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Mental Health Month and Masturbation Month are both in May: Coincidence? I think not.

By Maya Khamala

May is the month of mirth in oh-so-many ways. If you live in a land where winter is a thing, then you understand the joy of May flowers, and the long-awaited heat of the sun. 

But there’s even more to May than the jubilant resurgence of the birds and the bees and the trees. For starters, May is Masturbation Month, the time of year when you let go of any (deeply questionable) reasoning you may have for not rubbing one out on the daily, and get in touch with your juiciest self.

May also happens to be Mental Health Awareness Month, which has been recognized annually by Mental Health America (MHA) since 1949. The aim? To raise awareness about mental health and its barriers as well as to celebrate mental health victories. While mental health has certainly become more normalized as a topic of conversation, there is clearly still work to be done. This year’s Mental Health Month theme is “Back to Basics,” geared at providing foundational mental health knowledge as well as info about avenues of action for anyone with mental health concerns.

It’s extremely fitting that mental health and masturbation share a month, considering the countless physical and mental health benefits of masturbating. 

The mental health benefits of masturbation

Masturbation can provide a variety of mental health benefits, including sexual pleasure, joy, and much-needed distraction. For some, it can even act as an empowering way to reclaim their bodies following negative or traumatic experiences such as sexual abuse/assault. Particularly for those of us who have been raised to view their sexual pleasure as shameful, a healthy relationship with masturbation can provide a rare opportunity to get better acquainted with your body in a loving, lusty way! 

A few tangible mental health benefits of masturbation, for your consideration:

It’s relaxing

Pleasuring yourself releases mood-enhancing chemicals like oxytocin, dopamine, and endorphins, even without reaching climax. One survey found that 39% of those who masturbate do it to relax. “Orgasm relieves tension as oxytocin stimulates feelings of warmth and relaxation,” states a 2007 report by Planned Parenthood. These ‘mood-enhancing chemicals’ can also relieve tension in the body, and even help cure migraines or relieve menstrual cramps. This is relevant, because physical and mental health are inextricably linked, of course.

It’s a stress-buster

Fear and anxiety levels have to go down for orgasm to become possible. Most of us need only think about this for a moment to realize it’s true. What’s more, research by Dutch scientists found that when women climax, the amygdala (the part of the brain associated with fear and anxiety), basically turns off! What better way to cancel out a stressful day?

It’ll help you sleep

Orgasms can help you sleep better, straight up. Getting enough sleep, particularly REM sleep, helps your brain process emotional information. Lack of sleep can hinder the processing of positive emotions, which in turn has an impact on mood and emotional reactivity. Not to mention, on your sex life. Too little sleep is associated with mental health disorders, including a risk of suicidal ideas or behaviors. Ultimately, however, it’s worth noting that there’s a bidirectional relationship between sleep and mental health—in other words, sleeping problems can be both a cause and consequence of mental health problems.

It’s the self-care you need, even if you’re in a relationship

Whether you’re coupled or not, masturbation is a potent form of self-care. If you’re in a relationship that has somehow rendered solo pleasure sessions taboo, it may be time to reevaluate your arrangement. So many people lose their sense of self in relationships, and masturbation can act as a pretty little avenue to reclaiming your personal joy. After all, your individual sexuality doesn’t simply disappear just because you take pleasure in sharing with another. You need those little moments in life that are just about you. And carving out time to tend to your personal needs is a boon to mental health.

If you're worried about your mental health…

While masturbation can improve mental health, sometimes it is simply not a solution to what ails you. Know that you’re not alone. Sometimes seeking professional treatment is necessary, and there is just as little shame in that as there is in masturbating (ZERO!).

According to MHA, the delays in treatment for mental health conditions are sadly lengthier than for many other health conditions. Getting screened for mental health issues, however, can boost your chances of accessing treatment. As it happens, MHA offers free, anonymous, and scientifically validated mental health screenings. While online screening tools are meant to be a quick snapshot of your mental health, your results can be used to begin a conversation with a primary care provider, or friends/family. Having the results of a screening in hand can be empowering and go a long way toward helping you plan a course of action for addressing your concerns and meeting your needs.

You got this. <3

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