Need help breaking free from addiction?
1-888-993-3112
Call 24/7 for treatment options. Who Answers?

I Can't Stop Jerking Off! How Can I Stop Masturbating?

Question:
     <p style="margin-bottom: 0in">Hey Doctor Dombeck.  I can't stop jerking off.  I am trying to stop but my cravings keep getting to me!</p> 
This Disclaimer applies to the Answer Below
  • Dr. Dombeck responds to questions about psychotherapy and mental health problems, from the perspective of his training in clinical psychology.
  • Dr. Dombeck intends his responses to provide general educational information to the readership of this website; answers should not be understood to be specific advice intended for any particular individual(s).
  • Questions submitted to this column are not guaranteed to receive responses.
  • No correspondence takes place.
  • No ongoing relationship of any sort (including but not limited to any form of professional relationship) is implied or offered by Dr. Dombeck to people submitting questions.
  • Dr. Dombeck, Mental Help Net and CenterSite, LLC make no warranties, express or implied, about the information presented in this column. Dr. Dombeck and Mental Help Net disclaim any and all merchantability or warranty of fitness for a particular purpose or liability in connection with the use or misuse of this service.
  • Always consult with your psychotherapist, physician, or psychiatrist first before changing any aspect of your treatment regimen. Do not stop your medication or change the dose of your medication without first consulting with your physician.
Answer:

I think the first thing to consider is whether or not your problem is really a problem. Masturbation is a pretty normal thing, and so far as I am aware it is not generally associated with adverse physical health effects. People can get into behavioral trouble with their masturbation, such as when constant jerking off interferes with a man’s ability to or interest in functioning sexually in a relationship with an actual woman. I’ve also known of some men who were very sexually compulsive and ended up spending all their money on telephone sex to the point where they were functionally addicted to sex and it was interfering with their social and occupational functioning. I’m not saying that constant masturbation cannot be an issue. However, I’ve encountered people in the course of my work who have masturbated with normal frequency, and the behavior was not particularly destructive of their relationships, but they felt terribly guilty about it anyway. For this sort of person, it’s not the masturbation that is an issue. Rather, it is their sexual shame and guilt, and the rigid, idealistic, judgmental and perfectionist cognitive style that they apply to all of their thinking. So, what I’m getting at is that it’s important that you think carefully about whether your problem is actually about masturbation, or instead about feeling ashamed.

If your masturbation is actually getting in the way of your relationships, work, or your ability to function in society, then yes, maybe you are masturbating too frequently. Masturbation is one of those habits that is difficult to stop because doing it is intrinsically rewarding. We aren’t born knowing how to masturbate, but the moment we start doing it, we know that it feels good, and we become motivated to do it more. Eating food provides a similar kick, and people similarly can get into patterns where they eat too much and it’s hard to stop. Additionally, of course, there are lots of drugs that people can take which make them feel very good, and this motivates them to continue using the drugs.

It has been argued that the proper goal of a treatment for addictions is abstinence from the problem substance of abuse. So, according to Alcoholics Anonymous, the goal for an alcoholic should be complete sobriety from all alcoholic beverages. Abstinence may or may not be a realistic goal for compulsive use of alcohol; it is certainly not a realistic goal for compulsive sexual behavior or eating behavior. If we stop eating, we will die. If we stop having sex, we tend to get agitated and horny after a little while and start sexualizing people and things inappropriately. As the singer Tom Waits observed long ago, "I’m so horny, the crack of dawn looks pretty good to me". It is easier for some people to go without sex than others, but the average adult person seems to needs it in some form or they don’t feel right after a while.

Since going cold turkey is not going to be feasible or desirable for that matter, what is left is to explore techniques that can help you to modify your jerking off habit. We explore various methods for changing your behavior in Chapter 5 of our self-help book, Psychological Self-Tools. Of particular interest to you may be the sections on Relapse Prevention.

Behavioral Chains, Substitution, Interruption and Diversion

Since there are multiple forms of sex that can work to satisfy people’s sexual appetites, you have the option of looking for ways to substitute the form of sex you are wanting to cut down on with one that you’d feel better about. For instance, jerk off less, and make love with a desirable and desiring partner more. This will be a lot easier to do if you have a willing partner already. If you don’t, this will take some work, perseverance and luck as you’ll need to start dating again. Historically, there have been other solution to this need, such as institutionalized prostitution, but for the most part, this is not a safe or lawful option in our society.

Willing partner or not, you will face another problem which is that your cravings for masturbation sex are constantly being triggered by things that you are encountering in the environment around you. For instance, its very likely that you jerk off while using porn, which is easy to get access to today across the Internet, from the video store, and, if you’re old-school, in magazine format. Let’s say that you have a computer that you frequently use to view this material which is exciting to you. This computer is probably not be reserved exclusively for use as a masturbation aide. Instead, you use it for other purposes such as surfing the web, reading email, etc. The thing is, every time you see the computer, some part of your brain notes that the computer is part of the pattern of compulsive masturbation and ratchets up your desire. The computer may be acting as a ‘trigger’ which gets the cravings started. It is useful to think about behaviors like compulsive masturbation as actually being comprised of a chain of events, or like falling dominoes, one triggering another in a cascade. If you want to get a handle on slowing down your masturbation, you will need to identify the entry points to this chain and take special steps to handle them so that you don’t just fall down the cascade and end up jerking off every time.

Keeping all of the above in mind, the following might be a rough plan for how to help interrupt and reshape your compulsive masturbation.

  • Make a list of the things that trigger your desire, such as your computer or any porn you have lying around the house.

  • Get rid of whatever stuff that triggers you that you can. You probably can’t justify throwing the computer away, but you can get rid of DVDs and stored files and magazines, etc. If you can get rid of the entry point to the masturbation behavior chain, you can stop falling down that chain some of the time.

  • With regard to the computer, you can install "nanny" software made to block access to pornographic websites if you want to. The computer will still function as an entry point to the masturbation behavior chain for a while, but if you are blocked (and can resist the temptation to uninstall the software), this will interrupt the chain’s progress towards masturbation, giving you some time to divert yourself.

  • Develop a plan of acceptable alternative or substitute behaviors you can engage in when you notice that you are starting to crave. Let your partner know you have needs if that is an option. Or go out for a jog or take the proverbial "cold shower". These things essentially help you to change your environment so as to interrupt and disorient the chain from progressing.

  • Finally, allow yourself the freedom to masturbate sometimes, perhaps at regular intervals. See if you can learn to do this without using porn. Masturbation is really not a bad thing if you can learn do it in moderation, and in a matter that doesn’t interfere with the rest of your life.

This stuff is easy to talk about doing in theory, but in practice, it’s difficult to make happen, if only because as you go through different stages of cravings, your motivation to change your ways goes away and you stop doing the work necessary to interrupt until it is too late and you feel guilty about what you’ve done again. I recommend that you seek out a behavioral psychotherapist or a sexual therapist with behavioral expertise to help you work on successfully changing this sexual habit. Your therapist will help you stay focused and motivated better than you are likely to be able to achieve on

More "Ask Dr. Dombeck" View Columnists

Close

Call the Helpline Toll-FREE

To Get Treatment Options Now.

1-888-993-3112 Who Answers? 100% Confidential

Get Help For You or a Loved One Here...

Click Here for More Info.

Close

Call The Toll-FREE Helpline 24/7 To Get Treatment Options Now.

100% Confidential
Get Treatment Options From Your Phone... Tap to Expand