Masturbation itself is not a harmful activity and may be enjoyed by those in a relationship or those using it to compensate for a lack of sex with a partner. Masturbation falls under the larger umbrella category of sexual addiction. This category includes types of addictive or compulsive behaviors such as sex addiction, masturbation addiction, or porn addiction.
Sexual addiction is also sometimes referred to as compulsive sexual behavior.
While engaging in masturbation regularly does not necessarily mean that you have a problem, any of the following could signify that it's time to reach out for help:
Masturbation takes up a lot of your time Your personal or work life is suffering because of masturbation You choose masturbation over in-person activities (e.g., going home instead of staying at a party, choosing to be alone instead of with a partner) You find yourself engaging in masturbation in public or in places where you would rather not (e.g., a public restroom) You're masturbating when you don't feel like it or when you're not aroused You masturbate to cope with negative emotions You find yourself feeling guilty or upset during or after masturbating You find yourself thinking about it often
Since masturbation is not a diagnosable mental disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, there are no set criteria to determine whether it is a problem for you.
However, a doctor or therapist could ask questions to identify whether it is a problem for which you might need to receive treatment.
What are the causes of masturbation addiction? Below are some potential causes of feeling the need to excessively or compulsively masturbate:
Underlying depression or anxiety that you manage by using masturbation to lift your mood, relax, or reduce stress An inclination toward addiction because of your neurobiology (e.g., one study showed that people with compulsive sexual behavior showed greater connections between certain brain structures similar to those involved in drug reward circuits1) Emotional pain caused by life circumstances that you seek to push away by focusing on addictive sexual behaviors