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are we masturbating for the right reasons?

We’ve known for a while now that masturbating is a completely normal, healthy, and awesome practice. Doctors speak to the multitude of health benefits we get from it (we’ll talk about those later on), and almost everyone does it--95% of men and 89% of women, according to WebMD. Some (including me!) call it a self-love practice. 

And then there’s sadsturbating.

What is sadsturbating? 

Sadsturbating, according to Urban Dictionary, is the act of masturbating while sad. It’s becoming a widely talked about phenomenon, with memes and Reddit threads popping up about it. And so we must ask, is there a difference if you’re masturbating because you’re sad or because you’re horny? Is it okay to masturbate to cheer yourself up?

I did some research and found the answer to be…

Yes. 

And also no. 

Before we get into the specifics of how and why sadsturbating might become a problem, let’s look at the common reasons why people masturbate and what the recognized benefits (and side effects) are. 

Why do people masturbate?  

Other than being sad, there’s obviously a lot of other reasons why people masturbate. Some common ones are that...

+It feels good*. Okay, this much is obvious, but it’s simply true. Most of us find this out from a young age. According to WebMD, masturbation is a healthy part of children’s exploration of their bodies. 

*For some people, it doesn’t feel good, well talk about this later. 

+They’re in a sexual relationship. Interestingly enough, the more sex people have with partners, the more they masturbate. According to Psychology Today, “a sexless relationship suppressed masturbation” in a recent study. 

+They’re not in a sexual relationship. In the same study mentioned above, it was found that many single people find masturbation a great outlet for sexual energy when not in a relationship. 

+They have sexual thoughts. According to the same study sited by Psychology Today, the more people think about sex and have sex, the more they masturbate. 

+They’re bored. According to a study by We-Vibe, 25 percent of people masturbate simply because they have nothing else to do. 

+They’re avoiding STDs and pregnancy. Sex with yourself is definitely one of the most simple ways to avoid any unwanted sexual complications. 

The Benefits of Masturbating

The benefits of masturbating are awesome because it’s something you can easily give yourself, it’s free, and it’s all about you, baby!

+It relieves stress and is relaxing. Masturbating relieves stress via the oxytocin release in the brain following orgasm.

+It helps you fall asleep. Orgasms also release endorphins that are known as sedatives and since stress is also related to insomnia, masturbating can be a great way to address the problem from both sides.

+It relieves pain. According to Sexologist Beverly Whipple, author of The Orgasm Answer Guide, orgasms increase pain thresholds. Studies show that vaginal masturbation to orgasm can effectively increase the pain threshold from 40 to 100 percent. 

+It can cure a headache. In 2013, researchers found that orgasms lessened migraine effects for 60 percent of the people studied. Tension headaches are also relieved by tension-reducing activities like sex, masturbation and Yin yoga.

+It improves sex with a partner. In addition to knowing your own body better, masturbation can also strengthen your pelvic floor, which can lead to stronger orgasms. 

+It relieves sexual tension. According to a survey by Tenga of 1,200 Americans, 59 percent of people who masturbate do so to relieve sexual tension. 

+It wards off infections. Women’s Health Network sites that masturbation can help prevent UTIs. This is because it opens the cervix, lubricates the vagina, and flushes old fluid from the cervix that may be infected.  

+It can improve cardiovascular health. Studies have shown that women who have more orgasms, despite whether they have them with a partner or not, have a greater resistance to coronary heart disease. 

    Are there any negative effects of masturbation?

    According to WebMD, people masturbate at all different frequencies and all are totally okay. You can do it once a year or once an hour, and neither is an issue, unless:

    -it prevents you from completing daily tasks

    -you do it in public

    -it causes you distress

    -it prevents you from having normal sexual relations 

    Some people do experience sadness and anxiousness surrounding masturbation. This is usually related to some sort of shame issue relating to cultural or religious judgment of the act. However, in some cases, people experience a period of depression after they’ve masturbated. 

    Although not a lot of research has been done around this topic, Richard A. Friedman, MD, discovered that his patients experienced less of a depressive effect while taking depression meditation that also lessened the intense pleasure of sex. He said in an article he wrote for the New York Times,

     “...Sexual problems don’t always bespeak deep, dark psychological problems. The truth is that the most important sexual organ of humans is actually the brain. Sex may be the most physical of acts, but depression can be physical, too — sometimes no more significant than a quirk of biology.”

    Some people also experience a release of emotion after orgasm. This might look like crying, laughing, or whatever really. According to Dr. Madeleine Castellanos, who spoke to BuzzFeed about sadsturbating, the shift of hormones, rush of endorphins, and oxytocin can spark a strong emotional reaction. Whatever comes, it’s important to let it out and not try to suppress emotions!

    So, is sadsturbating okay? 

    Masturbating to cheer yourself up is decidedly a normal practice and makes sense. Since orgasms induce a rush of oxytocin and endorphins, it makes sense to self-medicate in this way. 

    However, according to Castellanos, it could become a crutch. If you feel you have to masturbate in order to feel better, you could become dependent on it emotionally and physically, which may make for some awkward situations. It’s important to have an emotional understanding and a store of mood boosters to keep yourself operating in a healthy way. Sadsturbation might be one of those mood boosters but beware of making it the only one. 

    Likewise, Castellanos warns that your body may start associating being sad with being horny. For example, if you start to feel down about something that could trigger you to also be sexually turned on if you train your body to react in this way. Again, this might create some awkward and confusing situations for self. 

    So, like all things, sadsturbating is fine, but best when used in moderation. 

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