As a clinician, I’m hesitant to pathologize any legal sexual activity that brings someone joy, pleasure, or is self-soothing. Masturbation is used for many holistic reasons and I’m certainly not one to discourage it.
The subject of “chronic mastubration” is nuanced and I will attempt to handle it with care. As with all things related to sex, there are shades of grey - certain extreme behaviors that need to be taken into account without demonizing frequent masturbation as a whole.
Calling something “chronic” indicates that there is something wrong with masturbating regularly. There is a lot of debate around this term and the “need” to medicalize a perfectly normal human behavior. The whole concept of “chronic” is subjective and one’s take on it will vary widely given a person’s personal beliefs around sexuality, their individual expertise, and their professional qualifications. What one sexuality professional might consider “chronic,” another might call a Monday afternoon delight. That is to say, even those within the sexuality profession cannot fully agree on the correct course of action.
The same is true for “regular” people who don’t specialize in sexuality in their professional lives. There are mixed views, some against and some for labeling this condition - and some who haven’t even considered it at all.
Most people who self-diagnose or are “diagnosed” by a partner (or another person in their life) as a chronic mastubrator are doing so out of misunderstanding of what constitutes “normal'' human sexual behavior. The vast majority of people who feel shame, sadness, or despair about their masturbation habits feel this way because the foundation of their sexual maturity has been steeped in shame.
Think of such messages as: Masturbation is a sin. Only bad people masturbate. You’re disgusting if you touch yourself. Masturbation is self-harm. Masturbation is wrong.
These are harmful lies that cause deep psychological wounds on those who are simply enjoying an activity that is perfectly natural. So, when considering whether your masturbation habits are problematic, take time to think about the messages you received around sex growing up. Much of what we learned as children influences the way we perceive ourselves and our sexual habits as adults. Hence, my hesitation in labeling anything as “chronic” or “compulsive.”
Here is tea: Pleasure is not a finite resource and it will never run out. Masturbation is normal.
Now, with all that being said, there are some instances in which this behavior can become a problem and should be recognized as such. As with all wonderful things, too much can interfere with one’s well-being. Keep in mind that this is not meant to shame anyone or tell anyone they are wrong, but simply to keep an eye on their own habits to be sure they aren’t negatively impacting their lives on a larger scale.
For people with penises, “chronically” masturbating with a hand can lead to a (reversible) condition called “death grip.” This is when a person with a penis uses an overly tight grip on their penis. The penis can acclimate to this intense pressure, leading to sexual difficulties with a partner.
They may have trouble sustaining or maintaining an erection during oral sex or intercourse or experience delayed ejaculation. When people develop sexual routines, it can become difficult to experience orgasm and/or pleasure when this routine is disrupted.
Again, there is nuance here. Some penis-havers can experience “death grip” while only masturbating occasionally. Similarly, someone may masturbate five times per day and not have any issue. Everybody is different.
Solving “death grip” is easier than one might imagine. Simply change up your masturbation routine. Use lighter touches, get a masturbation sleeve, and invest in some high quality lube. It may help to take a week or two away from masturbation to allow your penis to regain some natural sensation. But, and I promise you this, you will not cause permanent damage and you will be OK.
For clitoris-owners, there is no evidence that anything similar to “death grip” can happen with regular masturbation. We too develop sexual routines, but because the majority (about 70-95%) of those with a clitoris don’t orgasm from penetration of the vagina alone, masturbation (usually of the external clitoral glans) will not affect one’s enjoyment of PIV [penis in vagina] sex - or partnered. In fact, it will probably enhance it - knowing what your body needs to orgasm is a glorious thing.
Lastly, if you’re masturbating all day every day, ditching plans, not seeing friends, not doing your job, and generally not taking care of yourself, then, yeah, it might be time to rethink your habits. As previously said, sometimes our behaviors can become out of control - sexually or otherwise. It can helpful to seek out help from a qualified sex therapist or coach to assist you in these instances.
All in all, taking stock of one’s habits from a grounded, shameless place is not a harmful thing. Is “chronic” masturbation a bad thing? Only in rare cases and the severity of its negative impacts are reversible with some self-awareness and a rejiggering of one’s sexual habits.