At this point, you’ve probably got your masturbation routine down to a science: you rub things, it feels nice, it feels really nice, and then it’s over and you’re left feeling pretty damn relaxed. But what really happens to your body when you masturbate? What are the physical and emotional side effects?
To be clear, despite the urban legends and myths you heard when you were younger, nothing bad will happen to you if you masturbate. “Masturbation, also known as solo sex, is harmless. Period,” says sex therapist Tom Murray, PhD. “It’s a normal and natural expression of the sexual self.”
While there is such a thing as too much masturbation, the general consensus in the medical and psychological community is that it only becomes a problem when it starts to take away from your ability to function healthily in society or in a relationship. “I would be cautious if you’re missing out on dates or social events due to desire to stay home and masturbate,” says Amanda Pasciucco, a certified sex therapist and author of Playtime: The Sex Book.
But for the most part, if masturbation doesn’t get in the way of your daily routine, there’s little reason not to do it. “If there’s nothing else going on, why not have a date night with yourself and your fantasies?,” Pasicucco says.
Phew, so now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, read on to discover the amazing health benefits of spanking the monkey.
When you have an orgasm, your brain is flooded with dopamine and serotonin, the so-called “feel-good” chemicals that make you happy.
“An orgasm is the biggest non-drug blast of dopamine available,” clinical sexolist Gloria Brame, PhD, previously told MensHealth.com.
There’s a reason why it feels like all of your troubles have melted away after you have a good orgasm: as far as your body is concerned, they totally have. “The release of stress and muscle tension calms the central nervous system and can boost testosterone, as well,” says Pasciucco. The end result is that incredibly blissed-out, sipping-margaritas-on-a-private beach feeling.
If you’re one of the approximately 30-40% of Americans with insomnia, you’ve probably tried every sleep aid under the sun — but maybe, all you really needed was a good nighttime wank. “People report improved emotional and psychological health from masturbation,” says Murray. “[And] masturbation aids in sleep quality for many.”
Got headaches? While not really a cure in itself, having an orgasm can decrease the effects of migraine headaches for nearly one-third of migraine sufferers, according to one 2013 study.
If you masturbate frequently, you know exactly where you like to be touched, how you like to be touched, for how long, etc. Once you are comfortable with your own sexual responses, you can better communicate them to a partner, which makes for much better sex. As Pasciucco puts it, “masturbation can improve the quality of your sex life by helping you understand your sexual response as well.”
While we’re not exactly sure why, multiple studies have suggested that frequent ejaculation via solo or partner sex “improves prostate health and may lower the risk of prostate cancer,” Murray says.
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