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.
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
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.
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).
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.
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.