Addiction or dysfunction
The myths around masturbation are so many that the word addiction is often quite unnecessarily linked to this act of sexual pleasure. It is first important to understand that masturbation is an absolutely normal activity for self-gratification. It helps in the release of sexual tension and gives self-pleasure. Masturbation is not just natural – irrespective of your relationship status – but can also have several health benefits.
It can help release feel-good chemicals, alleviate stress, promote better sleep and a positive mood and help you learn more about your sexual needs, likes and dislikes. So scientifically speaking, masturbation is a healthy and normal activity as long as you do it in private. Also, there is no set upper limit to masturbation.
However, what we need to understand is when does masturbation become dysfunctional. There is a difference between addiction and dysfunction. We are normally addicted to things that are usually not good for our body like alcohol and drugs. But that is not the case with masturbation.
Yes, just like sleeping and eating, masturbation is a healthy and functional activity. But just like sleeping and eating, if you do too much of it, masturbation can become dysfunctional for us. In simple words, when we prioritise masturbation over other important activities or over relationships, it is then that we need to address it.
What are the worrying signs to watch out for? And most importantly, how can you manage and break free from an unhealthy dependence on masturbation? Let’s address these questions.
Signs to watch out for
- Masturbation takes up a lot of your time, interfering with your personal or professional life
- Difficulty in holding yourself back from masturbating until you’re in your personal space, resulting in self-gratification in public or inappropriate places
- Using masturbation as a response to emotional discomfort or stressful situations
- Genital irritation or injury
- Loss of genital sensitivity, resulting in difficulty reaching orgasm
- Lack of interest in sexual activity with a partner
- Feelings of shame or guilt after masturbating
- Not being able to reduce the frequency of masturbation despite wanting to
What causes compulsive masturbation?
Since compulsive masturbation is considered to be a symptom of an underlying problem or a mental disorder, it’s important to understand its possible triggers, which include:
- Mental health conditions like depression or anxiety, where a person may use masturbation as a tool to manage their mood or feel relaxed but it snowballs out of control
- A neurobiological predisposition towards addictive behaviours
- Unresolved past emotional traumas and pain
- A history of physical or sexual abuse
- A family history of behavioural addiction
- Easy access and excessive reliance on pornography
Tips to manage compulsive masturbation
If you or a loved one is struggling with excessive and compulsive masturbation to a point that it has begun adversely impacting other aspects of your life, here are a few ways you can manage this behaviour and even successfully break the pattern:
- Begin small by avoiding triggers such as pornography and try to channel your energies into other healthy activities that release the same feel-good chemicals in the brain, such as exercise. You can even explore new activities and hobbies you may find enjoyable
- Spend more time in social situations to keep your mind productively engaged and away from the thoughts of wanting to masturbate
- Consider joining a support group. Interacting with people dealing with similar compulsive urges as yours may help you break the stigma around it and overcome the feelings of guilt and shame that are known to further propel negative behaviours
- Seek therapy and work with an expert to get to the root cause of this compulsive urge to masturbation. Through tools such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), a trained therapist may help you work through unresolved emotional trauma, break unhealthy patterns and replace them with healthier coping mechanisms
Experiencing a compulsive urge to masturbate taking over your life or watching a loved one struggle with it can be hard and heart-breaking. But with the right support, you can emerge from it. Until then, treat yourself with kindness and compassion.