What’s your number? Whether you masturbate twice a week or twice a day, you probably have a set figure in your head when it comes to your favorite pastime.
Match or exceed that mark, and you start wondering whether you’re doing it too much.
Here’s the good news: There’s no magic number when it comes to a healthy masturbation habit, says Dan Drake, a certified sex addiction therapist and clinical counselor.
“However often you masturbate, it’s not a problem until it starts affecting your life in negative ways,” Drake explains.
(If you want to make the most of your two-person romps, check out How to Pleasure a Woman, the complete guide to becoming a master lover.)
So when does a harmless exercise turn into a harmful addiction? Here are the physical and psychological symptoms that may indicate you need to holster your hand and give your boner an extended breather.
1. You Hurt Yourself
Yes, some guys beat off to the point of injury, says Tobias Köhler, M.D., a urologist at Southern Illinois University.
That injury could be something as mild as skin chaffing, or a more serious condition like Peyronie’s disease—a buildup of plaque in the shaft of your penis that can result from using too much pressure while stroking it, Dr. Köhler explains. If you’re hurting yourself, you need to cut back, he warns.
Related: The 10 Worst Things That Could Happen to Your Penis
2. Your Job Suffers
Maybe you stay in on Friday nights to flog 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.
If you find your habit is harming your social life or your job—or preventing you from getting out and finding a partner—those are signs you need to adjust your routine, Drake says.
3. You Can’t Ejaculate
Some guys who masturbate a lot using specific types of stimuli—say, certain categories of porn coupled with specific hand movements—find that they can’t recreate the same type of excitement during sex, Dr. Köhler explains.
Basically, rubbing it out teaches your brain and body to get off only in response to your solo act, and you experience problems getting it up or finishing with a real-life partner. “If that happens, you have a problem that needs to be addressed,” says Dr. Köhler.
4. You Always Think About It
If you often feel distracted by thoughts of when or how you’re going to yank it next, that’s a strong indication you’re dealing with a serious behavior, Drake says.
5. You Try to Cut Back, but Fail
“One of the major criteria of any type of addiction is a loss of control,” Drake explains. Just like a problem smoker or gambler, if you can’t manage to curb your habit when you recognize it’s out of control, that’s an issue.
On top of all this, there are some times when masturbating just isn’t a great idea.
For example, Dr. Köhler and his colleagues have found that diddling every day for 2 weeks depletes a man’s sperm count by nearly 50 percent.
“If you and a partner are trying to get pregnant, masturbating could be hurting your chances,” he explains.
Related: 5 Reasons She’s Not Getting Pregnant
If you realize you have a problem, what should you do about it?
Drake says there are two main techniques of addressing the issue: Cutting yourself off cold turkey, or the “harm reduction” method, which entails trimming your habit while still allowing yourself the occasional five-knuckle shuffle.
You could attempt either on your own, but if you fail, seeing a therapist or sex addiction counselor could help you craft a smarter game plan, says Drake.
“There’s nothing unhealthy or problematic with masturbating,” he’s quick to add. “But if it becomes detrimental to your life, then you need to treat it like you would any other harmful habit.”