masterbationSexual Addiction without a Sexual Partner?

Compulsive masturbation to fantasy and/or online porn carries some of the most shame, secrecy and isolation of all the problem sexual behaviors practiced by active sexual addicts – both male and female. Often devoid of intimate sexuality and healthy intimacy in adult life and frequently raised with extensive histories of childhood abuse and/or neglect, compulsive masturbators are often the last to seek help as they don’t see or relate to their solo sexual behaviors as being the underlying source of their adult unhappiness.

While most sex addicts race to find treatment the moment they have serious relationship, legal, work or health problems related to sexual acting out, the solitary nature of the compulsive masturbator’s behavior often leaves their actions less subject obvious problems.

The compulsive masturbator will more often seek out therapy for relief from depression, loneliness and relationship problems and not necessarily for sexual issues. Many attend psychotherapy for long periods of time, unfortunately never discussing (sometimes never asked to discuss) their sexual behavior patterns, thus their problem remains underground and untreated. Some compulsive masturbators do eventually have negative life consequences caused for example by viewing inappropriate materials i.e. child porn or by masturbating in inappropriate places, i.e. the workplace or an automobile.

However, the most frequent the long-term negative consequence of compulsive masturbation (with or without porn) is a life devoid of closeness, longstanding feelings of detachment, removed from deep emotions and relationship connections. Compulsive masturbators constantly live with hidden, isolation and shame along with an inability to work through the deeper psychological issues that are often the engine driving these addictive sexual behavior patterns.

 

What is Compulsive Masturbation?

There are several forms of compulsive masturbation but like any addictive behavior the presenting symptoms are typical of all addictions:

1.   The inability to change compulsive masturbation patterns (with or without porn) despite promises to self or others to do so.

2.   Negative consequences related to the compulsive masturbation – such as non-existent or decreased sexual intimacy with others, relationship problems, social isolation, depression, long hours — sometimes whole days lost to online porn use or self-stimulation and fantasy, physical self-harm due to abrasive masturbation techniques, drug use/relapse along with the masturbation.

3.   Continuation of the problem sexual behavior patterns despite a related history of negative consequences and broken promises to self or others to stop.

4.   Escalation – in terms of increasing amounts of time spent masturbating or viewing progressively more arousing, intense or bizarre sexual content.

5.   Living a secret or double sexual life –likely known fully only to themselves.

 

Healthy vs. Compulsive Masturbation

Some adult men and women see daily masturbation as a part of their morning or evening routine and don’t consider it as a choice. Jayne, in specific treatment for sex and romantic addiction for several years now, has the following to say about her experiences:

“Looking back now I can see that I had huge denial about how compulsive and driven an experience masturbation was in my life. Because it was so built into my daily routine, I viewed masturbating multiple times daily in the same way as I did washing my hands or brushing my teeth. I never thought of it as something that could interfere with my attempts at sexual relationships, intimacy or self-esteem.

And I NEVER thought it had anything to do with the physical and verbal abuse I experienced as a child. My association with masturbation was simple, every morning when I showered I masturbated to fantasy and every night before I went to sleep I masturbated to porn to help me relax before sleep. I never questioned it, even after many attempts at therapy.

By 37 years old I had a 24-year history of this behavior pattern before I found sexual addiction treatment and was asked the question by my therapist, ‘Just how often do you choose to masturbate and what encourages you to masturbate when you do?’ Choose? Encourage? I never chose. Masturbation is just what I did.”

Not surprisingly, Jayne entered treatment to stop engaging in multiple sexual affairs and to resolve ongoing challenges with romantic commitment – it had never even occurred to her that she might have to look at masturbation as an issue. She had long wanted to get married and have a family and was concluding from her experiences that she was unable to make that happen. It was only during the course of her initial assessment when questions regarding masturbation and porn use were posed to her and she was forced to consider changing this life-long behavior.

 

Binge Masturbation

While some like Jayne compulsively masturbate in a brief, daily repetitive and routine fashion, others can be viewed more as binge masturbators. These lonely people describe losing themselves for hours or days at a time to fantasy, porn use and compulsive masturbation. Some disappear into hotel/motel rooms or home for days on end, their sexual activity often enhanced by cocaine and other stimulants, losing days to drug and porn use along with their masturbation routines.

Unlike Jayne — who incorporates multiple masturbation sessions into her daily life — the binge masturbator is likely to be sexually acting out related to specific stressors (family, financial other problems) that he or she finds intolerable. They can literally lock themselves up somewhere, disappearing literally and emotionally into masturbatory fantasy-based escape. This type of behavior can often result in genital injury due to the amount of time and energy devoted to the masturbation and/or problems with drug/alcohol abuse. While usually the injury and pain is not sought for pleasure, the binge compulsive masturbator will actually dismiss the physical damage they are causing themselves.

 

Finding Help

As with all forms of sexually addictive behavior, compulsive masturbation is simply an exaggerated, problematic version of what most people experience as healthy sexual activity, which becomes over utilized as a form of escape and self-soothing. This does not mean however that those who compulsively masturbate can simply reign in the frequency or intensity of their masturbation patterns and somehow become ‘normal’.

Compulsive masturbation is a symptom of underlying psychological concerns and/or early trauma that often requires eliminating the behavior altogether – at least for a time – while the individual is undergoing assessment and treatment. Just as the alcoholic is likely to never again be able to drink like a healthy non-alcoholic person, those who compulsively masturbate may not be able to continue or return to solo masturbation, but will likely have to both take a time out, later reincorporating sexuality as a part of partner/relationship intimacy.

Photo by Joel Bombardier, available under a Creative Commons attribution license.