The good news? There’s no magic number when it comes to a healthy solo sex life, says Dan Drake, a certified sex addiction therapist and clinical counsellor. In fact, there's a pretty wide range: while 27 percent of 30-to-39-year-old men masturbate once a week to a few times a month, that number varies quite a bit by age, according to a 2009 survey of 2,500 American men.
“However often you masturbate, it’s not a problem until it starts affecting your life in negative ways,” Drake explains.
But that doesn't mean that it can't pose a problem, particularly if it interferes with your everyday life. So when does a harmless habit turn into an issue? Here are the physical and psychological signs that you may need to give your boner a bit of a breather.
You hurt yourself.
Some guys masturbate so often that they actually hurt themselves, says Tobias Köhler, a urologist at Southern Illinois University.
These injuries could be mild (e.g., skin chafing) or a more serious condition like Peyronie’s disease, or scar tissue buildup in the shaft of your penis that can result from using too much pressure while stroking, Dr. Köhler explains.
This may sound obvious, but if you’re masturbating so often that you're hurting yourself, you need to cut back, he warns.
Your job suffers.
Maybe you stay in on Friday nights instead of meeting up with friends, or you’ve been late to meetings because you were giving yourself a hand in the men’s room.
Either way, if you find that your masturbation habits are interfering with your social life, your job, or your desire to have sex with your partner, then it’s time to adjust your routine, Drake says.
Your sex life suffers.
Some guys who masturbate a lot use one specific type of stimuli — say, certain categories of porn coupled with specific hand movements. When it comes time for them to actually have sex, they find that they can’t recreate the same type of excitement, Dr. Köhler explains.
Basically, if you watch the same porn or use the same hand motions every time you masturbate, it teaches your brain and body to get off that way and that way alone. If you're having sex with a real-life partner, this could cause serious problems, both in terms of keeping it up and getting erect in the first place. “If that happens, you have a problem that needs to be addressed,” says Dr. Köhler.
You always think about it.
You wake up wanting to masturbate. At lunch, your mind wanders to your favoyrite porn scene. Your commute home is almost unbearable, because you just want to sit on the couch with a beer and PornHub.
If any of this sounds familiar, and you often find yourself distracted by thoughts of when or how you’re going to yank it next, that’s a strong indication you have a problem, Drake says.
If you realise you have a problem, what should you do about it?
“There’s nothing unhealthy or problematic with masturbating,” Drake says. “But if it becomes detrimental to your life, then you need to treat it like you would any other harmful habit.” That means doing one of two things: a) cutting yourself off cold turkey, at least for the time being; and b) adopting more of a “harm reduction” approach by setting limits for yourself — for example, making a rule to only masturbate at night.
Considering you probably don't want to give up solo orgasms for the rest of your life — masturbation is, after all, an integral part of any healthy sex life — you'll probably want to opt for the latter approach. Set rules for yourself and see if you can adhere to them. If you can't, and you find yourself slipping back into harmful old habits, consider seeing a therapist, as there might be a deeper psychological issue at play.
Bottom line? Indulging in a little self-love every now and then is fine. It's only when it gets in the way of your actual life — or your actual sex life — that it becomes a problem.
This article originally appeared on Men's Health