Sexual Health Q&A

Q&A
Erectile Dysfunction Male Sexual Health
Does masturbation cause erectile dysfunction (ED)?

No. The notion that masturbation causes erectile dysfunction (ED) is a myth.

Masturbation – touching oneself or one’s partner’s genitals for sexual pleasure – is a normal practice and usually harmless. In fact, masturbation can have benefits. Both men and women can enjoy the sexual release it provides. It can help people become more familiar with their bodies and explore the ways they prefer being touched.

Masturbation may also enable pleasure to couples who can’t perform intercourse, permanently or temporarily.

Men use various techniques of masturbation, which may interfere with their sexual function (e.g., masturbation in prone position, using very intensive strokes, pressing, folding, or touching their penis in a particular way). These masturbatory habits sometimes result in sexual dysfunction (e.g., ED, delayed ejaculation, reduced desire and sexual dissatisfaction). Therefore, it is important for physicians and therapists to take a detailed sexual history.

ED occurs when a man cannot get or keep an erection firm enough for intercourse.
Causes can be physical, psychological, or both. Here are some examples:

  • Poor blood flow to the penis
  • Nerve damage
  • Hormonal issues
  • Medication side effects
  • Peyronie’s disease
  • Psychological and emotional problems

For more details on the causes of ED, please click here.

While masturbation does not cause ED directly, research suggests a connection for men who view pornography. Masturbating while watching porn can lead to overstimulation and, in turn, changes in brain chemistry. When this happens, a man might find that he has trouble getting an erection when he is with an actual partner. Or, he might need the level of stimulation provided by pornography (which a partner might not be able to provide) to get an erection.

(Click here for more information on sustained pornography use and sexual function.)

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