Participating in ‘NoFap’ techniques may lead to devastating mental health issues, a study suggests.

Born out of groups on Reddit, the ‘NoFap’ movement urges men to avoid masturbation to boost confidence, focus and even cure erectile dysfunction. Those who abide by the practice even call themselves ‘Fapstronauts’. 

Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) surveyed 587 men who had taken part in the abstinence practice.

They found that men said they felt worthless, shame, sad and in some cases suicidal when they ‘relapsed’. They were also more likely to report erectile dysfunction.

Not masturbating may lead to potentially devastating mental health issues, a study has found (stock pic)

Not masturbating may lead to potentially devastating mental health issues, a study has found (stock pic)

The UCLA scientists also found that many people on the online forums singing NoFap’s praises were doing so with little scientific backing. 

There is no scientifically-determined number for how often a man or woman should masturbate.

But medical professionals do urge people to undertake the habit occasionally, saying it can help to reduce stress, improve self-esteem and even, for men, reduce the risk of prostate cancer.

When people masturbate, it prompts the release of feel-good hormones — like oxytocin and endorphins — which boost mood. 

There is also no figure for how often someone should have sex. But scientists have suggested to DailyMail.com that about once a week is best.

Part of the allure of NoFap is that it claims to treat a ‘pornography addiction’.

But the scientists behind the study from the UCLA say there is no medical backing to claims made on such forums. 

Professionals have previously suggested, however, that a pornography addiction may be pursuing porn for hours online at the neglect of other activities like sleep and seeing the amount of time spent watching it continue to grow.

It is also claimed to help boost testosterone levels to promote muscle growth. 

This has, however, not yet been backed up by rigorous studies. The claim is based on one small study from 2003.

In the latest paper, scientists asked men about their experience with ‘relapse’ while in NoFap forums online.

They all took part in Reboot groups, which are large, for-profit forums mostly run by men self-described as ‘coaches in recovery’ for ‘porn addiction’, according to a 2022 study in the journal Sexualities.  

Participants reported that their relapses, masturbating for the first time after long periods of abstinence, were associated with feelings of shame, worthlessness and sadness.

About 29 percent also said that their most recent failures ’caused them to feel suicidal’.

Those who underwent longer periods of abstinence were more likely to report erectile dysfunction, depression, anxiety and more sex negativity.

It was not clear why not masturbating caused erectile dysfunction, but it may be because of negative views associated with sexual activity in NoFap adherents. 

When asked about posts in the groups, 73 percent said they had viewed misogynistic posts.

NoFap can be traced back to Reddit in 2011 after a conversation between people who had quit masturbation.

The movement claims that dropping masturbation, and an alleged porn addiction, can have multiple benefits for people.

A quick view of a NoFap group on Facebook showed participants accusing masturbating of giving them ‘brain damage’ and saying that quitting it made them feel ‘like superman’.

In one post where a user felt ‘shame’ for masturbating, another user commented telling them to ‘punish your self’ and ‘stop the habit step by step’.

There is no clear figure for how many Americans follow NoFap, but groups tend to have thousands of members.

There were also reports of bullying (49 percent), anti-LGBT posts (42 percent) and posts instructing others to harm or kill themselves (23 percent).

The authors also noted that NoFap groups were described as ‘productive targets for white supremacist recruitment’.

They also likened the forums to iatrogenic illnesses or illnesses caused by medical intervention. 

Dr Nicole Prause, a neuroscientist at the University of California, Los Angeles, who led the research said: ‘Reboot, especially NoFap, promotes abstinence from masturbation and/or pornography to treat ‘pornography addiction’, an unrecognized diagnosis.

‘While the intention of ReBoot/NoFap is to decrease distress, qualitative studies have consistently suggested that ‘Reboots’ paradoxically cause more distress.’

She said the distress was in response to abstinence goals, which recast common sexual behaviors as ‘personal failures’.

The distress was also linked to problematic and inaccurate messaging on groups regarding perceived ‘relapse’.

The paper was published this month in the journal Sexualities.

How do I know I am getting enough sex? 

Experts say that as a rule of thumb, everyone in relationships should aim to have sex around once a month.

But they do point out that this will vary between couples, although less than once every two weeks could cause issues in the relationship.

Dr Ian Kerner, a sex therapist and published author, explained you could tell you weren’t getting enough sex if you kept craving it.

‘Very often these people don’t feel desired by their partner,’ he told DailyMail.com, ‘very often they have a biological craving, desire, and don’t feel connected with their partner.

‘I have one patient and she is not having enough sex or the kind that she would like and she is constantly thinking about sex and constantly fanticizing.’

At the other end of the scale, he also explained how to tell whether you are having too much sex.

He said: ‘Feelings of pressured to have sex betray this.

‘I work with couples, where there is pressure over not fulfilling needs.

‘If you feel like sex is becoming out of control or too impulsive, pressure to have sex all the time, all of those are indications that you may be overdoing the sex.’



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