MASTURBATION is common among men and women of all ages. People often feel embarrassed, guilty or ashamed to openly discuss it. But there is nothing to be ashamed of as long as it is done in private and in moderation. People are not aware that masturbation has health benefits, they instead dwell more on the misconceptions. Experts share their advice on masturbation. WHAT IS MASTURBATION? According to a Johannesburg physiologist, Karen Moross, it is important to speak about masturbation since people feel ashamed of the act. “Masturbation is the erotic stimulation of one’s own genitals for sexual pleasure, most often to the point of orgasm,” she says. About 92 percent of men and 62 percent of women masturbate during their life span. “Although people’s attitudes about masturbation differ widely, there is no evidence that masturbation is in any way physically, psychologically, or emotionally harmful,” she says. “It is also considered the safest form of sex in the prevention of pregnancy or sexual transmitted diseases, including the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV).” WHY MASTURBATE? According to Dr Karry Tosh, a gynecologist, people masturbate for many reasons such as pleasure, enjoyment, tension release and fun. “The pleasure people get from masturbation depends on why they do it,” he says. He adds that masturbation is a healthy way of relieving the sexual tension that can build up over time. This happens to people without partners and whose partners are not willing to have sex. PROS AND CONS Masturbation has too many myths attached to it and these myths make it difficult for the people to understand the pros and cons of masturbation. These myths are; masturbation will cause erectile dysfunction, blindness, infertility, low sperm count and mental illness. However, masturbation has health benefits and has been identified as a method to improve sexual health. Research suggests masturbation, often to the point of orgasm, can relieve sexual tension, reduce stress, enhance sexual satisfaction with intimate partners and promote rest and concentration. Masturbation has its cons. “Masturbating roughly, for men, can result in slight swelling of the manhood, but this usually heals in a few days,” says Dr Karry. The other downside is that some individuals masturbate more than they should and that affects their responsibilities and relationships. ADDICTION People may find masturbation as a way to escape reality. Karen says that these are common signs of being addicted: Lack of intimacy: When one partner has unmet sexual needs for intimacy, then their unconscious desire for sex becomes much higher. Bad moods and life problems: Some people try to escape from their problems rather than facing them, these people use masturbation as an escape from problems. They normally masturbate when they are feeling down, sad or heart broken. Fear of intimacy: Some people fear intimacy based on their past experiences. Those people become addicted to masturbation. If frequent masturbation interferes with your responsibilities, there may be a problem and you should seek professional help. Here are some tips to follow: Avoid pornography: Try to fight the temptation by deleting all the pornographic videos you have. Avoid loneliness: Pick a hobby. Find something new to do that you enjoy that will help your mind and thoughts to be healthier.