Updated: Dec 19, 2021
Is Masturbation Healthy?
Published: Dec 13, 2021

Masturbation refers to a person self-stimulating their own genitals to become sexually aroused. The topic has been widely researched and is still poorly understood. One reason is that it is not well-defined. When 500 plus people were surveyed online, a wide range of definitions for masturbation was proposed. There was not a significant difference between men and women. However, two characteristics were consistent: only a single person is involved, and the goal is orgasm.

Masturbation is a difficult topic for many people to talk about. They may have learned it was taboo when they were young. In addition, partners might find it hard to discuss because of an underlying tension that suggests one partner is not meeting the needs of the other.

Nonetheless, whether it is a topic of open conversation or not, 38% of women and 61% of men report masturbating in the past year. Other studies suggest that almost all men report masturbating at some point, and the vast majority of women do as well. For some, it complemented a partnered sex life, and for others, it replaced it.

Research on masturbation has uncovered a long list of mental health benefits, including sexual pleasure, stress reduction, feelings of empowerment, and the ability for women to reclaim and rediscover their bodies after negative sexual experiences.

Read More: The Connection Between Intimacy and Mental Health

Positive Effects of Masturbation

  • Relieves stress: Orgasm increases the release of oxytocin, a hormone that increases a feeling of connectedness and bonding. Oxytocin decreases cortisol levels. Increased cortisol is associated with stress and the negative health effects associated with stress, such as poor sleeping, stress eating, and high blood pressure.
  • No risk of pregnancy and low risk of sexually transmitted infections: This point was made by Dr. Joycelyn Elders in 1994 at the United Nations Conference on AIDS when she said that masturbation was “part of human sexuality.”
  • Orgasm: Orgasms, whether from masturbation or partnered sex, are associated with better sleep, menstrual cramp relief, decreased tension, and a more relaxed mood.
  • Learn more about your body: Masturbation can help people explore their bodies and better understand what gives them sexual pleasure.

The Negative Effects of Masturbation 

Compulsive Behavior

Like any behavior, masturbation can have negative effects, especially if excessive or compulsive behavior leads to uncontrollable sexual behavior. There is no clinical diagnosis for masturbation addiction, though some feel it should fall under the category of sex addiction. The American Psychological Association does not recognize masturbation as addictive. Masturbation addiction can be in response to an underlying depression or anxiety that has not been properly treated. It can also be in response to life circumstances that seem uncontrollable.

Masturbation can be a problem if it gets in the way of everyday life. The release of endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin in the brain with orgasm can be addictive.

Read More: Signs of Sex Addiction and How to Treat It

Excessive or Unhealthy Feelings of Guilt

In the distant past, masturbation was associated with madness and evil. It has been blamed as the cause of catatonic schizophrenia and insanity. Even today, it is associated with a sense of guilt. These feelings of guilt can be long lasting. When almost 700 women were surveyed, those who felt guilty for masturbating were less likely to report sexual adjustment, physiological sexual satisfaction, and psychological sexual satisfaction. Sexual dysfunction is not an uncommon occurrence. When 31,000 women were surveyed, about 43 percent reported sexual problems.

Delayed Ejaculation

Delayed or retarded ejaculation is a poorly understood condition defined by the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as “the persistent or recurrent delay in, or absence of orgasm after a normal sexual excitement phase during sexual activity that the clinician, taking into account the person’s age, judges to be adequate in focus, intensity, and duration.” One potential cause of delayed ejaculation is a desensitization of the penis because of excessive or aggressive masturbation.

Relationship Problems

Masturbation is also blamed for relationship problems in couples. However, researchers questioned over 7000 men and 8000 women about relationships and masturbation. They found little relationship between the association of recent partnered sex and masturbation. However, in terms of contentment, there was a relationship. People who reported being sexually content in their relationship were 30% less likely to report masturbating in the past two weeks. Gender differences were also noted. Women used masturbation more as a complement to partnered sex, while men used it more to compensate for a lack of partnered sex.

Masturbation Myths

Masturbation remains a highly stigmatized subject. Many of the world’s religions continue to associate guilt, shame, and indulgence with masturbation. Some religions consider it morally wrong. Outside of religion, masturbation is often the subject of jokes.

There have been many myths associated with masturbation, including that masturbation causes:

  • Hair Loss
  • Reduced Testosterone
  • Erectile Dysfunction
  • Acne
  • Blindness
  • Infertility
  • Hairy palms
  • Penis shrinkage

If you have concerns about hair loss, reduced testosterone levels, infertility, or erectile dysfunction, consult with a healthcare professional to determine the origin of your symptoms. There are many potential medical causes of these symptoms, and in many cases, after proper diagnosis, effective treatments are available.

Final Thoughts

Masturbation is a common and healthy sexual behavior that is challenging for many people to discuss. This may be because of religious, spiritual, or cultural beliefs or teachings. If you are experiencing feelings of guilt or are concerned that masturbation has become a compulsive behavior, discuss your feelings with a healthcare professional or therapist specializing in sexual health.

If you are experiencing hair loss, symptoms that may be attributed to reduced testosterone levels, or erectile dysfunction, contact the professionals at Invigor Medical to learn more about how you can be tested and treated for these conditions.

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While we strive to always provide accurate, current, and safe advice in all of our articles and guides, it’s important to stress that they are no substitute for medical advice from a doctor or healthcare provider. You should always consult a practicing professional who can diagnose your specific case. The content we’ve included in this guide is merely meant to be informational and does not constitute medical advice.

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