Reviewed By Priyanka Bhattacharjee, is a licensed and practicing Clinical Psychologist based in India, who has been working very closely with a variety of mental health issues across different age groups for the past 7 years. Working for the cause of mental health is her passion, and primarily advocates for primary prevention and early intervention. Her professional interest areas include diagnosis and therapy for Addiction, Personality Disorders, Mood and Affective Disorders, Children and Adolescents’ Mental Health, Couple Intervention, and Workplace Mental Health issues.
Does Masturbation Affect Memory and Brain?
There is no conclusive evidence to prove that masturbation cause one to suffer from memory loss. The changes are reversible no matter how compulsive the habit has become.
Pleasuring oneself is a healthy sexual activity that has several proven benefits. The practice is perhaps as old as life. However, with the recent advent of high-speed internet and extreme varieties of pornographic content, it has changed the dynamics completely. Several people in the world are falling prey to masturbation addiction and/or suffering from other harmful masturbation effects due to their compulsivity.
When dealing with any topic, it is important to know what’s true and what’s not. But many of the popular side effects propagated by the masses are fallacies. People tend to accept what coincides with their ideas and beliefs.
Despite the existence of the internet and online articles debunking the myths around masturbation, the amount of unfounded information consumed is still high.
It is the stigma around the topic that popularizes the misinformation passed around. Let’s take a look at some of the existing myths and facts around masturbation.
Masturbation causes memory loss
Memory loss and masturbation have been linked together for years, but the truth about it might be surprising. Most people discard this idea as no one believes it could be possible. However, the answer is both yes and no, depending on how you look at it.
Excessive masturbation drains the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. This is, in turn, replaced with stress adrenaline that results in reduced focus and memory loss. The fatigue that results from ejaculation can make one feel relaxed, maybe a little too relaxed. This can affect concentration and their ability to retain information.
On the other hand, despite the rewiring of the brain that takes place, there is no conclusive evidence to prove that masturbation cause one to suffer from memory loss. The changes are reversible no matter how compulsive the habit has become.
Masturbation makes you go blind
This is perhaps the most popular myth about masturbation found universally. Masturbation does not make one go blind in any way. One could argue that this was made as a joke, and it very well might be. But the sheer amount of people who believe it and/or spread it shows how an activity people are uncomfortable with is demonized or vilified by baseless arguments.
These myths were made at a time when sex was considered an activity for procreation and not one for pleasure.
While understanding the harmful effects of any behavior, one must rule out fake information too. Myths like these only propagate the idea that masturbation is bad, which roots in the cultural, religious, or spiritual beliefs of the masses. Instead, we must learn to talk about these topics and address our doubts.
Masturbation causes a reduction in penis size
The answer to whether this is a myth is (again) both yes and no. Indulgence in the activity does cause weaker and painful erections. In such a situation, one might notice a slight difference in the size of their penis.
These changes in size and feel of the penis are reversible, given they abstain from the activity for a few days. But a large number of people believe that excessive masturbation causes the penis to shrink for good. However, this is not true and again an attempt to demonize pleasuring oneself.
Masturbation causes infertility
It is common for many to believe that masturbation reduces sperm count and makes one impotent. Excessive ejaculation does cause a reduction in the quantity of semen expelled out. However, the body is capable of renewing sperm cells.
The loss in the amount of semen produced is felt one masturbates more frequently. By refusing to give in to their urges, they are able to reverse these effects within a couple of days.
It is unhealthy to not masturbate
This is rather popular among all frequent masturbators. Or simply put, almost everyone believes this. Masturbation does have many proven benefits. However, not indulging in the activity is perfectly healthy too.
Without the habit, one gets to focus on other aspects of their life rather than constantly pleasuring themselves. Other added benefits would be not getting addicted, not injuring their genitals from excessive rubbing, and not losing concentration.
The only possible risk, if one may call that, would be getting wet dreams from time to time and waking up to find out that you’ve made a mess all over your boxers. But there are no proven health risks associated with abstaining from masturbation.
Masturbation leads to hair loss
The reason for this claim roots in the expulsion of proteins from the body through ejaculation. Hair growth is largely aided by proteins in the body and with a compulsive masturbator, all of it is being wasted into their oldest sock.
Semen does contain high levels of protein. However, the amount secreted while ejaculating is relatively small compared to the required levels for hair growth. Therefore, there is no scientific report to substantiate this claim. This is another myth that, though debunked, seems to be shared extensively.
There is no need to completely give up pleasuring oneself. It is perhaps the most natural way of escaping reality. But it is also imperative that one knows when it is too much. Now that we’ve gone over the popular myths and facts, we will look at the benefits and detrimental effects that masturbation has on one’s mind and body.
Understanding the effects of the act will help you take positive steps to control your addiction.
Benefits of Masturbation
- Better sleep – Masturbation releases oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine, the group of chemicals termed the ‘happy chemicals. The endorphins produced along with the oxytocin will help relax your muscles, which makes you fall asleep.
- Helps relieve stress – Endorphins are produced by the body to relieve stress and pain. Masturbation releases endorphins that make you feel relaxed and comfortable. Used correctly, it can be a great way to forget about the problems in life for a while and come back with a clearer head.
- Elevates Mood – Dopamine is the chemical responsible for the pleasure and reward systems of the brain. Ejaculation causes an influx of endorphins that makes you happy and have a more positive outlook.
- You understand your body better – Masturbation is a great way to explore your body and figure out what senses you have a liking to. It helps with understanding your needs and desires and gives an overall understanding of pleasure and your body.
- Better Focus and Concentration – The phenomenon commonly termed as post nut clarity occurs, as the name suggests, right after ejaculation. Some people use masturbation as a method to focus better at the task on hand. In spite of documented testimonials, science hasn’t still backed up the claims.
Negative Effects of Masturbation
- Lethargy – Masturbation causes your muscles to relax. It can cause you to feel lazy, often invoking sleepiness. Excessive indulgence in this habit can make you largely inactive and alter your mood.
- Demotivation – It is very common for people to feel a lack of motivation to do anything after pleasuring themselves. This feeling can cause significant changes to one’s lifestyle if it is persistent, affecting different spheres from person to work.
- Decline in penile/vaginal health – Excessive and aggressive rubbing of the penis can cause weaker erections and your penis to whither in size. It can also cause injuries to and/or swelling of the penis. It can also cause pain and dryness of vaginal walls in women. Desensitization of sexual organs are commonly reported among habitual masturbators. People suffering from this problem will tend to be more aggressive to derive the same pleasure they once did.
- Desensitization to sex/sexual dysfunctions – When sexual organs become desensitized, real sex starts to become less pleasurable too. This can cause trust issues and bad self-esteem in couples, potentially ruining their otherwise meaningful and strong relationships. Masturbation when coupled with excessive porn consumption can cause porn-induced-erectile-dysfunction (PIED), where men can’t maintain an erection due to performance anxiety, bad body image, lower self-esteem, and/or unrealistic standards of beauty culminating from imbibing characteristics portrayed in porn.
- Addiction to Masturbation – Perhaps being the easiest, most natural escape or high one could attain, it isn’t all safe and healthy. The constant chasing of the high alters the neurological structure in the brain the same way any addictive substance like cocaine does. This can cause detrimental changes to one’s health and social life. The compulsivity can change the way your reward circuits work and alter the regulation of dopamine release in your body.
- Decrease in Testosterone Levels – Testosterone plays an important role in muscle development, hair growth, and regulating libido among many other functions. Every time there’s an expulsion of semen, a significant amount of testosterone is discharged. Studies show a remarkable increase in testosterone levels in men who abstain from masturbation for just a week.
- Weakened Ejaculation – Compulsive masturbation causes weaker ejaculation and sperm count. These effects are reversible by giving up masturbation for a while, but a failure to do so can possibly lead to other serious sexual dysfunctions including delayed ejaculation and erectile dysfunction.
- Destroying relationships – In these times of high-speed internet, it is very hard to find someone who doesn’t watch porn and masturbate. This has been a leading cause of the destruction of marriages all over the world. Choosing porn or masturbation over your spouse creates a bad body image, lower self-esteem, and a lack of trust in relationships.
- Poor performance at work/school – Fatigue and general laziness can lead to a lack of motivation that can affect one’s performance. Masturbation is proven to cause a decrease in energy levels. Excessive indulgence in masturbation might cause one to have a lesser focus on the tasks at hand.
- Guilt/Shame – It is common for men to experience embarrassment and guilt right after ejaculation. The reason for this phenomenon, commonly called ‘Post Nut Clarity’, has no scientific evidence. Researchers suggest this might be due to underlying cultural or religious beliefs of a person; sex and everything related to the topic is largely considered taboo and people are not comfortable voicing their take on the matter. This coupled with a compulsion to masturbate is highly dangerous as it can lead to severe mental health issues.
- Mental Health Issues – Isolating yourself often to masturbate can rewire the way you behave in social situations. You might tend to get anxious in social situations if you are out of touch with being social. Constant involvement with the activity changes the way you view pleasure, making everything else seem less pleasurable. Like the same way an addictive drug works, you stop being able to find pleasure in the little things in life, other than your little buddy. The general lack of motivation can even lead to more serious problems like social phobia and depression.
When to stop
If you aren’t compulsive with masturbation, you might wonder if you even need to stop. However, if you are a compulsive masturbator, you would have already seen signs that clearly suggest you give up this habit.
Spending a significant amount of time masturbating will result in a lesser amount of time and effort spent on more important things. If you are canceling social events, pulling up late to work/school, or performing poorly at work/school due to masturbation, it is high time to stop it for good.
A decline in performance in one’s daily activities can lead to an anxious brain; being constantly pointed out for poor or unsatisfactory performance can lead to you feeling anxious and wanting to be alone. Rewiring your anxious brain, though possible, might get intensive and requires a lot of effects.
Being addicted to masturbation can change the way your neurotransmitters work. These alterations will make you crave the release of the chemicals you get after ejaculation. It can even lead one to feel anxious and cause other mental health troubles.
There are many benefits to giving up masturbation that you can read here. Remember you are giving up a habit for your own betterment. Compulsivity in any activity, where it causes negative impacts in your life and the lives of people around you, calls for a rewiring of your now anxious brain. There’s no better investment than yourself.
You can take this assessment here to see if you have a masturbation addiction or not.
Quitting masturbation might seem hard. But it starts with making positive measures to change the habit in you. If porn is your trigger, install BlockerX to eliminate all adult content from your life. Be the best version of yourself.
1. Is masturbating common among men and women?
Well, the answer is absolutely YES. It is very common. Studies show that 95% of the men and 89% of the women masturbate. It is really not unusual
2. Is masturbation bad for health?
There are no such ill effects of masturbation in general, unless it has become an addiction. However, for many people religious views also matters.
3. Is masturbation safe?
Masturbation is considered safe unless it has become a kind of addiction where in it ruins mental and physical health.
4. Does masturbating count as cheating?
As masturbation is an activity of self-pleasure by self, it is technically not considered as cheating.
5. Is there any possibilities of STD’s or other infections due to masturbation?
According to doctors, masturbating won’t make you susceptible to STIs. However, one has to be aware of the hygiene.