A Touchy Subject: Masturbate for Better Mental Health

Masturbation. Let’s just get that word out in the open from the get-go. We all do it, or at least feel the urge to do it at some point, and while men may brag about how many they can knock out in one day, there’s no denying that a stigma still exists when it comes to female masturbation.

So let’s get one thing straight; there’s nothing “wrong” or “dirty” about it. And aside from making you feel pretty damn good in the moment and beyond, masturbating can actually come with some incredible mental health benefits and actually improve your mental wellbeing. Yep.

So with most of the world still in lockdown, and May being Masturbation Month, it’s fair to say that we need a little self-love more than ever. 

Eleanor McKenzie, Editor-in-Chief of erotica subscription service, Lady Victoria Howard, says:

“Social distancing is awkward for all of us. No kisses, hugs, or even shaking hands is contrary to our norms of politeness as well as ways of showing affection and warmth. A lack of human touch definitely affects our emotional and mental health.

“Those people who were fortunate enough to have partners, children or pets with them throughout lockdown have not missed out on touch in the same way as those who live alone. Nobody started lockdown thinking their mental health might be affected by lack of physical contact; it’s something that creeps up on them and that makes it more dangerous for the most vulnerable in mental health terms.”

So let’s take a gander at why masturbating should be as part of your daily routine as taking a vitamin or brushing your teeth. Just maybe not at the same time. 

Reduce feelings of depression

How we feel is all controlled by hormones in our brains, and when there’s an imbalance of those hormones our mood can swing wildly from soaring on Cloud Nine to the depths of a depression. Masturbating helps to stimulate and release the very best of these hormones. Dopamine is responsible for making you feel good and put you in a better mood, and oxytocin (the ‘love’ hormone) helps to combat cortisol, the stress hormone.

So grab your favourite toy or lube up your fingers, and get those hormones swimming.

Dr Earim, Medical Director of wellness platform, Manual, talks about the incredible cocktail of hormones released when you get down with yourself:

“Research and anecdotal reports suggest that sexual stimulation, like masturbation, can: relieve stress and tension, boost your mood, sleep better, improve your sex life by better understaning your wants and needs and so on. Orgasm causes the release of endorphins, which are known to reduce stress and boost confidence. Also released is serotonin, which is a known antidepressant.”

Masturbation; the ultimate stress reliever. 

Learn to love yourself

Your self-esteem and how you feel about yourself is intricately tied to your overall mental and physical health, especially your stress levels. Having low self-esteem and feeling bad about yourself can make it harder for you to be able to cope with everyday tasks and stresses, and beating yourself down all the time takes up a lot of energy. 

Fortunately, there’s an enjoyable way to boost your self-esteem available right at your fingertips. Did you know that masturbating has been linked to a positive body image? Spending time getting intimate with yourself is a relatively untapped form of self-love and self-acceptance. The more you get to know and understand your body, the more you’ll start to cultivate a loving relationship with it.

Megwyn White, a Certified Clinical Sexologist and Director of Education at sexual wellness brand Satisfyer, adds that we can develop a deeper connection between our mind and body when we masturbate:

“It’s not only orgasm that can conquer the negative impacts of lack of social touch. When we explore self-pleasure we can also help to activate neural receptors within the skin called c-tactile afferent nerves, which especially respond to slow and gentle touch. 

“We can help support this neutral connective feature of mind/body awareness through slow conscious touch of the body, and this can result in a slowing down of the stress response and a more positive relationship to our surrounding environment. In a very real sense, when you touch your own body you are in direct communication with your mind.”

Sleep better at night

Sleep is vastly underrated. In a world that thrives on hustle culture, if we’re not constantly busy then the likes of Instagram can make us feel as though we’re being lazy. That in turn fuels our anxiety and stress which can cause us to lie awake at night, and then the sleep deprivation makes us more stressed and anxious, which can lead to low moods and poor physical health. It’s a terrible cycle!

But before you start popping sleeping pills, why not give masturbation a try? Orgasms can act as a kind of natural sedative to help you unwind and relax. Those delicious hormones we talked about earlier – like prolactin and oxytocin – are released and can help you feel nice and sleepy once you come down from your high, helping you get that good night’s sleep you’ve been daydreaming about.

Combat addictive behaviours

When you’re stressed, what kind of food are you going to reach for first? It’s probably not going to be the healthy option, but rather junk or food that may make you feel better at first, but over time will leave you feeling sluggish and low.

Another terrible cycle.

But fortunately, those happy hormones we talked about that are released when you climax are more likely to give you a positive outlook on life, which in turn will make you less likely to crave addictive junk food, or other kinds of addictive negative behaviour, such as endless social media scrolling.

Orgasms are just the gift that keeps on giving. 

Combat loneliness

Let’s face it, we’re all having a tough time at the moment. Lockdown hasn’t been easy on any of us, especially those who live alone or are away from partners. And while nothing can replace the touch of a loved one, masturbation could be a way to fill that gap.

Dr Earim weighs in again here, “During this period of lockdown, human touch isn’t as available to us, and singles have had to put dating on hold. Masturbation allows you to take pleasure into your own hands if you’re self-isolating. As we know, masturbation is great for your mind and might reduce some negative emotions you’re experiencing presently. Above all else, it’s important to enjoy yourself and embrace your sexuality.”

If there’s one thing we’ve learned here, it’s that masturbation is a wonderful thing. Not only does it make you feel like you’re getting electrocuted in a good way, but it turns out it’s fantastic for your health. So, if anything, masturbation is just what the doctor ordered.

Anabel Cooper

Anabel is a graduate of King’s College London and upon graduating, she set out on a journey to inspire and empower women through her words. Besides working as a digital marketing expert, Anabel is a freelance copywriter.