Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 5/13/2022
Chances are, like internet pornography, NoFap is something you’ve definitely heard of, but probably have never, ever seen. Some other guy mentioned it—you heard it from someone, who heard it from someone, whose buddy tried it. We totally get it.
NoFap is an internet community dedicated to undoing the damage caused by porn addiction and masturbation addiction for a lot of men (and some women).
While the internet communities may have strong feelings, experts aren’t yet convinced. Pornography addiction, masturbation addiction and their relative side effects on your health and happiness: what actually matters?
For many experts, this question isn’t easy to answer. The internet and the endless supply of pornography on it are relatively new fields of study for the medical and mental health communities — frankly, as is the idea of masturbation in excess.
What role does masturbation play in your mental health? What role does it play in your physical health? The NoFap community thinks it knows. And they think they have a solution, too.
So, what’s with this group of dudes talking about their masturbation habits?
At its core, NoFap and the NoFap movement and community are essentially an abstinence support group. NoFap isn’t really a new concept — abstinence and anti-masturbation movements have been around for centuries.
But this Reddit-based community of pro-abstinence crusaders has rebranded those ideas to “help” men, with two guiding principles:
Internet pornography is bad for your brain and avoiding it is good for your mental health.
Masturbation is generally bad for your health (particularly in excess), and abstaining from masturbation is therefore good for your mental and physical health.
The modern take on abstinence (mixed in with a little anti-porn messaging) may seem harmless and even worthy of support on the surface, but the medical community isn’t so sure.
Associations with religious and conservative views of masturbation and porn have led to the group being labeled porn-criticial. And it’s hard for NoFap to escape those associations when they’re part of the foundation of the movement.
And yet, there’s momentum to this group. The online community of Redditors is closing in on a million members these days, and they do a decent job of keeping the message simple and judgment-free.
At the heart of NoFap is the idea of treating both pornography and masturbation as addictions.
It correlates porn addiction to sexual addiction, sexual dysfunction, low self-esteem, decreased libido, lack of motivation, shame, brain fog, fatigue, lower testosterone levels and, well, several more symptoms of depression. In their book, porn takes the place of real relationships.
The addiction, according to NoFap, is caused by the habit-forming nature of our brain’s reward system and how porn forms strong pathways with neurotransmitters to make the addiction powerful.
And they say this can all go away with just a quick “reboot.”
It’s important to take a look at the things that NoFap claims are the benefits of their lifestyle. But as much as NoFap may have core tenets, it’s somewhat hard to pin them down since many of the proposed benefits are anecdotally offered by members.
NoFap proposes to eliminate the symptoms of porn addiction and masturbation addiction and the addictions themselves by rebooting — essentially, going cold turkey off the habit.
NoFap has gamified the experience of rebooting in a period of time, and both 30- and 90-day reset challenges exist in the NoFap community, including the well-known “No Nut November.”
These community-driven and community-supported reboots allege to reset the addiction pathways in your brain and, in the process, “fix” the symptoms associated with porn addiction.
Unfortunately for NoFap, there’s not much in the way of science to correlate sexual dysfunction or sex addiction with porn addiction or excessive masturbation.
Thus far anyway, research has fallen short of proving a link between excessive amounts of porn (or masturbation) and any dysfunction, mental or physical.
In fact, the only “science” behind NoFap seems to point to a correlation between people who have sexual dysfunction and admit to a porn addiction. In other words, people with sexual dysfunction are more likely to acknowledge a porn addiction than people who do not experience dysfunction.
Though the study’s authors went so far as to recommend mental health professionals consider it a contributing factor when someone with sexual dysfunction admits to an addiction, they do not believe that the two have a cause-and-effect relationship. More research is needed.
That said, self-perception is important, and if you feel ashamed of your masturbation or porn habits, that may be worthy of a conversation with your healthcare provider, regardless.
The fact is that what you’re dealing with may not be solved by porn addiction recovery, so much as a porn habit brought on as a side effect of mood disorders like depression or anxiety. If this is the case, you may want to seek therapeutic support.
Therapeutic techniques like cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT may be able to help you with those urges, but they may also help you reframe negative thoughts about pornography and masturbation to better suit your ideal life — that’s up to you.
They may also suggest the use of certain antidepressants as a treatment for PE, believe it or not. A side effect of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRis), a popular antidepressant, is delayed ejaculation. Consequently, they’re prescribed off-label in some instances to help men suffering from, you guessed it, PE.
A mental health professional can provide this support, so if you’re suffering or if you’re noticing things like damage to interpersonal relationships, it may be worth taking the time to get in touch with one.
Call us old-fashioned, but we’re just not convinced the answer to problems regarding addiction — addiction of any sorts, really — can be found on a Reddit thread. Help? Sure. Support? Absolutely. But actionable remedies? Hardly.
Experts are, however, available on the internet to help you, and you might consider starting that professional conversation with online counseling if you’re not feeling good about your porn or masturbation habits.
If something more serious is going on downstairs, it may be time to progress from the internet sleuthing to a healthcare professional (and, dare we say, skipping Reddit altogether).
Consider reading our medically-reviewed guide to premature ejaculation causes, symptoms and treatment options to learn more.
Learn more with hims’ guides to all things sexual health. And head back to Reddit when you’re ready for some memes.