What is compulsive masturbation?

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Masturbation is frequently viewed as a dirty, shameful, even sinful act. Ironically, our sexualized society has deemed sex, whether alone or with another person, a taboo subject, something we should rarely acknowledge. The truth is that masturbation is as natural as the sexual urges that prompt it, and, according to Dr. Gloria Brame, a clinical sexologist, it’s even good for you.

“Masturbation is part of a healthy sex life,” she told Men’s Health Magazine. “It’s totally safe and harmless. It’s healthier than brushing your teeth every day.”

Of course, it is important to understand that it’s possible to have too much of a good thing. Compulsive masturbation is the most common means of acting out sexually, though not for the reasons one may expect. In fact, there are many misconceptions about compulsive masturbating that should be tossed aside before trying to understand it.

What is compulsive masturbation?
In its simplest terms, compulsive masturbation is a condition that causes an individual to masturbate excessively or in inappropriate situations. What constitutes “excessive” may be different for many people, but compulsive masturbators typically make self-stimulation a regular part of their routine: upon waking up in the morning, several times throughout the day, before going to sleep, etc.

Keep in mind that there is a difference between frequent and excessive masturbation. The line may seem thin to some, so it could be more beneficial to consider the motivation behind the act. Masturbating to relieve regular feelings of sexual desire is normal. Masturbating to deal with other feelings, such as anxiety or depression, may indicate a compulsion.

Does it only affect men? 
Despite what the media would have us believe, masturbation is for both sexes, not just men. It naturally follows that anyone, regardless of gender, could feel the need to compulsively masturbate. But what would compel someone to engage in this behavior?

What causes it?
Sometimes, medications can cause a drastic increase in sex drive, which could lead to compulsive masturbation. In more serious cases, excessive self-stimulation could also be a sign of sex addiction, meaning that the individual gets very little or no pleasure at all from masturbating. Or, according to Robert Weiss, LCSW, Senior Vice President of Clinical Development of Elements Behavioral Health, a person may masturbate compulsively to cope with emotional pain.

“Compulsive masturbators, both men and women, utilize sexual self-stimulation as a means of self-soothing and avoiding uncomfortable feelings,” he wrote in his Psych Central blog. “Most of these individuals struggle with underlying emotional or psychological issues such as early-life or profound adult emotional trauma, anxiety, low self-esteem, poor social skills and depression.”

It’s important to understand that an individual probably isn’t masturbating compulsively to feel pleasure. A married man, for example, may not prefer masturbating over sex with his wife. It could actually be a sign of a serious underlying condition.

Can it be treated?
Absolutely, and it should be. If we consider how secretive people tend to be about regular masturbation habits, it should come as no surprise that compulsive masturbators are more than reluctant to open up about their problem, but they should. The condition can bring about extreme feelings of isolation, among other things:

  • Sexual dysfunction, such as erectile dysfunction
  • Anxiety
  • Loneliness and depression
  • Harm to genitalia
  • Decreased desire for intimacy with others

Counseling from a licensed and trained specialist can help individuals who believe they may suffer from compulsive masturbation identify underlying core issues that led to the behavior in the first place. From there, a suitable treatment plan can be developed. Also, support groups are an excellent resource for seeking help and guidance from others in similar situations.

No matter the cause, the only way to treat this condition is to open up about it. Feelings of shame or secrecy should never come between a person and their well-being.

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