Is Masturbation Bad for You?

Masturbation has been around longer than you might think. Did you know that primates masturbate? That’s right, our earliest ancestors, apes and monkey, to this day, like to wank off.

So how can anyone say a behavior, that has been coded into our DNA from our earliest ancestors, be bad for us?

Many would argue that masturbation plays just as important of a role as eating, sleeping or urinating. However, for centuries, masturbation has been shrouded in mystery and taboo.

A decade ago, the very mention of it in a conversation would make men and women blush, and it most certainly would have been considered offensive language.

How things have changed!

Masturbation has been in the limelight for a few years now thanks to TV, positive coverage by the media networks, the waning influence of the Catholic Church and the internet. No longer a taboo subject, you will hear it mentioned at dinner tables, on talk shows and in movie after movie.

There is a now very healthy amount of conversations, about the good and bad effects of masturbation, occurring on the internet today. But, is it all good? Is this sudden openness about masturbation a good thing?

On the one hand, it is good that masturbation is no longer seen as taboo. It is a healthy sexual activity that can be enjoyed by people of all ages, genders and sexual orientations. As it is such a normal part of human sexuality, it should be talked about openly and without shame.

But like any good thing, moderation is key. There’s always room for abuse.

And with the easy availability of internet pornography, there is a very real danger of addiction, distorted views of sex and a laundry list of other negative effects over-masturbation can have.

I reached out to Alex Mercier, a practicing sex therapist in Los Angeles, for his expert opinion on the good and bad effects masturbation can have on our lives.

“Masturbation, if practiced correctly, can be extremely beneficial for both men and women,” he says. “But it also holds the power to destroy relationships and completely warp our perception of sex and orgasms.”

Why Do We Masturbate?

Mercier believes there are 4 intrinsic reasons why humans masturbate. The number one reason people masturbate is for pleasure. “Simply put, it just feels good!” he exclaims. “There is nothing wrong with that. In fact, it’s natural and healthy.”

The second reason is to relieve sexual tension. “If you’re not having sex or you’re not in a relationship, masturbating can help to relieve some of that sexual tension,” he explains.

The third reason people masturbate, according to Mercier, is to relax. “Many people find that masturbating helps them to relax and fall asleep,” he says.

And finally, the fourth reason people masturbate is to increase sexual stamina. “If you’re someone who struggles to last very long during sex, masturbating can help increase your sexual stamina,” he explains.

What Happens to The Brain?

Mercier explains that the act of masturbating can have a profound effect on the brain.

“When you masturbate, your brain is releasing a cocktail of chemicals, including dopamine, oxytocin, and endorphins,” he says. “These chemicals work together to create a feeling of pleasure and satisfaction.”

Dopamine is known as the “reward chemical” because it is released when we do something that feels good.

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Oxytocin is known as the “love hormone” because it is released when we hug someone or have sex.

And endorphins are known as the “feel-good hormones” because they help to reduce pain and increase pleasure.

What Happens to the Body?

When you masturbate, your body is also going through some changes. Your heart rate and blood pressure increase, your breathing becomes heavier, and your muscles tense up.

Your skin also becomes more sensitive, and you may even notice that your nipples become erect.

“The physical changes that happen to your body during an orgasm are the same whether you are masturbating or having sex with someone else,” Mercier explains. “Your brain is releasing the same chemicals, and your body is going through the same physical changes.”

Why Does Masturbation Have Such a Bad Rap?

Masturbation has long been considered a taboo subject, and as a result, there is a lot of misinformation out there about its effects. And this goes back more than a thousand years when the Church first started demonizing self-pleasure.

“The Church has always been very clear about its stance on masturbation: it’s a sin. And not just a sin, a grave sin.” Mercier says. “And this belief has been passed down through the generations.”

The further we go back in time; the more religion played a role in people’s beliefs about masturbation. And due to the lack of medical knowledge at the time, people believed all sorts of things about self-pleasure that are laughable today.

“People used to believe all kinds of myths about masturbation, like it would make you go blind or that it would make your hands grow hair,” Mercier says. “And because of the shame and guilt that was associated with it, people just didn’t talk about it. So those myths were never dispelled over time.”

Most of these rumors were pushed by the Catholic Church as a way to control people’s sexual behavior. And it’s worked pretty well, as a large majority of people still feel guilty about masturbating.

“The Church has done a really good job of instilling this sense of guilt in people through the generations,” Mercier says. “And to this day, a lot of people still believe that masturbation is evil and bad for you.”

The Good Effects of Masturbation

Mercier points out that “Masturbation can be a very healthy activity if done mindfully and with the intention of enjoying the process, not just the orgasm.”

Here are three good effects of masturbation that Mercier believes we should all keep in mind:

It Can Increase Our Libido

Studies have shown that people who masturbate regularly have higher libidos than those who don’t. This makes sense because the more we engage in sexual activity (of any kind), the more our bodies will want it.

It Can Make Us Better Lovers

This one is a bit more complicated, but Mercier believes that “the more we know our own bodies and pleasure zones, the better equipped we are to share that information with a partner.” In other words, if we know what gets us off, we can show our partners how to please us.

It Can Relieve Stress

We all know that orgasms are amazing stress-relievers, and masturbation is a surefire way to guarantee one. If you’re feeling stressed out, try giving yourself a solo session.

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It Can Boost Our Moods

Ever heard of the “runner’s high”? It’s that feeling of euphoria that comes after a good workout, and it turns out that orgasms have a similar effect. So, if you’re feeling down, a little self-love might be just what you need to pick yourself up.

It Can Improve Our Sleep

This is another benefit that can be attributed to the stress-relieving effects of orgasms. If you find yourself tossing and turning at night, try masturbating before bed. You might just find yourself sleeping better than ever before.

It Can Make Us Happier

A study published in the Journal of Sex Research found that people who masturbated frequently were more likely to report higher levels of happiness than those who didn’t. So, if you’re looking for a way to boost your mood, masturbation might be the answer.

It Can Reduce Our Risk of Prostate Cancer

This one is for the guys. A study of over 32,000 men found that those who masturbated regularly were less likely to develop prostate cancer.

The Bad Effects of Masturbation

Like with anything, if you do too much of it, it usually leads to some negative effects. The same goes for masturbation. And masturbating too often is often linked with another big problem, addiction to porn.

“If you’re someone who is prone addiction, then you need to be very careful with masturbating and online porn,” Mercier says. “For some people, masturbation can be the gateway that leads them down a dark path of sex and porn addiction.”

This can lead to a range of negative side effects including:

Erectile Dysfunction

This is when a man has difficulty getting or maintaining an erection. “Masturbating to online porn can desensitize your brain and body to the point where you can’t get aroused by a real person,” Mercier says.

Performance Anxiety

“If you’re someone who constantly masturbates to porn, you may start to develop performance anxiety.” This is because you’re constantly comparing yourself to the unrealistic standards set by online pornography.

Relationship Issues

“Masturbating to porn can create problems in your relationship,” Mercier says. “If you’re masturbating more than you’re having sex with your partner, it can lead to feelings of guilt, shame, and inadequacy.” It can also lead to your partner feeling neglected and unimportant.

Objectification Of Women

“If you’re constantly masturbating to online porn, it’s easy to start seeing women as objects instead of human beings,” Mercier says. This can lead to a lot of problems, both in your personal relationships and in your interactions with women in general.

Inability To Orgasm with A Partner

“If you’re used to orgasming from masturbating to porn, it can be difficult to orgasm with a partner,” Mercier says. “This is because you’re used to a certain type of stimulation that you may not be able to replicate with a real person.”

How Often Should I Masturbate?

Masturbation is a completely normal and healthy sexual activity. It’s only considered “too much” if it’s impacting your life in a negative way.

“The key is to make sure that you’re still living a full and balanced life,” Mercier says. “Masturbation should enhance your life, not take away from it.”

As a general rule of thumb, Mercier recommends masturbating no more than three times a week for both men and women.

“Any more than that and you risk masturbation becoming a compulsive behavior,” he says. “It should be something you enjoy, not something you feel like you need to do every day.”

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What Should You Masturbate To?

When it comes to what you should masturbate to, because of the internet, there are now a lot more bad options than good. “I recommend using your imagination or watching erotic videos that are congruent with your values and relationship status,” says Mercier, “better yet try using a different form of media like a Playboy magazine instead of video.”

He recommends staying away from anything extreme and outside the bounds of your sexual desires. In other words, stay away the majority of porn on tube sites like Pornhub.

“Sticking with more softcore material, that requires more imagination, will help prevent you from becoming desensitized,” Mercier points out.

What To Do If I’m Addicted to Masturbating

If you’re not sure whether you’re addicted to masturbating or not, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you masturbate more than once a day?
  • Do you feel guilty or ashamed after masturbating?
  • Do you find that your social life or work suffers because of your masturbation habits?
  • Do you find that you’re only able to get aroused by thinking about masturbating or watching pornography?
  • Are you finding that you need to watch more “hardcore” porn to get aroused?
  • If in a relationship, has it affected your sex life or decreased your appetite for sex with your partner?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you may have a problem. Here’s several things you can do about it:

  1. Figure out why you’re doing it. Are you bored? Stressed? Anxious? Lonely? There’s a reason you’re turning to masturbation, and addressing that underlying issue can help lessen the urge to do it.
  2. Set some ground rules. If you’re finding it hard to stop, set some guidelines for yourself. Maybe you only allow yourself to do it once a week, or you only do it in certain situations.
  3. Get rid of anything that makes it easier. If you have a lot of porn or sex toys, get rid of them. The less accessible it is, the less likely you are to do it.
  4. Find a different outlet. If you’re used to masturbating as a way to relieve stress, find a different way to do that. Maybe go for a run or take a hot bath.
  5. Join a support group. There are groups out there for people trying to break their addiction to masturbation. Talking to others who are going through the same thing can be helpful.
  6. Talk to a therapist. If you’ve tried all of these things and you’re still struggling, it might be time to talk to a therapist. They can help you figure out the root of the problem and come up with a plan to stop.”Masturbation addiction is usually a symptom of something else going on in someone’s life,” Mercier explains. “It could be anxiety, depression, or something else entirely. But addressing the root issue is key to overcoming an addiction to masturbating.”
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