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What Are the Psychological Effects of Masturbation?

by Craig Gross on November 5th, 2018 in Podcast, Whiteboard, Men, Women, Students


About This Episode

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In today’s Whiteboard Session, Steven Luff, a licensed MFT (Marriage and Family Therapist) in the state of CA, co-author of Pure Eyes: a Man’s Guide to Sexual Integrity and creator of the X3pure on-line recovery program, answers this question: what are the psychological effects of masturbation?

Most of the time, when we get this question, it’s asked by a person seeking to justify his or her behavior. Say it’s a 35-year-old married guy whose wife won’t have sex with him so he masturbates and thinks to himself, “It’s not hurting anybody… at least I’m not having an affair or something!”

Steven had a lot of helpful things to say in this video, and my biggest takeaway was the connection he drew between masturbation and a lack of emotional understanding. Namely: guys and gals who begin masturbating at a young age – say, 11 or 12 years old – never quite learn to identify the emotions they’re feeling.

If you haven’t put a label on your emotions because you’ve been masking them with porn and masturbation since you were 12 years old, it means you don’t know how to deal with your feelings. That inability will stunt your maturity and hurt your relationships. You’ll miss out on discovering more about yourself and the people around you.


Our Favorite Quotes From This Video

  • We weren’t biologically designed to sit in front of a computer, opening up constant windows until we find the perfect arousal template that gets us off – maximally – to get a “high.” We weren’t designed for the world that we’re actually in.
  • Are you using masturbation as a way to manage your emotions? Are you using it on occasion? Do you masturbate because there is a physiological buildup and a need for release? Or are you masturbating because you don’t want to (or don’t know how to) deal with your emotions?
  • The litmus test for whether or not masturbating is a problem for you is whether or not you’re masturbating to get away from uncomfortable emotions, or whether it’s a physiological release.
  • Most men – men who’ve grown up in this era, with porn available to them since the age of 12 – they don’t know their emotional state. They don’t know the difference between “I’m happy!” porn, or “I’m sad!” porn, or “I’m anxious!” porn. It’s just porn, porn, porn, porn, porn. They don’t know that there are these emotions that are underneath it.
  • When people choose sobriety over masturbation, they find out a lot about themselves. For instance: they often thought that the act was merely a physiological need. What they discover is that it has become a need because they have so hard-wired the neurons in their brain to behave a certain way. Sobriety helps them rewire their brain.
  • If you go your whole life and never get to the bottom of why you are masturbating, you’re missing out on self-discovery and your own journey of knowing who you are as a person. It’s a hypnotic state, and when you’re in it – acting out sexually – you’re in fantasy-land. You are physiologically and psychologically checked out. Until you sit in these life experiences without substance addiction, you’re not going to know who you are. And often, people are very afraid of discovering who they are.
  • Hopefully, you’ve got a loving church or loving community around you to say: keep pushing into the darkness. We’re here, and you’re going to find yourself. You’re going to find your true self instead of this mask that you’ve been wearing.


  • Jim Roberts

    I also highly recommend EMDR for anyone dealing with trauma/PTSD.

  • Liz

    What should one do if their spouse is not interested in talking to anyone or self discovery. He is completely checked out emotionally, relational and physically from our marriage. What is a wife to do besides pray. How can a wife began to heal if their spouse is unwilling. It’s like the band-aid being constantly ripped off.

    • Jim Roberts

      I’ve found with my wife (who has similar behaviors as your spouse) that I needed to give up trying to “fix” her and lessen my criticism of her. She did not take well to my recovery work. We all have our own issues and I needed to focus inward for healing and give up co-dependency needing her affirmation. Good emotional boundaries are critical.

  • Henry Kelly

    If one is never infected with the masturbation addiction it will never become a “need.” If denied natural sexual relations the body will relieve itself. In men this is called “nocturnal emission,” “night soil,” “night pollution,” though it can occur at any time, awake or asleep.
    Once the body has become habituated to being relieved by masturbation it will become more and more difficult for it to go back to relieving itself autonomically.
    My grandmother had bowel difficulties from her high fat, little roughage diet. She began using harsh irritant laxatives. These did unclog her bowels but it wasn’t long before her bowels would move only when the harsh laxative was used. Eventually she listened to advice and ate better: beans, cereal grains, fruit, more water. Unfortunately while things improved she still had to use the harsh irritant laxative to get unstuck.
    In the male seminal fluid is produced continuously, gradually distending the seminal vesicles. When they are triggered, ejaculation occurs, also causing the prostate gland to contract.rhythmically, expelling the fluid.

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