Masturbation helps you learn what you like sexually, plus, it just feels good. But did you know that masturbation can help your mental health, too? While masturbation alone isn’t an effective treatment for any mental health condition, it can relieve some symptoms, such as stress and difficulty sleeping.
"Orgasms are truly amazing things," Vanessa Marin, sex therapist and creator of Finishing School: Learn How To Orgasm, previously told Refinery29. “[But] if you have any real concerns about your mental health, you're better suited talking to a therapist and coming up with a more comprehensive care plan. [Masturbation won’t] obliterate crippling depression.”
In other words, masturbation shouldn’t be the only item on your mental health treatment plan — it’s not a cure-all. But here’s what it can do.
How masturbation affects your brain
When you masturbate, your body releases a number of "feel-good" hormones called endorphins, and although studies differ on exactly how, research indicates that it also affects the prefrontal cortex of your brain.
How does masturbation affect my mood?
Masturbation makes you feel good — and we’re not just talking about the physical pleasure. When your body releases endorphins, you feel a temporary mood boost, too. According to Psychology Today, you can thank dopamine and oxytocin in particular for the feelings of high spirits and satisfaction.
Can masturbation relieve stress and anxiety?
Studies show that the presence of oxytocin lowers the levels of another hormone — cortisol, which is associated with high stress. Some people find that masturbation’s stress-fighting effects also work for managing anxiety. “After an orgasm, I am also much calmer, and I've found that it's actually a fantastic way to stimulate the brain,” one woman wrote for Refinery29.
Does masturbation help with depression?
Anecdotally, some people with depression say that the mood boost provided by masturbation can temporarily alleviate their symptoms, but this hasn't been sufficiently studied yet.
Can masturbation help you fall asleep?
Oxytocin, along with prolactin, another hormone released during masturbation, makes you feel relaxed, so masturbation can be an all-natural sleep aid. A German health insurance company even released an ad promoting masturbation as a way to get a good night’s sleep.
Can masturbation help your self-esteem?
According to Planned Parenthood, masturbation can help improve your body image and self-esteem. This makes sense: masturbation is a great way to get to know your body better and appreciate all that it can do.