5 Reasons Why Masturbation Is Healthy — And Recognizing The Signs When It’s Not

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5 Reasons Why Masturbation Is Healthy — And Recognizing The Signs When It’s Not

It’s no secret that masturbation can be an enjoyable way to pass some time. But is masturbation healthy for you?

Masturbation is often treated as a taboo subject. It’s easy to feel confused about whether you should masturbate at all. You may even become flustered with trying to figure out how to masturbate. 

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Like many questions about sexual behavior and mental health, the answer to whether masturbation is healthy is a deeply personal one.

What is healthy for one individual may not serve another. Still, studies have shown that there are clear health benefits to enjoying a little alone time with your body.

So why, then, do so many still struggle to talk about masturbation without going red in the face?

Often, it’s because so much of one’s feelings about masturbation are tied to cultural, historical, and religious influences, whether it’s realized it or not.

The history of masturbation is rife with words like “sin,” “disease,” and even “self-abuse.” So, it’s no wonder people sometimes struggle to enjoy self-pleasure without feeling guilt!

In the 18th century, masturbation was considered a disease that could lead to insanity and other serious health conditions. By the early 1800s, this belief was pushed into the spotlight by health reformer Sylvester Graham (you may know him best, thanks to his invention of a certain cracker).

Graham was a Presbyterian minister who preached that all pleasurable sensation was Satanic temptation in disguise, and that any behavior that was immoral had to be unhealthful, too.

Naturally, according to Graham’s teachings, masturbation was out. Even today, when sexual health researchers have retreated from the condemnation of masturbation, it's still a taboo subject for many individuals.

Extensive research about masturbation is also lacking, and so the debate about its pros and cons wages on.

So, is masturbation healthy? Or can it negatively impact physical and mental health?

Here are 5 ways masturbation can actually be healthy for you.

1. Masturbation produces mood-boosting hormones.

Having an orgasm causes the body to release dopamine, endorphins, and oxytocin, the love and bonding hormone.

Producing more of these feel-good hormones through masturbation can help lower cortisol, a primary stress hormone that can lead to inflammation, insomnia, and weight-loss resistance.

Higher levels of oxytocin can also make you feel happier, reduce cravings, and improve your overall mood.

2. It boosts self-confidence and body image.

Female masturbation, in particular, can also have positive impacts on self-confidence and body image. Masturbation leads to a sense of autonomy and bodily integrity that improves an individual’s sense of identity.

On the other hand, feeling guilty about masturbation can inhibit a woman’s comfort with her own body, and can even lead to negative attitudes about contraceptives.

3. Masturbation improves sexual satisfaction.

Masturbation can be a powerful way to learn more about your body and your preferences. By helping individuals understand how their bodies react to different activities, masturbation can actually make other sexual experiences more pleasurable.

Masturbation is also becoming a commonly prescribed treatment in sex therapy. It has even been used to treat various sexual dysfunctions, including premature ejaculation in men.

4. It increases your life expectancy.

A 25-year study found that a greater frequency of sex predicted a lower annual death rate for men, while enjoyment of intercourse predicted a lower mortality rate in women.

The benefits associated with more sexual activity had the biggest impact on coronary heart disease mortality. In other words, sex can be good for your heart.

While this study primarily focused on actual sexual intercourse, male masturbation and female masturbation can have some of the same benefits, helping to reduce cortisol, stress, and inflammation, while boosting key hormones.

5. Masturbation reduces prostate cancer risk in men.

A Harvard Medical School study found that increased ejaculations, including from sexual intercourse and masturbation, was linked to a decreased risk of prostate cancer for men.

Compared to men who reported four to seven ejaculations per month across their lifetimes, men who ejaculated 21 or more times each month saw a 31 percent lower risk of prostate cancer. Just one more reason to make masturbation part of your sex life.

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What's the difference between healthy and compulsory masturbation?

While masturbation has been shown to have physical and mental health benefits, it is possible for masturbation to have negative health consequences, too.

Masturbation is a very personal thing, and the only person who can evaluate whether you masturbate too much is you. In reality, excessive masturbation is only a problem if someone deems it to be for themselves.

Wondering if masturbation is something at which you should take a closer look?

Here are 5 signs your masturbation is compulsive and could have negative impacts on health and self-esteem.

1. You can't stop masturbating.

One of the most telling indicators that masturbation may be compulsory is if you’ve tried to stop, slow down, or curtail yourself for a designated period of time and found you were unable to do so.

Too much masturbation may make it difficult to navigate other areas of your life successfully.

You may start forgetting to complete tasks, take less time to be social with friends, family, or your partner, or start neglecting other things because most of your time is spent organizing around masturbation.

2. Masturbation is no longer as pleasurable.

When masturbation becomes compulsive masturbation, what once felt satisfying now barely wets your whistle. This can happen in terms of frequency or intensity of masturbation.

What once turned you on easily may now not register any arousal, prompting you to seek out more intense, taboo fantasies or visual prompts.

3. Your mood changes when you can't masturbate.

Remember how masturbation helps increase mood-boosting hormones? Compulsive masturbation can make it hard to replicate those feelings without self-pleasure.

If you’re irritable, anxious, or depressed, or notice difficulty sleeping when you don't masturbate, this could be an indicator you're experiencing withdrawal symptoms.

You may have been using excessive masturbation to cope with underlying stress at the expense of other coping strategies.

4. It affects your sex life.

If you’re struggling with compulsive masturbation, you may notice a decrease of arousal or an increase of sexual anxiety with real-life partners. You may even find that you can’t orgasm with other people.

Too much masturbation can impact your partner, too, leaving them feeling alienated, cheated on, or betrayed.

If your relationship with masturbation is causing friction in your relationship, you may decide that the disruption is a negative consequence of too much masturbation.

5. You’re neglecting other responsibilities.

There can be negative legal, financial, and personal consequences that result from excessive masturbation.

In some cases, you may find yourself blurring boundaries in your life when masturbation becomes all-consuming, even if it goes against your own value system.

For example, masturbating at work or accessing pornography on work-issued computers or tablets can violate company policies and lead to termination.

You may find yourself spending money on payment-focused porn sites, fantasy play, or extortion and find your savings rapidly depleted.

You may even find yourself neglecting your role as a parent. This can occur because masturbation is taking up so much of your bandwidth, you're no longer make time to engage with your children.

If you feel like compulsive masturbation could be a problem for you, take a deep breath because you're not alone, you're not a bad person, and there is help.

Some people like to test themselves and go without masturbation for 30, 60, or 90 days to see if they still feel autonomous in their sexual choices.

If you choose to do this, organize your thoughts and feelings during this time. Perhaps write down when you have the urge, so you can start recognizing patterns.

Create a list of alternative hobbies and practice them to reduce the likelihood of using masturbation as an exclusive coping strategy, and learn new methods of getting your needs met.

Lastly, get support through sex therapy or other means. Sitting with the fear or shame around sexuality can be wildly isolating, which is a risk factor for excessive masturbation to continue or get worse.

Getting support could also mean reaching out to a trusted friend, family member, partner, member of your religious community, or even a support group, such as Sex Addicts Anonymous, which offers online and in-person meetings.

Remember, when it comes to answering the question, “Is my masturbation healthy?” only you can know the answer.

It’s important to not feel shame or guilt around self-pleasure, and to review your masturbation habits with open eyes and an open mind.

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Dr. Kate Balestrieri is a licensed psychologist, certified sex therapist, PACT II couples' therapist, and founder of Modern Intimacy who focuses on helping people heal from trauma, addiction, sex, and relationship issues. Follow her on IG @drkatebalestrieri.

This article was originally published at Modern Intimacy. Reprinted with permission from the author.