COVID-19 Helped Create Compulsive Masturbation Habits
On good lockdown days, isolation helped us rediscover ourselves, giving us time to focus on dusting and polishing what's needed within. On bad days, it became a scary echo chamber of questionable behavior sparked by overwhelming emotions and counterproductive coping mechanisms.
A version of life similar to before the pandemic has begun unfolding, but the amount of stress we've had to deal with over the past year and more still haunts our daily life. You may still find yourself coping with complicated emotions with your poison of choice, including self-pleasure.
Self-pleasure for sleep, or more?
Using masturbation as a sleep aid is one of the oldest tricks in the book. But what happens if masturbation morphs from a supplement into a method for escaping reality? Or a necessity on busy days? Can chasing the high of climax get counterproductive?
Indigo Stray Conger, an AASECT-certified sex therapist based in Colorado, said masturbation is a behavioral activity with access to our neurological reward system. This means as a result of our brain's pursuit of dopamine and oxytocin, masturbation can become a compulsive behavior. When we are stressed, cortisol runs throughout our system, shutting down our natural arousal cycle, and we become aware of our libido only when the desire for sexual release is strong. We then respond by masturbating and can fall into a never-ending cycle of stress and stress relief. This could turn into a default activity when we're anxious or bored, or want to avoid an activity.
Due to the additional stress that accompanies self-isolation, the reward systems in our brains become challenged. Direct contact with other humans is a massive source of stress relief, not only when touching and having a sexual encounter, but in tiny interactions like facial expression mirroring, laughter and eye contact. As gatherings turned virtual, the neurochemical benefits of socializing and interactions with loved ones diminished. Zoom may not allow us to pick up on all the subtleties of contact that we'd like.
When is it too much?
An unhealthy masturbation habit can manifest in many ways, and, of course, the barometer for measuring what's unhealthy varies from person to person.
Some indicators include scenarios in which you catch yourself interrupting important daily tasks, making it hard to finish them; masturbating many times, ending the day with your genitals feeling sore or raw; or maybe you find it hard to relax at night without masturbating.
A major red flag is when this behavior consistently stops you from wanting to have sex with a partner(s).
Observe and report
If you've spotted troublesome behaviors, a little detailed observation can help you to rewire your intentions and identify patterns when masturbating, such as:
- Keep a journal. Write down a quick word or sentence each time you masturbate, describing why (bored, horny after watching a sexy pic, lonely, couldn't sleep) you did so. Also, write down when it happens, how and, at the end of the day, make a note of how many times you're doing it.
- When masturbation becomes compulsive, it tends to become increasingly habitual in style. Try adding a new toy or technique so that you become more aware of the moment.
- Check out your techniques and change them up. If you masturbate quickly to climax, try making the session longer and discover new sensations. If you find yourself delaying an orgasm, make it fast and take yourself by surprise. If you tend to overuse external stimulation, such as porn, try turning it off for a while and get more in tune with the feelings of your own body instead of vicariously watching someone else.
As with any other worry in your life, you can always seek professional help if you're not succeeding on your own. Sex therapists are amazing at helping you deal with your emotions and identifying and encouraging your intentions to regain a healthy connection to your sexuality.