Masturbation – Health Benefits, Side Effects And Myths
In addition to pleasure, masturbation can benefit your health and well-being, improving sleep, improving mood, and relieving stress, among other benefits.
What is masturbation?
Masturbation is a common act that involves touching the genitals or other sensitive parts of the body for sexual stimulation or pleasure.
Masturbation is a natural and safe way to explore your body, experience pleasure and relieve sexual tension. It occurs in people of all walks of life, gender and race.
In fact, studies of older adults found that 27 to 40 percent of women and 41 to 65 percent of men reported masturbating in the past month.
Despite the myths, masturbation actually has no harmful physical effects. Excessive or forced masturbation can sometimes be considered dangerous or lead to other mental health problems.
In general, masturbation is a fun, natural and healthy activity. Read on to learn more about the potential health benefits of masturbation, as well as myths, side effects and more.
Health Benefits of Masturbation
Masturbation is a healthy sexual activity. It can benefit your physical and mental health.
There is limited research on the benefits of masturbation, but there are studies on sex and arousal.
Research and anecdotal reports suggest that sexual stimulation, including stimulation through masturbation, can help you:
- Release the built up pressure.
- Sleep better
- Improve mood
- Avoid anxiety and depression
- Feel fun and motivated
- Relieves pain
- Relieves sexual tension.
- Developing self-esteem
- Have better sex
- Understand your wants and needs better.
According to a 2015 study of married women, those who masturbated reported more orgasms, more self-esteem, more sex drive, and more satisfaction with their marriage and sex life.
Couples can also masturbate to explore different desires and avoid pregnancy. Unlike having sex with your partner, masturbating also helps prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
Masturbation and prostate cancer
Some studies show that regular ejaculation can reduce the risk of prostate cancer, although doctors are not sure why.
A 2016 cohort study of 31,925 participants and an 18-year follow-up found that a lower risk of prostate cancer was associated with a higher frequency of ejaculation. A 2016 review of the current literature found that 44% of the studies analyzed reported the same association between frequent ejaculation and a reduced risk of prostate cancer.
However, there is no evidence that regular ejaculation prevents advanced prostate cancer, so more research is needed.
Masturbation during pregnancy
Some pregnant women experience increased sex drive due to hormonal changes during pregnancy. Masturbation is a safe way to relieve sexual tension during pregnancy.
Self-care can also help ease pregnancy symptoms such as back pain. During and after orgasm, you may experience mild, irregular cramps or Braxton Hicks contractions.
They must disappear. If contractions do not go away but become more painful and frequent, seek immediate medical attention.
Some women with high-risk pregnancies are sometimes advised to avoid sexual activity because orgasms can increase the risk of premature labor. However, research is conflicting.
Side effects of masturbation
There are no side effects of masturbation. However, some people may feel guilty about masturbation or experience problems with chronic masturbation.
Masturbation and guilt
Some people may feel guilty about masturbation because of their cultural, spiritual or religious beliefs.
Masturbation is not wrong or immoral, but you may still hear reports that self-pleasure is “dirty” and “shameful.”
If you feel guilty about masturbating, you can talk to someone you trust about why you feel that way and how you can overcome your guilt if you want to.
A sexual health therapist can be a good resource to help you overcome shame or guilt associated with masturbation.
Addiction to masturbation
Some people can develop an addiction to masturbation, or what some call a “sex addiction.” However, the term is not recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), and some do not consider it a true addiction.
You may be spending too much time masturbating if you:
- Skip daily tasks or activities.
- Skip work or school.
- Cancel plans with friends or family.
- Remember important social events.
Masturbation may be considered excessive if it affects your relationships and other aspects of your life, or if it interferes with your work or school.
It can also hurt your romantic relationships and friendships because you don’t spend as much time with your loved ones as you used to or pay attention to their needs.
If you are concerned about masturbating too much, talk to your doctor or counselor to discuss these methods.
If you want to masturbate less, consider talking therapy. You can also try to reduce the amount by replacing masturbation with other activities. The next time you have a seizure, you can try:
- Going for running
- Writing in a journal
- spending time with friends
- Going for a walk
Myths about masturbation
There are several common myths about masturbation that are not supported by scientific research. For example, masturbation does not cause:
- Hormonal imbalances
- Changes in the size or shape of the penis
- Decreased sperm count
- Vision loss
- Hairy palms
- Erectile dysfunction
- Low libido
Some people may also think that masturbation can negatively affect a romantic relationship or indicate that a partner is sexually unfulfilled.
However, while excessive masturbation can have negative consequences, many people find that masturbating alone or with a partner can improve their sex life.
In addition, masturbation can be associated with many health benefits and is considered one of the safest forms of sexual activity because it poses no risk of pregnancy or STIs.
Does masturbation cause loss of sexual sensitivity?
For people with erectile dysfunction, increased stimulation, including masturbation, can help increase sexual desire and sensitivity.
In fact, a 2018 review published in the journal Sex and Relationship Therapy found that using vibrators may be beneficial for treating erectile dysfunction, ejaculation, and anorgasmia, or difficulty achieving orgasm. According to the review, vibrator use may also be associated with increased sex drive and sexual function in both men and women.
Masturbating techniques can affect sensitivity during sex in people with erectile dysfunction. A 2022 study suggests that too much stimulation of the penis during intercourse can reduce sensation.
Sometimes known as death grip syndrome, it can make it difficult to achieve orgasm during intercourse.
If you’re using a firm grip, try changing your technique during masturbation to restore your level of sensitivity during sex.
The Bottom Line
Masturbation is a healthy, natural and safe way to take care of yourself. Masturbation can have many benefits for the mind and body. There are usually no dangerous side effects.
Feel free to enjoy your happiness without guilt or shame. Talk to a therapist or someone you trust about any negative feelings you may be having.