Saturday
Apr212012

How much masturbation is too much?

Yes, I said it.  Masturbation.  It’s one of those things most of us rarely talk about publically but most of us have done or continue to do privately.  Exploring our sexuality is a normal part of our development, and masturbation is a typical part of this journey.

If masturbation is so common, why is it so hard to talk about?  If it is a normal part of sexual development, how come we can’t talk about it openly with our friends and family?  There are perhaps as many answers to this question as there are people on earth, but the simple answer is this: Masturbation is typically a solitary behavior.  Many people learn to masturbate when they are at an awkward, insecure phase of development.  Consequently, it becomes a behavior that’s done in secret.  Add to this a family, community, or faith tradition that labels masturbation as bad, and we can come to view masturbation as shameful.  Even our over-sexualized society stigmatizes masturbation.  Ever found yourself laughing uncomfortably when someone brings up the word in conversation?  Are you painfully aware of how many times I’ve written the word “masturbation” so far (9.  But who’s counting)?

Without going into masturbation being good or bad, right or wrong, I wanted to focus on a few warning signs where masturbation might be swinging into unhealthy territory:

  1. You masturbate to the point of self-injury.  There is no magical number of times in a week or amount of time masturbating that is the optimal amount, but if you are masturbating to the point where you are harming yourself, chances are you are doing it compulsively.
  2. You feel the need to masturbate successively.  If you’re simply needing a physiological release, once should suffice.  3, 4, 10 times successively most likely indicates you are using masturbation to medicate emotions or escape.  At the very least, this should be a clue to check in with yourself and see how you’re using masturbation.
  3. It is interfering with your relationships or your work.  Are you single and use masturbation as a way of avoiding intimacy or putting yourself out there romantically?  Are you married or in a committed relationship and find masturbation preferable to engaging your partner for sex?  Have your partners expressed concern about your masturbation habits?  Have your behaviors impacted your ability to function at work?  For some, it can feel far less threatening to turn to masturbation rather than intimacy, connection, coping with work stress, or facing fears of rejection or abandonment.  If used in this way, masturbation can sidetrack relational intimacy.
  4. Masturbation negatively impacts your relationship with yourself.  When you masturbate, are you MORE in touch with your body, your sensations, and your spirituality, or do you feel more numb, lonely, and spiritually disconnected?  If you feel less connected after masturbating, you might want to take a look at what role masturbation is playing for you.
  5. You feel shame about it. Whether the shame is surfacing because of your religious beliefs, societal messages, or family views, shame can be extremely damaging.  Shame frequently leads to even further secrecy and maintaining a double life where you look good on the outside but don’t feel so good on the inside.  It is really important to talk to someone about this shame, since it typically deepens over time.
  6. You have tried to cut down or stop masturbating but you continue anyway. One main criterion that a behavior has become addictive is loss of control over the activity.  If you have made repeated unsuccessful attempts to stop, or if your behaviors have escalated in the amount of time spent, the frequency, or the intensity of the behaviors, it’d be a good idea to talk to a professional who can help.
  7. You have become obsessed or preoccupied with masturbation.  If you have become preoccupied with thoughts about when and how you will be able to masturbate, there’s a good chance it might be a problematic behavior for you.

These 7 signs are by no means exhaustive, but my hope is to provide a few indicators where masturbation might have moved into an unhealthy place for you.  So now what?  If you identified with one or more of these warning signs, I would encourage you to reflect on your use of masturbation and what it means to you.  If you have a safe person who you can trust, talk to them about it.  If you feel like you might be masturbating compulsively, or even addicted, it’s really important to talk to a professional who can help.  Addictive behaviors don’t get better on their own, so talk to someone who has been professionally trained to deal with sex addiction or compulsive sexual behaviors.  I am available to answer any questions and/or to help link you to someone who might be able to help you.

And for any of you who were wondering how many times I used the word “masturbation” in this article?  Wait for it . . . .  34.  And not ashamed of it!

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Reader Comments (27)

This article put me in a position where i know that i dont really need a professional to confide in but really need a check on myself to stop any further damage to my well being. The point where you mentioned 'shame', is very important, and maybe not addressed in a lot of articles i read on this issue. Living a double life, where one feels less good than it is potrayed is self harming. A problem is half solved when it is recognized as a problem :)

May 15, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterdivya

Good point Divya - Once we recognize that something is a problem, THAT's when we can really start movement in a different direction. And you're right, shame really can be a huge issue, particularly as it relates to our sexuality. A classic way to understand shame verses a healthy guilt is this: Guilt relates to actions and shame relates to being. If I feel bad about something I've done, that's guilt and can be a healthy motivator to change behaviors. But if I start to feel bad about myself as a person, that's shame, and as you say can damage your well being.

May 15, 2013 | Registered CommenterDan Drake

I am 71' and healthy. At times I masturbate once a week, then will masturbate ten or twelve nights in a row. I seem to,be masturbating more and more because the orgasms are more intense then they have ever been in my life. How do I cut back. Tried everything and nothing works.

May 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterOlder Male

Cutting back often isn't as simple as "just don't do it," particularly if pornography is involved. A website that I think does a good job explaining this is www.yourbrainonporn.com. I wrote another blog on starting recovery, so you might want to look at that post: http://www.dandrakemft.com/blog/2013/2/22/so-how-do-i-start-this-recovery-thing.html. For many if not most people, cutting back on masturbation or other sexual behaviors that become compulsive requires accountability, support through a community, and really working on other replacement behaviors. I would look for a 12-step group in your area as well as contact a CSAT therapist in your area who is specialized in this issue.

May 21, 2013 | Registered CommenterDan Drake

After almost ripping my penis off, I have managed to decrease the amount of times that i masturbate. Hopefully, my girlfriend will take me back and my kids will learn to love me again. Thank You!

May 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTom Jones

Thanks for this article. I have been studying this issue and have found many different results about it and this help with the physiological part of this conflict the best. I was actually reading this and you nailed on the head what could be my issue in this, it does point out a issue i have i am now going to look to see if it is the real issue.

But i am young and have room for improvement and thanks for this post.

Gracias

August 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAverage Joe

I've recently come to terms of being transgendered and masterbation was a very tough thing to accept. I've started using drugs to get comfortable in my skin until I had my first high masturbation session. I can’t stop thinking how good it made me feel and now I'm scared that the dysphoria will over take me again when I stop using and masterbating.

This article really opened my eyes. Thank you :-)

October 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDisappointed In Myself

Thanks for your thoughtful response. I'm glad the article opened your eyes. My hope in all of this is to bring healing in an area that few of us are comfortable talking about, yet an area where many if not most of us deal with. Thanks for reading.

October 24, 2013 | Registered CommenterDan Drake

I tried limiting mine to thrice a week during school sessions, but on holidays when am less busy I tend to do it twice a day or once and am still 20. Please I need help.

February 24, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterEndurance

When I masturbate one time then I feel that I hav ruined my day. So then I continue masturbating 2-3 times a day and feel fresh in next morning. What should I do to avoid it?
I receive many sexual thoughts in my mind, and then I feel urge to masturbate. Wht shoulf I do to control it?

February 28, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterrohit

Thanks for your posts and for your questions Rohit and Endurance. I wish there were one magic answer I could give you, but the reality is this: our sexuality differs from person to person and there's no one approach that works for everyone. There ARE ways that work for many many people, though. I've listed some ways to start the recovery process in a previous blog: http://www.dandrakemft.com/blog/2013/2/22/so-how-do-i-start-this-recovery-thing.html, and also about how online porn affects our brains: http://www.dandrakemft.com/blog/2013/10/28/how-does-online-porn-affect-us.html. If your behaviors have gotten to the point where they are out of control and you are wanting to reduce or stop them, there are also 12-step groups that can help: http://www.dandrakemft.com/blog/2012/6/30/12-step-groups-for-those-impacted-by-sex-addiction.html.

Those are only a few resources, but can help you start this process if you're wanting to do that.

Blessings on the journey.

Dan

February 28, 2014 | Registered CommenterDan Drake

I very much enjoyed your post. I'm a female in my 20s and I am concerned that I have a problem. Although I was incredibly sexually active in my teenage years, I did not masturbate and did not know that females could orgasm until I had my first orgasm at 20. My boyfriend at the time was responsible and I have taken up masturbation ever since. I am ashamed of the type of porn that I look at as it does not coincide with my sexual orientation. I have found that it's taking me a very long time to orgasm with masturbation and near impossible to do with a partner, although it can happen. I feel bad that I have to envision porn 'movies' in my head to make myself cum even with a partner. Is this normal? I'm worried that something is very wrong.

March 24, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterGuilty

shame, emotions, bad about "being" not "doing".
why?

March 31, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterpurplebluecat

I want to ask whether masturbation causes fatigue or not because when I continually do it over weeks I feel exhausted sometimes. Second, sometimes I rub my penis with a cloth while on bed and after ejaculation I just sleep wet. So can semen harm the skin of my penis or any risk of infection ?

April 3, 2014 | Unregistered Commentermohit

Porn can do a lot to our brains. There is a site that I mention a lot that talks about the impact of porn on our brains: http://yourbrainonporn.com/. When combined with masturbation, it impacts our brain chemistry very powerfully. Guilty and purplebluecat you both mentioned shame. Shame can really be debilitating in this. That's why I recommend talking with a therapist/counselor, as well as getting community support from groups like SAA or SLAA. Thank you for commenting. I hope you are able to get the help you need in this.

April 3, 2014 | Registered CommenterDan Drake

i am 25 years old and i'v been masturbating for 10 years to date and i'm really addicted to this and i can masturbate 7 consequtive nights sometimes even daylight, the following day i get so tired that my figure get so heavy i can't remain standing for a longer time. i have to sit down and when i sit i have to lean against something

May 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterTsivo

Thank you, Dan, for helping me prove to myself that this unusual addiction of mine needs to stop. Sex is relatively new to me, so it seems to be on my mind incessantly. I had a problem with the frequency of my masturbation before, but now it's at a whole new level. I am a female (in case that is relevant), I watch porn every day, sometimes twice a day, and recently (I give myself an excuse because I've been really stressed out, plus the whole newness of sex thing) even 3 times a day. I went looking for help online because my genitals are swollen and painful, and now here I am, a recognized junkie. I even wanted to masturbate today despite all this pain. I didn't realize that was such a bad thing until just now.
Soon I will be less stressed out, and hopefully I can ease off a bit. Start at once every other day, and go down to hopefully a couple times a week. Wish me luck.
Any advice on how to ease off, Dan? Thanks again.

June 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBeth

i m an teenager..... 18yrs
i masturbate frequently.... 4-5 days week in some months.... otherwise in some times i'll not masturbate ..
so if i'll control myself and if i will not ejaculate anymore till my marriage then it will be fine??

June 9, 2014 | Unregistered Commentervish

Beth, I sent you some information privately - I hope that helps. Vish, I'm not sure what you mean about "it will be fine" if you control yourself until marriage. If you're saying that sex in marriage will solve the problem, the short answer is that it depends. If you feel that your masturbation habits are compulsive, then the reality is marriage won't solve the problem. The reason for this is that the sexual behaviors are often the symptom of something deeper going on. We end up engaging in compulsive behaviors (alcohol, spending, video games, sex, chemicals, gambling, etc.) for a number of reasons: managing emotions, coping with trauma, difficulty relating, difficulty regulating depression or anxiety, etc. Those bigger rooter issues aren't going to be solved through marital sex if your sexual behaviors are ways of coping with such issues. That's why I typically recommend that people find a trusted therapist, counselor, or a safe mentor to talk about this to. And if it really is an addiction, I wrote another blog on the topic of getting started on the maze of recovery: http://www.dandrakemft.com/blog/2013/2/22/so-how-do-i-start-this-recovery-thing.html. Hope that helps.

June 10, 2014 | Registered CommenterDan Drake

As a teenager, masturbation has become an almost regulated activity in my life and I'm frightened to think it is affecting me severely. Quite often, I feel a sense of guilt and regretfulness sometimes during AND after masturbating. I've tried numerous attempts to stop myself from masturbating, and so I've cut down to a daily basis, however I still struggle to resist temptation. With the exception of my family, I can openly speak on this topic without any discomfort- although this may seem like enough to aid my problems, I still continue! What are my best options in my current situation? Just to add on, thank you for your article as it has helped me come to realisation and to a better understanding of the severity and symptoms.

June 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJared

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