Dear Di

About 80 per cent of men and 65 per cent of women masturbated at least once a month as of 2009, according to one study. Illustration: Rame Abdulkader.
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Dear Ty,

I’ve been masturbating pretty frequently for the past few years, but recently I’ve found myself self-pleasuring a little too often for my liking (more than three or four times on certain days), and I’m finding it impossible to stop. Is there such thing as masturbation addiction? How much self-loving is too much?

—Happy Hands

Dear HH,

I’m sure this question has crossed the minds of many readers at least once, and that’s not surprising: Masturbating is obviously a lot of fun, and it’s both extremely common and beneficial.

One 2009 study put the number of men and women who masturbated at least a few times a month at about 80 per cent and 65 per cent respectively.

The noted benefits of masturbation include reduced sexual tension, stress, and anxiety, improved body image and overall self-esteem, and even improved sleep. Masturbation has also been shown to combat menstrual cramps and strengthens the pelvic and abdominal muscles.

Answering the question of ‘how much masturbation is too much’ is a tough one, since every person has different habits and preferences: Some have only flicked the bean or choked the chicken once a few years ago, while others prefer to masturbate monthly, weekly, or daily like yourself. Each and every habit is totally valid and normal.

Masturbation only really becomes a problem if it starts to interfere with your personal, professional or social life: If you find yourself needing to skip a day of work to practice self-loving, for example, or if you keep blowing off your parents’ weekend trips to the city to stay in bed with your favourite sex toys instead, for example.

If you do fit this description, it might be time to address and reconfigure your masturbation habits.

Now let’s address masturbation addiction: It’s pertinent to note here that frequent masturbation and masturbation addiction are not one and the same, and it’s useful to look into the psychology behind masturbation here, as the neurotransmitters dopamine and endorphin are at play.

Dopamine is intricately connected to the body’s reward system, tied to reward-driven behaviour and, ultimately, pleasure. Meanwhile, endorphin is a pain-killing neurotransmitter, triggering feelings of relaxation and positivity in the body. Both dopamine and endorphin are released during masturbation and during/after orgasm, which is why masturbation can leave one feeling just so satisfied, happy, and relaxed.

Masturbation habits can be considered addiction when one needs to resort to masturbation frequently to achieve these feeling in order to escape reality and becomes a means of coping with other problems in life rather than dealing with them. Masturbation addiction can have some negative effects, including social withdrawal, irritated genitals, and pornography addiction (that’s another Dear Ty for another time).

If you feel as though your masturbation habits might qualify as addiction or just want to reduce how much you masturbate, talking to a therapist, especially a sex therapist, is a great first step. They’ll likely set you up with a plan to reduce the amount you masturbate, setting you up with different outlets to pour your energy in to or find pleasure in.

The bottom line is, masturbation is very common and masturbating frequently isn’t a problem unless it starts to interfere or overwhelm other facets of your life.