There’s a lot of conflicting information — including some myths and rumors — about whether masturbation is bad for you.

Know this: Whether you masturbate is up to you and only you.

If you do, rest assured that doing so won’t cause any physical harm. And if you don’t, there’s no harm, no foul, for you either.

Here’s what you need to know.

Masturbation causes your body to release a number of hormones. These hormones include:

  • Dopamine. This is one of the “happiness hormones” that’s related to your brain’s reward system.
  • Endorphins. The body’s natural pain reliever, endorphins also have de-stressing and mood-boosting effects.
  • Oxytocin. This hormone is often called the love hormone and is associated with social bonding.
  • Testosterone. This hormone is released during sex to improve stamina and arousal. It’s also released when you have sexual fantasies, according to a 2011 study.
  • Prolactin. A hormone that plays an important role in lactation, prolactin also influences your mood and immune system.

Masturbating can cause you to release healthy amounts of the above hormones, which is why it can positively affect your mood and physical health.

Dopamine, endorphins, and oxytocin are all called “happiness hormones” associated with stress reduction, bonding, and relaxation.

Sometimes, masturbating can help you feel a little better when your mood is low.

You might have heard of “post-nut clarity” — a situation where your brain suddenly feels focused after you have an orgasm.

Indeed, many people find that masturbating helps them concentrate better. As such, they might masturbate before working, studying, or taking a test.

There’s no scientific explanation for this, as it hasn’t been studied specifically. However, this sense of clarity and focus might be a result of feeling relaxed and happy after an orgasm.

While oxytocin is commonly known as the “love hormone” and associated with social bonding, it’s also associated with de-stressing and relaxation.

As one 2005 study points out, oxytocin plays an important role in regulating stress and reducing anxiety.

It does this by reducing blood pressure and lowering your cortisol levels. Cortisol is a hormone associated with stress.

So, if you’re hoping to relieve some tension after a tough day at work, masturbating might be a good relaxation technique!

Anecdotally, many people use masturbation to fall asleep — and it’s no wonder.

Oxytocin and endorphins are associated with relaxation, so it makes sense that masturbation can help you sleep, especially if stress and anxiety are keeping you from getting some shut-eye.

For some, masturbating can be a way of practicing self-love, getting to know your body, and spending quality time on your own.

Because you’re learning to enjoy your own body and figuring out what feels pleasurable for you, masturbation can boost your self-esteem.

Many sex therapists suggest masturbating regularly — whether you’re single or partnered.

In addition to the physical benefits derived from masturbation, a boost to self-esteem coupled with relaxation can be great for your sex life.

As for your libido, there’s some evidence that masturbating can help you maintain a healthy sex drive. For example, this 2009 study links frequent vibrator use to a high sex drive and positive sexual function, as well as general sexual wellness.

Masturbating can help you figure out what’s pleasurable and exciting for you, which can help you show your partner what you enjoy.

While there are proven benefits, some people do have negative experiences with masturbation.

It’s important to remember that it’s totally okay not to masturbate.

You might dislike the feeling, or it might be against your belief system, or you might simply be uninterested in it. That’s fine! Whether you choose to masturbate or not is up to you.

If masturbation is difficult for you, and this difficulty is bothering you, consider reaching out to a doctor or therapist.

Masturbation is considered a sin in some religions. There are also many societal stigmas attached to masturbation: Some people believe women shouldn’t masturbate, or that masturbation is immoral.

That’s not to mention the anxiety-inducing myths around masturbation.

Many of us have heard the rumors that masturbation causes you to go blind, or that it can cause you to grow hair on your hands — both completely false claims that seem to circulate widely among preteens!

If you believe those things and go on to masturbate, you might experience feelings of guilt, anxiety, shame, or self-loathing afterward.

It’s totally okay to abstain from masturbation because of your personal beliefs, but if you want to work through feelings of guilt and masturbate without anxiety, talking to a therapist might help.

Aside from societal and spiritual difficulties, underlying health conditions might make masturbation difficult.

For example, masturbation may be frustrating if you experience:

In addition to this, masturbating might be upsetting if you’ve experienced sexual trauma.

If you think you have an underlying condition that makes it difficult to masturbate and it’s bothering you, talk to a doctor you trust.

Likewise, if you’re struggling to masturbate due to emotional distress, you may find it helpful to talk to a therapist.

Is masturbation bad for you? No, not inherently. Whether you masturbate and how you feel about it is individual.

Masturbate if you’d like to, but don’t feel pressured to masturbate if you don’t enjoy it — it’s really up to you!


Sian Ferguson is a freelance writer and editor based in Cape Town, South Africa. Her writing covers issues relating to social justice, cannabis, and health. You can reach out to her on Twitter.