Erectile Dysfunction

Can Masturbation Cause Erectile Dysfunction?


Hassan Thwaini, MPharm, GPC
February 9, 2024
Take-home points
  • Despite widespread beliefs, there is not a direct link between excessive masturbation and erectile dysfunction (ED).
  • Masturbation, when practised moderately, is generally considered a normal and healthy aspect of human sexuality and does not inherently lead to erectile issues.
  • Recognising the multifaceted nature of erectile dysfunction involves exploring contributing factors such as obesity, cardiovascular disease, diet, emotional well-being, and past trauma.
  • Masturbation addiction, often associated with excessive masturbation, may be linked to broader issues like sex addiction or porn addiction.

It's natural, everyone does it, and some may argue it's actually healthy.1 Masturbation, that is. It does not, however, affect anyone’s ability to achieve an erection sufficient for sexual satisfaction, which is otherwise known as erectile dysfunction. While this is a common belief, the majority of scientific research supports the idea that masturbation has no significant effect on erectile function.

Yet, it is important to note that some scientific studies suggest that watching too much porn – a habit frequently associated with masturbation – and the onset of sexual dysfunction. Sometimes, right after masturbating, a guy might find it tough to get an erection. This is known as the male refractory period – a cooldown time where a man's body needs to reset before he can get an erection again after he's ejaculated. But don't mix this up with erectile dysfunction; they're not the same thing.

What is considered excessive masturbation?

To understand the connection between masturbation and erectile dysfunction, let's first figure out what we mean by excessive. Excessive masturbation is when it becomes a compulsive or disruptive habit that gets in the way of daily life.2 While a normal and healthy amount of masturbation is considered good for sexual health, it becomes a concern when it turns into a habit that takes up too much time, and energy and impacts your ability to complete daily tasks.

Does excessive masturbation cause erectile dysfunction?

Contrary to widespread belief, there is no current scientific evidence to establish a direct link between excessive masturbation and erectile dysfunction. Masturbation, when practised moderately, is generally considered a normal and healthy aspect of human sexuality and does not inherently lead to erectile issues. However, it's essential to consider the broader context, including psychological and physical factors, when evaluating the impact of any behaviour.

Debunking the myth: Where’s the evidence?

Scientific studies do not provide substantial evidence that excessive masturbation directly leads to erectile dysfunction. However, it is important to recognise and address potential underlying issues that might accompany compulsive sexual behaviours, such as anxiety or stress.

Interestingly, when looking into cultural outlooks on masturbation, one study found that masturbatory guilt can lead to severe depression in men who have particular cultural beliefs to abide by.3 Depression, alongside other mental health conditions are common causes of erectile dysfunction.4

Similarly, masturbation addiction, often linked to excessive masturbation, may be associated with broader concerns like sex addiction or porn addiction which can directly impact erectile functionality.

Learn more about the relationship between watching pornography and sexual dysfunction

That being said, there are short-term effects of excessive masturbation that can directly affect how you perform in bed, such as when masturbating shortly before engaging in sexual acts with a partner. Whenever men ejaculate, they often go through a refractory period whereby sexual stimulation won’t work and won’t lead to arousal.5 The best way to avoid this is to plan ahead.

Other contributing factors to erectile dysfunction:

Recognising the multifaceted nature of erectile dysfunction involves exploring various contributing factors. While excessive masturbation may not be a primary cause, other elements play significant roles in the development of erectile dysfunction:


Being overweight is widely acknowledged as a significant risk factor for erectile dysfunction on a global scale. To promote overall health and reduce the risk of erectile dysfunction, it’s important to address concerns related to body weight.6

By making adjustments to your diet, such as choosing nutritious foods and controlling portion sizes, you can contribute to weight management. Likewise, engaging in regular physical activity not only aids in weight control but also has direct positive effects on vascular health, hormonal balance, and overall cardiovascular fitness—all of which are closely linked to erectile function.

Cardiovascular disease

Erections happen when your brain sends signals that direct the flow of blood into your penis. Conditions that affect the heart and blood vessels can therefore restrict this blood flow, making it more difficult to become erect. Extensive research highlights a strong connection between erectile dysfunction and cardiovascular health, with studies suggesting that erectile dysfunction can even act as a warning sign for certain heart conditions.7

Explore the link between erectile dysfunction and cardiovascular disease


As well as helping you lose weight, eating the right foods – meaning taking in the right proportion of macro and micronutrients, can also affect sexual function. For instance, those who frequently enjoy take-out meals that are often full of unhealthy fats may be subject to erectile dysfunction.8 A balanced diet, rich in nutrients and antioxidants, supports overall well-being, positively impacting sexual health.

Emotional factors

As important as your physical health is how you feel mentally at any given time. Mental health conditions such as stress, anxiety, depression, and performance-related concerns can adversely affect sexual function in around 40% of cases.9 Treating psychogenic erectile dysfunction, as it is termed, is often done so by adopting stress-reduction techniques, such as meditation or yoga or by getting professional help from a certified mental health professional.

Beating to a schedule

The notion that excessive masturbation directly causes erectile dysfunction doesn't have strong scientific support. It's important to look at sexual health as part of your overall well-being when looking at the causes of erectile dysfunction due to the multitude of factors that it can be influenced by. Make small changes by maintaining a healthy lifestyle with a good diet and regular exercise. If excessive masturbation is the byproduct of porn addiction, sex addiction, or any other mental health concern, then it’s a good idea to talk to a healthcare professional for the right guidance and support.

  1. Hevesi K, et al. Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy 2023;49(7), 783–797.
  2. Luigjes, J., Lorenzetti, V., de Haan, S., Youssef, G. J., Murawski, C., Sjoerds, Z., van den Brink, W., Denys, D., Fontenelle, L. F., & Yücel, M. (2019). Defining compulsive behaviour. Neuropsychology Review, 29(1), 4–13.
  3. Albobali, Y., & Madi, M. Y. (2021). Masturbatory guilt leading to severe depression. Cureus, 13(3).
  4. Liu, Q., Zhang, Y., Wang, J., Li, S., Cheng, Y., Guo, J., Tang, Y., Zeng, H., & Zhu, Z. (2018). Erectile dysfunction and depression: A systematic review and meta-analysis. The Journal of Sexual Medicine, 15(8), 1073–1082.
  5. Seizert, C. A. (2018). The neurobiology of the male sexual refractory period. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 92, 350–377.
  6. Esposito, K., Giugliano, F., Ciotola, M., De Sio, M., D’Armiento, M., & Giugliano, D. (2008). Obesity and sexual dysfunction, male and female. International Journal of Impotence Research, 20(4), 358–365.
  7. Diaconu, C. C., Manea, M., Marcu, D. R., Socea, B., Spinu, A. D., & Bratu, O. G. (2020). The erectile dysfunction as a marker of cardiovascular disease: a review. Acta Cardiologica, 75(4), 286–292.
  8. Bauer, S. R., Breyer, B. N., Stampfer, M. J., Rimm, E. B., Giovannucci, E. L., & Kenfield, S. A. (2020). Association of diet with erectile dysfunction among men in the health professionals follow-up study. JAMA Network Open, 3(11), e2021701.
  9. Pakpahan, C., Agustinus, A., & Darmadi, D. (2021). Comprehensive intersystemic assessment approach to relieve psychogenic erectile dysfunction: A review. Open Access Macedonian Journal of Medical Sciences, 9(F), 189–196.

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