Masturbation: Crossing the Pleasure Barrier

CFD4EC96-0D2C-41EF-BF30-34640CC8C93DSociety stands divided on the topic of masturbation.  Some would say that masturbation is a healthy expression of intimacy with oneself, a creative life given gift that enables us to explore pleasure.  Yet, others would argue that masturbation is a sin in which the act is a waste of love and replaces committed bonds with self-absorbed debauchery.  When discussing sex addiction it is vital to shy away from such arguments.  I have found that debating such topics deflects exploring how and why masturbation may be problem with a particular individual.  Moreover, we need to remind ourselves that the sex addict is not a ‘bad’ person striving for ‘goodness.’  He or she is sick and is striving for ‘wellness.’  In the area of alcoholism, we find that the majority of people are able to drink successfully, that is, experience no negative consequences from drinking.  Then there are the minority of drinkers who experience an allergy of the mind, body, and spirit upon the first drink and have inability to stop or control the amount they ingest.  Same goes with the sex addict where his or her route of acting out may have been masturbation and the act becomes a compulsion yielding severe interpersonal and social consequences.

There are 3 ways to identify if masturbation is becoming a problem for you.

Masturbation Becomes Compulsive Masturbation:

Episodes of masturbation have significantly increased and interferes with everyday tasks.  Time spent masturbating stops you from engaging in family activities, occupational demands, and social functions.  A physical sign of compulsive masturbation is noticeable irritation, swelling, cuts, or bruising of the genitals.  Although the person experiences pain, he or she continues to masturbate with a sense of loss of control over the act.  Usually, a feeling of numbness and apathy follow a binge.

Masturbation Masks Emotions

Masturbation is used to medicate unpleasurable feelings of loneliness, anger, anxiety, depression, emptiness, hopelessness, etc.  Masturbation is used as a way to escape these feelings and one continues to seek out ‘the high’  to avoid confronting emotions that cause distress.  Masturbation releases endorphins that create pleasure, “the feel good” chemical in the brain.  The problem with excessive masturbation is that the brain releases these endorphins at a high rate, producing a significant withdrawal and a heightened tolerance in the person.  The end result is a needing of more and more in order to achieve the same sense of pleasure as previously.  This becomes a double edged sword in that the depletion of neurotransmitters will always lead to anhedonia  (the inability to experience pleasure in normal everyday pleasurable things).   In order to avoid this state, the addict will continue to engage in masturbation at attempts to achieve feeling ‘normal.’

Masturbation Replaces Intimacy

Masturbation is used as a way to avoid social and intimate situations.  The addict may find that he lacks a sense of connection with others and attempts to compensate through masturbation.  Casual encounters and relatedness become dull and pointless, failing to produce the same effect the unnatural stimulation of compulsive masturbation.   The addict becomes disinterested in the feelings and perceptions of others and turns more inwardly into himself.  This manifests itself into a general dissatisfaction with self and others, chronic isolation and depression.

If you think you may have a problem with masturbation and would like to explore on further ways to get help, click here.

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