Death grip syndrome and ED: Causes and treatment

It's easy to get carried away when it comes to solo play.

Written by
Lucinda Starr
Medically reviewed by
Last updated
April 23, 2024
min read
Death grip syndrome and ED: Causes and treatment
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Death grip syndrome: if you're reading this, you probably know exactly what we're talking about. It's easy to get carried away and get a little too aggressive when it comes to solo play.

Sure, it feels good in the moment. But that vice-like grip on your pecker that you're getting a little too used to can be fairly detrimental to your sex life.

In fact, it can be a vicious cycle. You get used to a certain amount of pressure and tightness, and before long, you need to up the intensity to reach the same levels of pleasure, and this goes on until sex with your partner isn't quite cutting the mustard anymore.

Not only is it frustrating, but having trouble climaxing or even needing to pull out and give yourself a quick HJ to reach a full-blown orgasm might be lessening the appeal of sex with someone, and it's not uncommon for this to lead to relationship problems. Sound familiar? You're probably looking for a way to fix death grip syndrome.

That's why we've put together a guide on everything you need to know about death grip syndrome, from what it is, if it's even a thing, symptoms and causes, plus what you can do to turn the pleasure of partnered sex back up to 100. Let's dive in.

What is death grip syndrome?

Death grip syndrome is more of an anecdotal slang term so you won't find it in the medical textbooks. That's why we're here to clear some things up for you.

Death grip syndrome is a phenomenon that occurs when someone finds it easier to orgasm through their masturbation habits, but when it comes to partnered sex, they find it more difficult to ejaculate.

Basically, if you find it easy to reach completion through masturbation, but find sex with a partner a little so-so and not enough to get you all the way, you might have death grip syndrome.

A lot of times, death grip syndrome is mistaken for a more medically accepted condition called delayed ejaculation, where a man finds it difficult or impossible to reach orgasm at all [1].

Not sure which one it is? Take a look at your masturbation habits; if you're holding onto your love stick for dear life and need a tight grip to get off during masturbation, DGS could be the reason [2].

Why do they call it a death grip?

The term death grip syndrome is characterised by — and got its name from — the masturbation habits of some men who require an extremely firm grip in order to get off. The tighter grip, or death grip as it's popularly known, that's possible during solo sessions often means that masturbation becomes the preferred method of orgasm.

The high intensity of pressure needed to reach "nirvana" can often be difficult to replicate during penetrative sex.

But who can we thank for the term? Sex columnist Dan Savage is most often credited with coining the term death grip syndrome back in the early 2000s.

What are the common symptoms of death grip syndrome?

Finding it easy to bust a nut when masturbating, but partnered sex makes completion feel a little more elusive? This is one of the most common symptoms of death grip syndrome. Alongside this is often finding it difficult to relax, enjoy, and fully feel sexual pleasure due to penile sensitivity when having penetrative sex.

This often leads to secondary symptoms of death grip syndrome, like relationship issues. It's not uncommon to feel ashamed and tend to prefer masturbation over getting hot and heavy with your partner, choosing instead to watch porn and solo play to get off.

What causes death grip syndrome?

Death grip syndrome is more anecdotal than medical, so there isn't any hard research on what causes it. But popular opinion says that death grip syndrome is caused by excessively tight-gripped masturbation. This death grip masturbation technique is said to reduce levels of penile sensitivity during sex.

Sure, death grip syndrome isn't yet being studied in the lab, which might be a tad awkward for the researchers, but there is some science that could back up the claim that a too-tight grip can reduce sensitivity levels.

Take this study of male cyclists as an example: 61% of participants said that genital numbness was caused by excessive pressure on the bike seat [3].

And not to be bearers of bad news here but another cause of death grip? Porn consumption. Now, we're not saying you should necessarily cut it out altogether, but some studies have suggested that those who watch porn frequently often need to think about porn while getting frisky with their partner in order to keep it up and reach their happy ending [4].

Sound familiar? Thinking about porn instead of relaxing into the moment and allowing the physical sensations of partnered sex wash over you could be a potential barrier to ejaculation.

Can death grip cause erectile dysfunction?

Again, death grip syndrome is a popular narrative, whereas erectile dysfunction (ED) can be medically diagnosed. Let's have a look at some of the different conditions that could be affecting your male member.

ED is a sexual dysfunction where it's difficult to get the penis firm enough for long enough to participate in sex [5]. Delayed ejaculation is where it takes long periods of sexual stimulation to ejaculate [6]. Death grip is when the penis has become desensitised by a tight grip during masturbation, making it difficult to ejaculate during partnered sex.

There is actually a lot of overlap between these 3 conditions, so it's hard to say whether one causes the other. Your best bet is to chat with a professional about what could be causing issues with your ejaculation.

Finding it time-consuming to come both during masturbation and partnered sex? It might not be death grip, but erectile dysfunction instead.

If you think you might have ED (it's actually super common), talk to your trusted healthcare provider [7]. Death grip isn't medically diagnosable and any anecdotal evidence around it can't really constitute medical advice, so problems enjoying sexual pleasure and getting off are best discussed with a healthcare provider.

What else could be causing erectile dysfunction?

Erectile dysfunction is common, with 40% of Aussie men experiencing it at some point in their life, and it can be caused by a bunch of different things. Let's take a look at some of the most common [8]:

  • Physical health issues: Heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, and smoking can all cause ED [9]
  • Mental health issues: Depression, anxiety, stress, feelings of low self-esteem, and relationship problems can all interfere with sexual feelings and lead to ED [10]
  • Medications: Certain medications, such as antidepressants, antihistamines, and medications for high blood pressure, can cause or worsen ED [11]
  • Lifestyle choices: Drinking too much alcohol, using drugs, and not getting enough exercise can all contribute to ED [12]

The list of causes seems overwhelming, sure, but talking to a healthcare professional is the first step, and from there, most people see improvements relatively quickly with the right course of action.

How to treat death grip syndrome

Now the part that you've been waiting for: let's talk about how to kick death grip syndrome and start experiencing partnered sex to the full again. There's no surefire death grip syndrome cure, but there are a bunch of pretty easy things you can do to get your ejaculation back full steam.

Try out different masturbation techniques, like taking things a little lighter and a little slower. Over time this could really help you feel more subtle sensations. This one will take some practice, and it's best to be prepared to work through some frustrations as you experiment and find out alternative ways to ejaculate.

You probably don't want to hear this one but trust us, it could be a game-changer: address your porn consumption and reduce your solo play. Ever heard of edging? It's kind of like that.

For the next little while, try to leave the only time you reach completion to when you're with your partner. Not only does a reduced frequency help you restore sensation it can also help break that psychological link that porn is what makes you come.

And lastly, talk to someone. And by someone, we mean someone in the medical field like a trusted healthcare practitioner. Not only will they help you determine whether you're experiencing death grip syndrome, ED, or DE, but they'll also be able to come up with a clearer course of action for you.

Not ready to head down to the clinic and talk to your family doctor about your penis? Yeah, we get that. That's why Pilot’s clinical ED treatment consists of online consultations and treatment plans shipped (discreetly, of course) straight to your front door.

Photo credit: Getty Images

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