Remember that time on Sex and the City when Charlotte received a rabbit vibrator and fell so in love with it that her friends needed to stage an intervention?
It was a fun and goofy storyline, but it does operate under the assumption that it’s possible to masturbate “too much.” So…is it?
Listen. Sometimes you get your hands on a sex toy that just blows your mind, and you need to spend basically every night with it for a few weeks. Or you’re just having a bit of a hard month, and you just really need to blow off steam in the evenings with a little help from your vibrator. And sometimes there is no reason—you’re just horny, or in the mood, or feeling it, so you go for it. Often.
No one’s judging! But in case you’ve ever wondered if you’re overdoing it, we reached out to sex and relationship therapist Shadeen Francis, LMFT, to get the lowdown on your downtown time.
Can you masturbate too much?
“Self-pleasure is a very low-risk sexual activity,” Francis says.
That said, it’s possible to do anything in excess, including masturbation. Just like you can exercise too much or wash your hands too much—even though those are generally great habits—you can also masturbate too much.
“If your masturbation habits are causing you mental, emotional, relational, or physical distress, that is an indicator that you may be masturbating more than is currently healthy for you,” she explains.
She emphasizes that pleasure is healthy, and most people don’t have to worry about overdoing it—in fact, the guilt around masturbation is much more likely to negatively affect someone’s well-being than the actual masturbating. “Sexual health includes your awareness of your sexual needs and feeling empowered to act on them safely,” she explains.
Plenty of people masturbate quite often without any negative side effects (here’s how often men masturbate, FYI), and there are also a slew of benefits of masturbation, including relieving stress, easing pain and period cramps, improving sleep, and even potentially supporting your immune system.
But, as Francis points out, if you’re masturbating with a frequency that’s causing physical harm (that is, you’re noticing soreness or bruising) or negative impact on other parts of your life (like feeling consistently distracted by thoughts of masturbating at work such that you can’t accomplish anything), that’s a sign that it’s time to take a pause, evaluate the role masturbation is playing in your life, and potentially make some changes.
It’s also possible for your body to get used to a certain type of stimulation, Francis notes—for example, the feeling of a vibrator on your clitoris or the rhythm of your own hand on your shaft. “They may notice difficulty maintaining their [erection] or reaching orgasm in partnered sex if it doesn’t mirror what they do when they’re alone,” she says, but adds that this issue is easily solved by making sure to mix things up while masturbating or bringing some of your solo activities into partnered sex. (Don’t underestimate the thrill of mutual masturbation, people!) If you want, it may also help to pause on masturbation for a bit before a partnered sexual experience.
Signs you’re masturbating too much.
How much masturbation is too much will depend on the individual, Francis says. A routine that feels great for one person might feel like way too much for another person. Rather than focusing on frequency, focus on how the behavior makes you feel and how it is (or isn’t) affecting your life.
Here are some signs Francis looks for to know if a person’s current masturbation practice might not be healthy for them:
“The general rule of thumb is that if something is causing unintended pain, you should take that as an indicator that something is wrong,” she says.
If any of the above feel like they may apply to you or if you simply find yourself continuing to worry about your behavior, consider reaching out to a sex therapist or another qualified sexual health professional who can help you take a closer look at what’s going on.
There’s nothing wrong with masturbating a lot. Most people masturbate because it brings them a little pleasure, relaxation, or relief at the end of a long day or because they just want to have fun connecting with their body.
Now, if you find your masturbation feels less relaxing and more stress-inducing, or if it feels “out of control” in any way, it’s worth checking in with a professional to make sure everything’s OK.
But if you generally feel anywhere from amazing to neutral before and after masturbating and aren’t noticing any negative effects on other parts of your life, you probably don’t need to worry. Regular masturbation is a common and generally healthy pastime, so if it’s feeling good, have at it.