Masturbation is a healthy, normal sexual activity. Many people masturbate regularly for pleasure, for sexual exploration, or for fun. Masturbation has many positive benefits, including stress relief, better mood, and greater relaxation.
But masturbation is sometimes associated with guilt and depression. That isn’t because masturbation causes depression. Instead, it’s likely because religious and cultural traditions sometimes associate self-pleasure and masturbation with feelings such as shame and sin.
Masturbation isn’t immoral or bad. It’s a normal means of sexual expression.
Masturbation also doesn’t treat depression, although it can relieve some stress. However, there is a connection between depression and your sex drive. Read on to learn more.Depression and masturbation
Few studies have examined the connection between masturbation and mental health. Most studies have instead looked at the relationship between sexual intercourse and mental health. Anecdotal reports about masturbation and mental health are infrequently reported.
The few studies that do exist show that masturbation doesn’t cause depression. Instead, the connection between the two ties back to guilt and anxiety. Many cultural and religious norms and beliefs place great shame on sexual behaviors outside of traditional intercourse between a man and a woman. This includes masturbation.
The association between masturbation and shame or guilt can lead to feelings of anxiety. Over time, this may lead to depression.
Any depression or anxiety you feel after masturbation is most likely the result of cultural or religious traditions you’ve absorbed during your lifetime. A doctor or therapist can help you find a healthier balance and acceptance for this common sexual activity.How does depression affect your sex drive?
Depression may decrease your desire for sex or masturbation. In one study, researchers found that participants who were depressed reported both a lower sex drive and a higher degree of desire. Another study found that major depressive episodes in older adolescents can lead to lower sexual functioning, especially in males.
Depression can lead to another sexual problem: erectile dysfunction (ED). One study found that the most common cause for ED in men under 40 was psychogenic issues. That includes depression, stress, and anxiety.Benefits of masturbation
Masturbation is a healthy activity. It has both physical and mental benefits. These include:
- greater sexual desire
- feelings of pleasure and satisfaction
- improved mood
- greater relaxation
- relieving stress and anxiety
- easing stress-related tension
- releasing sexual tension
- better sleep
- a greater understanding of your body
- a better connection to your sexual preferences
Masturbation rarely causes physical side effects. People who use too much pressure may experience pain. Likewise, boys or men who masturbate while lying face down can put too much pressure on their penis and nerves. This can lead to ED and loss of sensation.
Frequent masturbation may lead to chafing. Using lubrication can prevent this.
Though the diagnosis is controversial, some believe that an addiction to masturbation or sex is possible. Addiction happens when your body craves a substance or behavior to the point where it interferes with your daily life. People who are addicted to this activity find that the desire to masturbate interrupts their daily activities.
If you have an addiction, masturbating may lead you to:
- skip work
- ignore chores
- otherwise avoid your responsibilities
A masturbation addiction can also negatively impact relationships. If you think you’re addicted to masturbation, seek help from a professional.When to seek help
If you feel depressed, talk with your doctor. They can reassure you that masturbation is a normal and healthy activity. They may also work with you to build a better relationship with your sexuality.
In some cases, your doctor may refer you to a therapist or psychologist. Some therapists specialize in sexual health issues. They may be able to help you identify what’s causing the anxiety and depression you feel when you masturbate. They can also put a treatment plan in place that will help prevent these feelings in the future.
If you’re diagnosed with depression, several options may help ease symptoms and side effects. These include:
Prescription medications for depression can impact your sexual drive. While this may reduce your desire to masturbate, it doesn’t eliminate the potential for feelings. It’s important to have a broad approach to treating depression related to masturbation.Tips for managing depression
In addition to medication or therapy, you can use these skills to manage depression or ease symptoms. These steps include:
- Writing down your feelings. A journal is a great way to express how you feel and work through your emotions and thoughts. Mood tracking apps can also help you do this.
- Practicing positive thinking. Your therapist or doctor can reassure you that masturbation is normal.
- Taking care of your body. One of the all-time best self-help measures is caring for yourself. Get adequate sleep, eat well, and move regularly. Caring for your body can help care for your mind.
- Connecting with friends. Person-to-person interaction is healthy for many reasons. Seek out friends or mentors who can be a source of encouragement and support.
- Finding a support group. Friends and family members are helpful. Sometimes, however, you need accountability from an outside source. Ask your doctor, therapist, or local hospital for support or accountability groups.
Masturbation is a normal and safe sexual activity. It’s enjoyable to do by yourself, but it can also be great fun with a partner.
Some people do experience guilt and depression because they masturbate. This is often the result of traditions that say masturbation is bad or immoral. If you experience these feelings when you masturbate, talk with your doctor. They can help you understand that masturbation is healthy. They can also help you cope with feelings of depression you experience with masturbation.References:
Aneja J, et al. (2015). Can masturbatory guilt lead to severe psychopathology: A case series. DOI:
Behere PB, et al. (2013). Religion and mental health. DOI:
Brody S, et al. (2009). Satisfaction (sexual, life, relationship, and mental health) is associated directly with penile-vaginal intercourse, but inversely with other sexual behavior frequencies. DOI:
Brody S, et al. (2012). Sexual satisfaction and health are positively associated with penile-vaginal intercourse but not other sexual activities. DOI:
Brody S. (2010). The relative health benefits of different sexual activities. DOI:
Deumic E, et al. (2017). Sexual functioning in adolescents with major depressive disorder. DOI:
Lorenz T, et al. (2014). Interactions of sexual activity, gender, and depression with immunity. DOI:
Ng CWM, et al. (2017). Managing depression in primary care. DOI:
Park BY, et al. (2016). Is internet pornography causing sexual dysfunctions? A review with clinical reports. DOI:
Photo Credit: Alexander Krivitskiy