Do you frequently masturbate and when you’re not do you think about masturbating? If you answered, “yes” you could be addicted to masturbating. To help understand where addiction to masturbation stems from and how someone can overcome addiction to masturbation, I have interviewed therapist Dr. Karen Apsel.
Tell me a little bit about yourself.
I received my undergraduate degree from Duke University. I have a doctorate in clinical psychology from the University of Virginia. I currently have a private practice in Dupont Circle in Washington, DC, where I work with individuals and couples. In addition to working with people struggling with addictions/compulsions (particularly sexual ones including masturbation and internet pornography) as well as their spouses, I also work with clients with depression, anxiety, relationship issues, recovery from childhood trauma, and a whole host of non-addiction issues.
Where does the addiction to masturbation stem from?
“Addictive or compulsive masturbation is in many ways similar to other addictions or compulsions. It is a way to escape uncomfortable emotions and [can] become so habitual it takes on a life of its own. Sometimes, people are aware of the emotions they are trying to numb; sometimes they are so adept at compartmentalizing their feelings that they don’t even record an awareness of what they’re feeling before they begin the avoidance process. The question of why compulsive masturbation as opposed to compulsive overeating, or gambling, or any other addictive/compulsive act is different for each person. Some might have experienced a sexual trauma in childhood that puts them on that path. For others, masturbation may have begun pre-puberty as simply a way to self-soothe and then developed into a compulsion. Yet for others, there may be no sexual/masturbatory origin whatsoever. It just started as a way to feel good and escape.”
What type of impact can addiction to masturbation have on someone’s overall life?
Clients who compulsively or addictively masturbate describe a turning inward into themselves, disconnecting from the people and the world around them. Thus their friendships and romantic relationships are usually less intimate or less connected. It absolutely affects one’s healthy sex-drive. Usually people who compulsively masturbate are less interested in interpersonal sex. And the sexual release itself is also diminished when one does it so often, so the “high” is less good.”
What are some tips you can give to help someone overcome their addiction to masturbation?
“I work with my clients on the two sides of the addiction: the behavioral and the psychological. The behavioral part is the habit itself, and people need to find ways to alter their lifestyle in whatever way necessary to help break the habit. The longer one avoids doing it, the less pull the compulsion will have on one. The psychological part involves figuring out what emotions are being avoided, and developing healthy ways of handling/living with those feelings. Stuffing or compartmentalizing feelings is a short term solution with negative long term implications. It doesn’t work to “white knuckle” it and just try to hold your breath and avoid the behavior. Although masturbation is a healthy part of most adults’ lives, the compulsive masturbater may have to avoid all masturbation altogether, at least for a period of time until more healthy coping methods are established.”
What type of professional help is available for someone who is addicted to masturbation?
“Obviously, I am a proponent of individual and sometimes group psychotherapy, preferably with someone experienced working with these types of addictions. There are also some 12-step meetings that some people find helpful – Sexaddiction Anonymous (SA) or Sex-Love Addicts Anonymous (SLAA).”
Thank you Dr. Apsel for doing the interview on how to overcome addiction to masturbation. For more information on Dr. Apsel or her work you can check out her website on www.karenapsel.com
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