Masturbation is a common activity. It’s a natural and safe way to explore your body, feel pleasure, and release built-up sexual tension. It occurs among people of all backgrounds, genders, and races.
Despite the myths, there are actually no physically harmful side effects of masturbation.
However, excessive masturbation can harm your relationships and everyday life. Other than that, masturbation is a fun, normal, and healthy act.
Keep reading to learn more about the side effects and potential health benefits of masturbation.
Side effects of masturbation
Masturbation doesn’t have any harmful side effects. However, some people may feel guilty about masturbating or have issues with chronic masturbation.
Masturbation and guilt
Some people may feel guilty about masturbating because of cultural, spiritual, or religious beliefs.
Masturbation is neither wrong nor immoral, but you may still hear messages that self-pleasure is “dirty” and “shameful.”
If you feel guilty over masturbating, speak with someone you trust about why you feel this way and how you can move past that guilt. Therapists that specialize in sexual health may be a good resource.
Addiction to masturbation
Some people can and do develop an addiction to masturbation. You may be spending too much time masturbating if masturbation causes you to:
- skip your chores or daily activities
- miss work or school
- cancel plans with friends or family
- miss important social events
Addiction to masturbation can harm your relationships and other parts of your life. Masturbating too much may interrupt your work or studies, which can lower productivity.
It may also hurt your romantic relationships and friendships, because you don’t spend as much time with your loved ones as you used to, or don’t pay attention to their needs.
If you’re worried you may have an addiction to masturbation, speak with your doctor or a counselor about ways to cut down on masturbating.
Talk therapy can help you manage your addiction. You could also cut down by replacing masturbation with other activities. Next time you have an urge to masturbate, try:
- going for a run
- writing in a journal
- spending time with friends
- going for a walk
1. How Masturbation Can Affect Your Physical Health
While your perception of masturbation might be the feel-good vibes it releases once you reach orgasm, Riley says there are plenty of other positive side effects of spending some time below your belt. “Masturbation has lots of positive health benefits including stress relief, help to get to sleep, reduced tension, boosted immunity and more,” she says.
But if you’re masturbating so fiercely and intensely, perhaps as a way to avoid other issues in your life that you don’t want to deal with or accept, you might cause some damage to your penis and testicles. Coleen Singer, sexpert at Sssh.com, says if you’re compulsive with your habits, you might experience rashes, redness and irritation to your genitals. This can be extremely painful, especially if you can’t keep yourself from masturbating, even when you’re raw or frankly, not in the mood. Though the obsessive-compulsive-must-touch-myself mentality is much more emotionally charged than physically inspired, the aftermath on your private areas could be extensive. That’s why seeking the advice of a therapist is recommended, and if you notice any irritation, begin using a lubricant to ward off the symptoms while you recover.
2. How Masturbation Can Affect Your Psychological Health
You might take the time to study and pay close attention to the reactions of your partner as you navigate different erogenous zones of her body, but how much TLC do you give yourself? When used as a method of determining new ways to please yourself that can be translated into your sexual experiences with a partner, masturbation can actually build your self-esteem. “Masturbation can increase self-confidence because you don’t have to rely on another person for sexual release and satisfaction. If you know how to please yourself, it can be easier to help a partner learn how to please you, which is a win for everyone,” Riley explains.
But, if you have leftover guilty feelings from your childhood where your sexuality as suppressed, or if you feel dependent on your habits, you might find yourself struggling in the opposite direction. You might even rely so heavily on jerking yourself off, that you neglect to seek emotional assistance when you need it, or find other ways to manage your moods. “Since masturbation does improve mood and create a sensation of happiness, some people could begin to use masturbation too frequently and it could become an unhealthy stress reliever,” Geter says.
3. How Masturbation Can Affect Your Sex Life
Typically speaking, when used as a part of your sex life and welcomed by an open-minded, curious and supportive partner, masturbation between both parties can be a great addition to your sexual toolbox. In fact, many couples utilize the positive benefits of masturbation in the bedroom, and perhaps even get turned on and aroused by watching their partner touch themselves — also known as mutual masturbation. “Masturbation can improve you and your partner’s experience with sex, such as exploring and communicating what each other enjoys the most, increasing emotional connection between partners, and exploring other ways to experience sexual pleasure,” Geter explains.
The only issue is when masturbation creates unrealistic expectations of what a sex life should be like, feel like, look like and taste like. It’s true that porn and real sex stimulate different senses, and being able to differentiate between the dual realities is important. You also need to be aware that your partner doesn’t have your hands, doesn’t know your body and doesn’t fully know every-which-way to touch you that will lead you to the grand finale. “Many men masturbate when they are single and don’t have an sexual partner. During this time, they are mainly using their hand to masturbate and they can control the speed and grip. Once they have a new partner, men may experience trouble achieving orgasm and ejaculation since the vagina or rectum offer a different feeling than a hand. Even your partner’s hand is not the same as your hand. Unconsciously, you are expecting a certain type of stimulation,” Geter says. To rectify this, Geter recommends adding variety to your masturbation, such as using a masturbation sleeve or condom or using the opposite hand at times. She also says if you watch porn while masturbating, you should consider changing up the type of porn you watch as well.
Another way it can be difficult for your sex life and your relationship, is when you’re weeding through a rough patch with your partner. If you’re already fighting and bickering more than often, Geter says the act of masturbation could push your partner further away from you. “Couples need to work through the other areas of relationship conflict before trying to improve the sexual relationship. More times than not, resolving other areas of conflict can naturally improve the sexual relationship,” she notes.
And if your partner is going through a period where they’re just not in the mood? It mind seem like a no-brainer to take the pressure off of them by taking care of business yourself, but it might have a contrasting impact, according to Geter. “Masturbating could lead to feeling less connected with your partner, triggering low self-esteem in the other partner, or leading to lack of communication and partner sex if masturbating becomes more routine than partner sex,” she shares. “Masturbation is not the problem, though finding ways to meet the needs of each partner for the benefit of the relationship and improve on communication of needs.”
4. How Masturbation Can Affect Your Life In General
In addition to what’s happening behind closed doors and in your own head, too much masturbation can also be disruptive to your life, your routine and your attitude toward friendships and work. Though it’s a rare, extreme case, Geter says if you’re neglecting various parts of your life to spend more time masturbating, watching porn and touching yourself, then you have reason to feel concern. “If you find yourself neglecting other important areas of life such as work, relationships, or social life or if you feel shame or guilt when masturbating, it is time to seek therapy. Again, it’s not ceasing masturbating [necessarily, just] finding ways to improve stress management such as adding other beneficial forms of exercise,” Geter recommends.
Does masturbation cause a decrease in sexual sensitivity?
For women who have sexual dysfunction, enhanced stimulation — including masturbation — can help increase sexual desire and sensitivity.
In fact, two 2009 studies found that vibrator use among women and men has been linked to an increase in desire, arousal, and overall sexual function. Women also reported an increase in lubrication, while men reported better erectile function, according to the studies.
Masturbation can affect sensitivity during sex for men because of their technique. Research has shown that too tight of a grip on a penis during masturbation can decrease sensation.
Sexual health experts recommend changing your technique during masturbation to restore sensitivity levels during sex.
Benefits of masturbation
Masturbation is a healthy sexual activity. It has many benefits for your physical and mental health.
There are limited studies on the benefits of masturbation, but there are studies on sexual intercourse and stimulation.
Research and anecdotal reports suggest that sexual stimulation, including stimulation through masturbation, may help you:
- relieve built-up stress
- sleep better
- boost your mood
- feel pleasure
- relieve cramps
- release sexual tension
- have better sex
- better understand your wants and needs
Couples may also mutually masturbate to explore different desires, as well as avoid pregnancy. Self-pleasuring also helps you prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
Masturbation and prostate cancer
Some research suggests that regular ejaculation may lower the risk of prostate cancer, though doctors aren’t exactly sure why.
A 2016 study found the risk of prostate cancer decreased by about 20 percent in men who ejaculated at least 21 times a month. A 2003 study also discovered a similar link between frequent ejaculation and lower prostate cancer risk.
There’s no evidence, though, that ejaculating regularly protects against advanced prostate cancer.
Masturbation during pregnancy
Hormone changes during pregnancy cause some pregnant women to feel heightened sexual desire. Masturbation is a safe way to release sexual tension during pregnancy.
Self-pleasure may also help ease pregnancy symptoms, such as lower back pain. You may feel mild, irregular cramping, or Braxton-Hicks contractions, during and after orgasm.
They should fade away. If the contractions don’t disappear and become more painful and frequent, contact your doctor right away.
Masturbation may not be safe for women with high-risk pregnancies. This is because orgasm can increase your chances of labor.
Masturbation is a healthy, natural, and safe way to practice self-care and improve your health.
Masturbating may have many benefits for your mind and body. Despite the possibility of addiction, there are no harmful side effects.
Feel free to enjoy self-pleasure without guilt or shame. Speak with a therapist or someone you trust about any negative feelings you have.