Are there any science-backed benefits to NoFap?

And on the other hand, could there be any downsides?

Written by
Jessica Bahr
Medically reviewed by
Last updated
April 5, 2024
min read
Are there any science-backed benefits to NoFap?
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There is nothing wrong with masturbation, porn use, or sexual pleasure — in fact, it is perfectly healthy — but sometimes, there can come a point where it veers into unhealthy territory or addiction.

For people with self-perceived porn addiction, or other types of problematic sexual behaviours or sexual dysfunction, the prospect of seeking help is often daunting and can be accompanied by feelings of guilt, shame, and embarrassment.

In these cases, many people will head online for support or advice and may come across the NoFap community; an online space dedicated to quitting porn and excessive masturbation.

The concept in itself is pretty simple, but are there any real science-backed benefits to giving up masturbation?

And on the other hand, could there be any downsides?

This article will explore what NoFap is, its purported benefits and potential risks, and how to tell if you might need to seek help for addiction to porn or masturbation, or for other types of sexual dysfunction.

What is NoFap?

NoFap describes itself as a "community-based peer support website to help people overcome porn addiction and other forms of compulsive sexual behaviors." [1]

It was founded in 2011 and began as a forum to host challenges, with the simple 'NoFap Rules' of abstaining from masturbation and porn for 7 days.

It has evolved over the years as members began to explore social improvements and the impact that watching porn was having on their lives.

Today, NoFap provides forums and information designed to foster a shame-free and education-based approach to recovery from problematic porn use and support people who spend significant time masturbating.

According to the website, there are now over 1 million NoFap members around the world from all different backgrounds and walks of life.

NoFap doesn't promote or recommend long-term abstinence from masturbation or sexual behaviour in general but instead aims to educate and support those attempting to curb compulsive sexual behaviour or porn addiction, and to raise awareness of these issues.

It's important to understand that the NoFap movement is not anti-porn and doesn't advocate against self-pleasure more broadly but instead aims to help people struggling with porn and masturbation addiction or whose sexual behaviour and masturbation habits are impacting their daily life.

The NoFap community is designed to be a sex-positive, diverse space, with members encouraged to share their stories and experiences.

So what are the potential benefits of NoFap, and is there any scientific evidence behind them?

What are the benefits of NoFap?

In forum discussions, community members highlight a number of NoFap benefits, many of which primarily relate to mental health [2].

The purported mental health benefits of NoFap include improvements in self-esteem, mental clarity, concentration, and sleep quality (which is also a physical benefit).

In addition to mental health benefits, some members also share anecdotes of positive social impacts, including improved relationships and confidence with socialising and dating.

Others highlight having more free time or being more efficient without the constant distractions of porn and masturbation.

When it comes to scientific evidence around physical benefits, however, the research is a little murky.

Some have claimed masturbation and ejaculation can increase or decrease testosterone levels.

Testosterone has an important role in the male body and sexual function. It supports functions including making blood cells, sperm production, and regulating sex drive, mood, and bone and muscle strength [3].

Many things — including sleep quality, stress, ageing, medication, and other health and lifestyle factors — can impact testosterone levels, and we know testosterone is important for health, but the jury is still out on whether or not the NoFap lifestyle really correlates [4].

Results from some studies have suggested abstinence from orgasms or ejaculation could be linked to elevated testosterone levels, while others have found the opposite, or have not found a definitive link [5][6].

One Chinese study observed a temporary 7-day peak in testosterone after ejaculating, which sparked a "7-day challenge" amongst members of the online community and has contributed to the NoFap community gaining traction in its early days

There have also been suggestions that porn use could be connected to erectile dysfunction, which appears to be on the rise among young men [7][8].

Again, the research has not been definitive, so we cannot categorically say whether there is a link or not.

It should also be noted that the official NoFap movement and website states it is not about testosterone levels or semen retention, but is focused on porn addiction and recovery.

Are there any risks?

When it comes to the negative consequences of the NoFap lifestyle, there are several things to be aware of.

For one thing, you could miss out on some of the physical health benefits and positive mental health aspects associated with masturbation.

Masturbation and ejaculation can lead to the release of hormones including dopamine, serotonin and prolactin, which can support happiness and stress reduction [9].

Similarly, attempting NoFap but 'failing' could have negative consequences if it leads to feelings of shame or guilt, which could increase stress and be detrimental to mental health.

There have also been claims that ejaculation frequency can be connected to prostate cancer risk.

A Harvard University study conducted between 1992 and 2000 examined whether frequent ejaculation led to an increased risk of prostate cancer, and found the opposite — high ejaculation frequency appeared to contribute to a decreased risk [10].

A 2016 study also found regular ejaculation may lead to a decreased risk of prostate cancer, although the study had limitations in its demographics and relied on self-reporting [11].

What these studies appear to indicate is that there could be numerous benefits associated with ejaculation, so if you go cold turkey on masturbation, you may miss these positive impacts.

Can not masturbating help with ED?

Some NoFap members claim that not masturbating can improve erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation, but these cases are anecdotal rather than scientific.

As we touched on earlier, masturbation and pornography viewing have long been associated with erectile dysfunction, but this is not really backed by solid scientific evidence.

One 2022 study found masturbation frequency was "weakly and inconsistently" related to ED, while the frequency of pornography use did not appear to have any clear relation to ED [12].

ED is extremely common (particularly among those aged over 45) and refers to being unable to keep or maintain an erection sufficient for sexual intercourse [13].

There are numerous factors that can contribute to erectile dysfunction, such as stress, drinking and smoking, hormonal changes, medication, or other health issues.

If this is something you are experiencing, rather than quitting masturbation, you may want to try a treatment such as Pilot's clinically proven ED treatment.

The process is simple and effective and involves an online assessment, discreet and fast shipping of your treatment, and online consultations and care with a qualified practitioner.

The results speak for themselves too, with 94% of men satisfied with the treatment and 78% achieving lasting erections.

When to seek help

As we've mentioned earlier, sexual satisfaction, watching porn and self-pleasure are normal and healthy behaviour, and can even have health benefits.

However, it is absolutely possible to have too much of a good thing, and both porn and masturbation addiction are very real issues for many people and can have serious impacts on your relationships and sex life.

If you are struggling with excessive masturbation, think you may have a pornography addiction, sex addiction, or have issues with other compulsive sexual behaviour, it is important to seek help from a healthcare professional.

While sex positivity and education have come a long way, there is still a lot of shame and stigma associated with sexual health and sexual desires (particularly in conservative or religious communities), and while online communities can provide some support, this should not be a substitute for professional advice.

If you are experiencing issues with physical performance, including things like premature ejaculation, erectile dysfunction, and lack of sexual energy, or are concerned about your prostate health, you may need to seek professional medical advice.

If you are struggling with low self-esteem, self-confidence, or are trying to quit porn or artificial sexual stimulation, a psychologist might be more suitable.

And remember, you do not need to feel embarrassed or guilty. After all, everybody deserves a healthy and happy sex life.

Image credit: Getty Images

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