it that some people still believe it can lead to erectile dysfunction?

After orgasm, men experience what is known as a “refractory period”. The refractory period is the time after ejaculation in which an erection is not physiologically possible. However, this is not the same as having ED: everyone experiences a refractory period after sex. If you want to learn more about healthy masturbation habits, have a look at this article.

What are the real causes of erectile dysfunction?

Erectile dysfunction is usually caused by physical or biological problems in which blood flow to the penis is restricted. It can also be caused by psychological factors. Below, we review some of the common causes of ED.

Psychological causes

a chart that lists the psychological causes of erectile dysfunction

Physiological causes

a chart that lists the physical causes for erectile dysfunction
  • Diabetes (Type 1 and 2)
  • Nerve Damage
  • Hypertension
  • High Cholesterol
  • Being overweight
  • Peyronie’s disease
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Sleep disorders
  • Cigarettes
  • Alcohol use

If you want to learn more about the physical causes of erectile dysfunction read this article.

Does porn lead to erectile dysfunction?

In short, scientists are not yet entirely sure whether porn use can cause erectile dysfunction. This is a hotly contested topic on which research and opinions are conflicted. Some researchers believe that porn use desensitizes a person to sexual contact. This makes it less likely that they’ll become aroused and get an erection.

In 2015 a study was published that suggested a possible link between the two. However, porn-induced erectile dysfunction has not been recognized as a true disorder in the American Psychiatric Association’s bible of psychological conditions: the DSM 5.

In many cases, the true cause of ED is not necessarily porn use, but performance anxiety. Men who watch a lot of porn often start to develop unrealistic expectations of their body, penis size and sexual abilities. These sorts of ideas can trigger performance anxiety. Anxiety hijacks the brain-body systems that help make an erection possible.

Do you want to learn more about porn-induced erectile dysfunction? If so, you can read this article we wrote on the topic.

Erectile dysfunction in young men

Age is the single most important factor in predicting physical erectile dysfunction. All research suggests that the older you are, the more likely you are to have ED. Therefore, if you are physically healthy and under 40 years of age, but still experiencing erectile difficulties, your problem is most likely psychological.

a chart that shows the prevalence of erectile dysfunction by age

What are some other ways to tell whether your ED is psychological? Can still get an erection while masturbating or spontaneously when you wake up in the morning? this tells you that the mechanism necessary for getting an erection is still working. It suggests that when you do experience ED, it’s due to psychological factors.

To learn more about psychological erectile dysfunction and how to treat it, read this comprehensive article we wrote on the topic.

How to prevent and treat ED

Fortunately, erectile dysfunction can be treated. There are also things that you can do to prevent ED from occurring in the first place.

Prevent ED

Lifestyle changes can help you prevent or even reverse erectile dysfunction.

A chart that lists lifestyle changes you can make to improve erectile dysfunction
  • Stay physically active
  • Eat a healthy diet (avoid foods that are high in saturated fats)
  • Stop smoking
  • Limit your alcohol intake
  • Keep your body weight in check
  • Steer clear of recreational drugs
  • Go for regular medical check-ups

Overcome psychological ED

Psychological impotence can be treated. The right treatment option usually depends on what’s causing ED. Common treatment options include speaking to a psychologist, resolving relationship conflicts, consulting with a licensed sex therapist or using innovative therapy techniques such as guided imagery. You can read more about psychological ED and the treatment options here.

a picture of a treatment for stress induced erectile dysfunction
You Can Also Try the Mental Impotence Healer Program by our sister brand – a guided imagery program created specifically for psychological erectile dysfunction.

Treat physical ED

Physical ED can be treated with:

  • Oral medications such as Cialis and Viagra
  • Penile injections
  • Vacuum devices
  • Surgery

To read more about ED and what you can do to treat physical erectile dysfunction, you can read this article which we wrote on the topic.

When to see a doctor

It’s important to see a doctor for physical erectile dysfunction. Why? ED can serve as an early warning sign for more serious medical conditions, such as diabetes or coronary artery disease.

If you are overweight, over the age of 40 or suffering from conditions such as hypertension, high cholesterol or diabetes, it’s important to see a doctor for a check-up if ED is present.

On the other hand, psychological erectile dysfunction is not medically dangerous. But it can lead to psychological issues and relationship problems. If your mental health or relationship is suffering, speaking to a doctor can help you better understand and treat your ED.

Treat ED by understanding the real causes

There are many myths about masturbation, including the idea that it can cause hair to grow on one’s hands or lead a person to become blind! But what about the idea that masturbation can cause erectile dysfunction? This is yet another myth.

Masturbation does not lead to ED; and in fact masturbating is associated with a whole host of health benefits, which we have discussed above. If you’re suffering from erectile dysfunction, it’s important to understand the real causes in order to get the right treatment. This article has covered everything you need to know to treat the condition and regain control.

  • References

About Daniel Sher

Clinical Psychologist

Daniel Sher is a registered clinical psychologist practicing in Cape Town, South Africa. Daniel completed his master’s degree in clinical psychology at the University of Cape Town (UCT) in 2014. A component of his training and practice involves working in the context of sexual and sex-related issues.

Daniel serves as a professional consultant for the Between Us Clinic, where he writes, edits, and reviews, professional materials and articles.