Give us a little more information and we'll give you a lot more relevant content
Your child's birthday or due date
Girl Boy Other Not Sure
Add A Child
Remove A Child
I don't have kids
Thanks For Subscribing!
Oops! Something went wrong. Please contact support@fatherly.com.

How to Stop Masturbating (If It’s Making You Feel Bad)

There's nothing wrong with doing it. But if it makes you feel bad, it's time to make a change.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with masturbation. Human anatomy proves it. 

“If God didn’t want us to masturbate, he wouldn’t have allowed our hands to reach our genitals,” Dr. David Greenfield, the founder and medical director of the Center for Internet and Technology Addiction and Assistant Clinical Professor of psychiatry at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine says. “The truth is masturbation is probably as natural an act as eating.”

But when you combine masturbation with the magic of internet pornography, the result is toxic and a hard habit to break. Learning how to stop masturbating can be as hard as learning to not smoke. 

Where previous generations of men fueled self pleasure with centerfolds, films, and videos, modern onanists have instant access to hours of free pornagraphic content. The flood of stimulation supercharges neural pathways in the brain’s mesolimbic pathway. “You’re actually sprouting more post-synaptic receptors for dopamine,” Greenfield says. 

Over time, that overstimulation rewires your brain. Masturbation stops being harmless fun and becomes a problem that could lead to consequences ranging from compulsive behavior to erectile dysfunction

There aren’t hard and fast rules about how when porn consumption is a problem, but there are some red flags. A major warning sign is becoming emotionally reliant on porn. Before quitting porn for good, author and counselor Noah Church found himself turning to it for emotional needs, not just sexual arousal. For the recovering porn addict (please note that the mental health profession hasn’t officially recognized porn as an addiction) porn was an emotional crutch he relied on when facing loneliness, rejection, stress or boredom — behavior he said is common among people with porn and masturbation problems. 

Fatherly IQ
  1. How often will you watch the Summer Olympics 2020?
    Once per week
    Only on weekends
    Three times per week
    Everyday
Thanks for the feedback!
Oops! Something went wrong. Please contact support@fatherly.com.

“That’s a pattern that I see every single addict I work with has fallen into: relying on porn emotionally,” Church says. “And that never actually solves their problems. It never makes us feel better in the long run. But in the moment that we’re using it, it’s compelling enough that it allows us to forget about all the negative feelings we might be experiencing.”

Gary Wilson’s Ted Talk “The Great Porn Experiment” has been viewed more than 12 million times since it was uploaded to YouTube in 2012. 

In the 16-minute presentation, the retired anatomy, physiology and pathology teacher asserts that rise of search engines and porn tube sites have given men more access to sexual imagery than ever before in history. The ready availability of novelties ranging from new scenes to new porn performers to new fetishes enables a constant escalation of visual arousal. 

“So they’ll be watching lesbian porn, then all of a sudden they’ll be into BDSM, and then they get bored,” Wilson says. “And this is all in one session.”

Masturbating to porn lights up the brain’s reward center. But, despite the stimulation, you’re not doing anything warranting a reward. In fact, it involves considerable opportunity costs, as it can leave you exhausted and ashamed with nothing but a heightened desire for more porn.

Wilson says men often don’t know how if their masturbation habits are a problem until they’ve gotten some distance from them. Acquiring that distance can be tricky, though. “Guys get resistant to the idea that someone is taking away my porn,” Wilson says. “I always say, ‘no, the porn will be there. Trust me. You can go back to anytime. Take a break and just see if it’s affected you and maybe your life might be better and then you can make an educated look at things.’”  

The Internet’s ubiquity makes quitting porn and masturbation a daunting challenge. We’re rarely arm’s length from a laptop, tablet or smartphone, meaning we’re never more than a click or swipe away from porn. “Recovery from pornography addiction in this technological age is like recovering from alcoholism with a flask of liquor always in your pocket,” Church said. 

But communication, accountability, and technological assistance can make quitting possible. Masturbation has furtiveness baked into the model. It’s rarely publicized — no one blocks time for it on a shared Google calendar or announces that they’re about to do it. Conversely, being open and transparent about your problems with masturbation can help overcome them. 

“Addiction is a disease of isolation and secrecy,” Church says. “And so a big part of recovery is opening up to loved ones, asking for help, getting support and having a community around them.”

The old adage about idle hands being the devil’s playthings can be an urgent truth for people looking to curb unhealthy masturbation habits. If you have big blocks of free time you’re likely to spend by yourself, it’s easy to be tempted. 

“I often recommend that if people don’t already have a firm schedule set into their lives that they start making one,” Church says. 

There’s ready online support for porn and masturbation detox thanks to NoFap, an internet community named for the masturbation slang term “fapping.”  On its namesake website and the NoFap subreddit “fapstronauts” share tips, motivational posts, personal stories, lamentations about relapses and other content related to abstaining from PMO (porn/masturbation/orgasm). They’re supportive communities with great resources. But they’re slanted towards younger men who spent their formative years in a constant state of compulsive porn-fueled masturbation that left their lives and self images in sad tatters. If you’re over 30, NoFap may seem to sometimes promise more than they deliver — namely that abstaining from masturbation can grant “superpowers.”

“Many young men and teens ended up in NoFap or some other place and they were looking to get their superpowers,” Wilson says. “And of course the superpowers don’t exist, but what they’re doing is trying to feel good again. Like being able to concentrate was the superpower. Being motivated, having energy. Sleeping well, increased competence, not being afraid to approach women.” 

Fapstronauts urge each other to stay committed to NoFap in the name of self-improvement. Setting your sights on a higher goal can help some people avoid porn. So too can finding a hobby to fill the void. But, Greenfield warned, it won’t work for everybody. “Those are useful techniques,” he says. “But you’re talking about primitive hardwired survival pathways in the brain. And they are far stronger and willpower and motivation.”

Greenfield stresses that while quitting is difficult, it’s possible. “if you really want to stop using it, you can,” he says. “But you’ll probably need some support either through a support group and/or an app that will limit your access to porn.”

Noting that its often easy to circumvent porn-blocking apps and programs, Church often recommends that his clients use porn accountability programs like Covenant Eyes Covenant Eyes doesn’t merely block porn sites. It monitors the subscribers’ online activity and alerts a “trusted ally,” like a friend or family member, that the subscriber has accessed pornography by sending blurred screenshots of the site the subscriber visited. 

And that may seem like an extreme measure now, think about it again next time you close out 36 incognito tabs of Pornhub videos instead of cleaning out the garage. The threat of having 36 screenshots delivered to your wife’s inbox might seem pretty reasonable.