Quitting masturbation rockets risk of erectile dysfunction, study finds

Abstaining from masturbating has been linked to damaging mental health issues, a new study has found.

Online anti-masturbation group, labelled the NoFap movement, encourages men to restrain from self-plesure to boost energy levels, confidence and even cure erectile dysfunction.

But scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) have warned that restraining from ‘fapping’ could have negative effects.

The team of researchers surveyed 587 men who participate in the abstinence practice, who said they felt sad, worthless, shame and in some cases suicidal when they ‘relapsed’.

They also found that the participants were more likely to report erectile dysfunction.

Sex and occasional masturbation has been hailed for its numerous health benefits, including one Harvard University study which found that men who ejaculate at least 21 times a month reduce their risk of prostate cancer by a third.

The UCLA researchers highlighted that people promoting NoFap on online forums, such as Reddit, were doing so with little scientific evidence.

There is no scientifically-determined figure for how often men and women should masturbate.

But medical professionals do encourage the practice on occasion, as it can improve self-esteem, reduce stress and slash the risk of prostate cancer in men.

Masturbation is endorsed because it signals the release of mood-boosting hormones, such as oxytocin and endorphins.

The NoFap movement claims to treat ‘pornography addiction’, but UCLA researchers say that there is no medical backing to support this.

Previous research has suggested, however, that pornography addiction could mean people are neglecting other essential activities like sleep.

Another claim made by the movement is that abstaining helps boost testosterone levels to promote muscle growth, but this also hasn’t been backed by solid evidence. It has been made based on a small study from 2003.

The UCLA study saw researchers ask participants about their experience with ‘relapse’ while in NoFap forums online.

They all took part in Reboot groups, which are large, for-profit forums mostly run by men self-described as “coaches in recovery” for “porn addiction”, according to a 2022 study in the journalSexualities.

Those taking part in the study said their relapses – when they masturbated for the first time after a long duration of abstinence – were linked to feelings of worthlessness, sadness and shame.

Around 29 percent reported feeling suicidal after their most recent relapse.

The findings showed that participants who went longer periods of abstinence were more likely to report depression, anxiety, erectile dysfunction and more sex negatively.

Dr Nicole Prause, a neuroscientist at the University of California, Los Angeles, who led the research, said: “Reboot, especially NoFap, promotes abstinence from masturbation and/or pornography to treat 'pornography addiction', an unrecognized diagnosis.

“While the intention of ReBoot/NoFap is to decrease distress, qualitative studies have consistently suggested that 'Reboots' paradoxically cause more distress.”

The expert added that feelings of distress were in response to abstinence goals, which shape sexual behaviours as “personal failures”.

The negative emotions were also associated with problematic and inaccurate messaging on groups regarding perceived ‘relapse'.

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