I have a problem with masturbation. I do it too much and now I can’t feel the same pleasure with my girlfriend. How do I stop?
I get many queries every week from people who want to stop masturbating, for different reasons.
First, a clear disclaimer: our profession does not consider masturbation wrong or pathological. We view masturbation as simply one more sexual expression. I am aware that in our Kenyan culture it is sometimes viewed in a negative and sometimes immoral light but this column is about approaching sexual function and dysfunction from a professional stand point. Your moral or religious values are – as always – your responsibility.
Now, let’s talk about why people masturbate and why some can present a problem:
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Pure Pleasure: Many people masturbate for the pure pleasure of it. They want to feel good and so they make themselves feel good. For these people, it really isn’t much more complicated than that.
Sexual Release: Many people masturbate for sexual release. By this, I mean they feel that the absence of sexual pleasure is becoming a distraction to them. They therefore pleasure themselves so they can deal with the distraction and get on with the business of living.
Treatment: Masturbation can be used as part of the treatment protocol - usually under the guidance of a professional - for example with survivors of sexual trauma, people recovering from experiences that have altered their experience of their bodies in one way or another, people with certain disabilities; some even do it to help them sleep!
Avoidance: Some people masturbate to avoid dealing with other less pleasurable aspects of their lives. For them, life and many aspects of their life are too difficult, boring or overwhelming to deal with so they disengage from all that by engaging in a pleasurable activity over and over again. Here is where masturbation can turn into an addiction, because it can go beyond pleasure, meeting a need or even choice and crosses over into a seeming inability to stop.
Masturbating to avoid dealing with other less pleasurable aspects of your life is unsustainable. No one can feel pleasure 100 per cent of their time on earth; no one is supposed to. Furthermore, this approach to life denies you the opportunity for growth and maturity. It teaches you, instead, that every time you feel sad, angry, overwhelmed, frustrated, stuck or like a failure, you can simply avoid them and find something more pleasurable to do.
Finally, it makes it difficult to re-enter real life. As you mature, you are likely to discover that it is not advisable or sustainable to masturbate away your problems. You will want to do better by re-engaging with your life and all its ups and downs. At this point you will begin to realise that you have yet to develop the stamina and resilience that life requires.
Your sexual relationship with a partner is also likely to suffer because sexual intercourse isn’t quite as brief or immediate as masturbation. You may even find it difficult to maintain an erection for longer than the few minutes it takes to masturbate.
So, how do you stop?
Cut down on ‘alone time’: Even if you are home alone, keep doors open and stay in public spaces. Help your brain begin to understand that things are going to be different.
Cut out/down on pornography: Masturbation and pornography tend to go together so starve your mind of this fuel.
Get busy and keep busy: Do your dishes, work on your project, clean your home, run errands, watch inspiring videos or even listen to interesting podcasts. Do what you need to do to ensure that your mind and body are occupied.
Reconnect: Disconnection is key to excessive masturbation so reconnection is key to interrupting it. Engage in projects that bring you joy. Return those phone calls that you had been ignoring, attend those family functions and cultivate new relationships and experiences that add value to your life. Simply put, reconnect with your friends, your family and
Be patient: It took time to get here so give yourself some time to find your way to a better sexual place.
Remember: Masturbation is like a fork. You can use it as a tool to help you eat or you can use it as a weapon. Masturbation is not the problem; how you choose to use it is what can be the problem. Choose wisely.
Maggie Gitu holds an MA in Marriage and Family Therapy. She practices as a Marriage, Family and Sex Therapist. Reach her at [email protected] or via her Facebook page: Maggie Gitu.