Masturbation is a common sexual activity. It’s a natural, healthy way many people explore their body and find pleasure. However, some individuals do experience mental health issues as a result of masturbation, such as feelings of anxiety or guilt, or other mood disorders.

Read on to learn more about why some people experience anxiety as a result of masturbation and what you can do to help relieve or eliminate these feelings.

For some individuals, all sexual urges or interests stir up anxiety. You may experience feelings of apprehension or concern when you feel aroused or when you engage in sexual activities.

One study found that younger men masturbate with the highest frequency. Additionally, the study found that men who masturbated most frequently had higher levels of anxiety. Men who experienced the highest sense of guilt for masturbation also had the highest levels of anxiety.

Anxiety from masturbation may stem from guilt. Feelings of guilt around masturbation may be tied to spiritual, cultural, or religious views, which may see masturbation as immoral or “dirty.” Anxiety can eventually cause several issues, including sexual dysfunction.

The anxiety may also only be related to a specific type or style of sexual stimulation. In other words, masturbation may produce anxiety, but intercourse might not. The self-pleasing aspect of masturbation makes it taboo for some people.

While masturbation may cause anxiety for some people, other people masturbate as a way to relieve tension and ease anxiety, according to one study. However, few studies have examined the connection between self-pleasure, including masturbation, and anxiety.

Anecdotal reports, as well as studies about sexual intercourse, suggest that masturbation has some helpful benefits. Masturbation may:

  • help you relax
  • release sexual tension
  • reduce stress
  • boost your mood
  • improve sleep
  • help you have better sex
  • help you feel greater pleasure
  • give you a better understanding of what you need and want in a physical relationship
  • relieve cramps

Masturbation does not cause physical side effects. It’s also not harmful to your body unless you use too much force or apply too much pressure.

Masturbation and feelings of guilt or anxiety have not been studied directly. The potential negative side effects of masturbation are drawn from anecdotal reports and limited research.

The most common side effects of masturbation include:

  • Guilt. Cultural, personal, or religious observations or doctrines may impact how you view masturbation. In some philosophies, masturbation is bad or immoral. This can lead to feelings of guilt.
  • Addiction. Some people who masturbate frequently report that they find it difficult to quit or reduce their rate. Excessive masturbation can begin to impact your mood, as well as your day-to-day sexual functioning.

Masturbation is a healthy and fun activity. In fact, it’s a cornerstone of many sexual behaviors. If you experience guilt or anxiety because you masturbate, speak with a professional about your feelings. Your doctor might be a good resource. They may also refer you to a therapist or psychiatrist. These mental healthcare providers specialize in sexual health discussions. They will be able to help you work through your feelings and gain a healthier perspective on self-pleasure.

If you experience guilt or anxiety because of masturbation, you may need help retraining your thoughts surrounding the practice. These tips may help you have positive masturbation experiences:

  • Seek validation. A doctor or therapist can confirm for you that masturbation is natural, healthy, and typical.
  • Face your fears. Ask yourself where the source of anxiety comes from. It may be the result of religious views. It might also be an impression you adopted from cultural references. A therapist can help you identify this cause, address it, and eliminate it.
  • Relax. Masturbation that leads to anxiety may not be enjoyable. Move beyond the anxiety by experiencing masturbation as a fun, healthy activity.
  • Bring in a partner. Masturbation by yourself may be a bridge too far at first. Start by asking your partner to introduce masturbation as part of foreplay or as part of intercourse. This may help you feel more comfortable, and it may reduce anxiety for when you perform solo.
  • Build greater understanding. Being aware that masturbation is normal can help you accept it. This can prevent anxiety and ease other mental health issues that might occur.

Masturbation is a normal activity. It’s also a safe way to explore your body, feel pleasure, and relieve sexual tension. If masturbation causes you anxiety, talk with a healthcare provider about the feelings you experience when you masturbate. Together, you can work to prevent these thoughts. You can also learn to have positive, healthy masturbation experiences.