Masturbating Shouldn’t Make You Sad

Masturbating Shouldn’t Make You Sad

For some, orgasms lead to depressive periods lasting from hours to days, but they shouldn’t have to suffer.

A recent Twitter post caught my attention. In the thread people we’re getting whenever they masturbate, they feel sad afterward. I read through the thread to get a sense of why people felt this way.

Some commenters lamented their un-partnered status. Others felt they should be spending the time on more productive pursuits. Many didn’t have a reason but reported feelings of severe depression after a self-induced orgasm. One person indicated that an orgasm would immediately cause her to curl up in a ball and sob.

A perusal of Reddit indicates that there are entire groups dedicated to giving up masturbation for one reason or another. The group guidelines warn that depression can result when you remove self-pleasure from your life, so clearly some part of our biology requires orgasms.

I have never experienced the post-coital blues, but clearly, it’s somewhat common. I turned to research by medical and psychiatric professionals to uncover the reasons and see if there’s a way for people to work through whatever is causing these depressive moods.

Sex is supposed to boost your mood

My initial research indicated that sex is linked to an overall decrease in depressive symptoms because it both reduces the activity in the amygdala; the area controlling anxiety symptoms, and increases the pleasure hormones in the body. So, if biology is working correctly, sex, even solo sessions, should result in feelings of happiness, not the opposite.

Masturbatory guilt

I ran across one study, with a small sample size of three case studies, that indicated that masturbatory guilt is associated with a cultural or religious upbringing. In this study, participants suffered depressive symptoms, as well as problems with sexual function due to what they considered sinful thoughts. I was raised catholic, so I can certainly understand how those norms can infiltrate even our most private moments.

Another 2002 case study from the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy gives another example of a Hindu man who is severely depressed due to his cultural upbringing. He views masturbation as a vice that causes problems with health and morality. A more recent 2016 study uses a sample size of 155 men and comes to the same conclusion.

So, according to the research, masturbatory guilt or post-coital depression is linked to cultural notions that masturbation is harmful to both health and morality. Most of this research focused on men.

On both Twitter and Reddit there were plenty of women giving voice to their experiences with post-climactic depression. We know from recent research challenging gender norms that women often have a libido as active as men. More research is needed for the female population this phenomenon affects.

An overactive amygdala

Dr. Richard Freedman M.D. wrote in the New York Times that his patients presenting with depression after solo or partnered sex improved with the use of SSRI medications. These medications raise the level of serotonin, which is good for mood but harms libido.

His rationale for trying these medications was that, perhaps, people experiencing post-coital depression were experiencing a more robust than typical rebound of the amygdala, the fear center of the brain, after orgasm. Raising the serotonin level might help the amygdala have less extreme reactions to sexual experiences.

Trading pleasure for reduced pain

What he found was that these patients reported sexual experiences that were less pleasurable, but didn’t result in depressive episodes. I’m not sure about you, but that seems like a pretty awful trade-off to me.

Sexual pleasure is an innate part of being human. We are biologically wired to seek and enjoy sexual activity.

There has to be a better answer

Perhaps the real answer lies somewhere in the middle. Like most depressive symptoms, perhaps post-coital blues are best addressed by a combination of medication and sex-positive therapy. I’m interested to see how research on this topic expands our understanding.

Those of you experiencing this phenomenon and its negative impact on your sexual health and emotional well-being, you aren’t alone. I urge you to seek help from your health care provider or a trusted counselor. Sexual satisfaction is your right, and you deserve to fight for it.

Photo by  Womanizer WOW Tech on Unsplash.

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