Article on the spiritual and psychological of masturbation


It's a good article that addresses the psychological states that can underlie, cause and perpetuate masturbation. However I was a little disappointed that the article did not go into how one gets out of being a compulsive masturbator. One thing I've always noticed is that there is not much help out there, just a bunch of problems people SAY underlie masturbation, but no concrete solutions, and no lasting success stories either from what I've read at this website from which one could draw an example.

The problems brought up seem so integral to one's being that I don't think they are problems that one solves under self-direction. So what to do? In my experiences the majority of priests are much too cowardly to address this issue from the pulpit, and even in private, whether that be in the confessional or in a meeting, most priests don't want to talk about this issue. I guess that makes sense, but you'd think that priests would be able to grow up about this and talk about it like an adult instead of a giggling shy teenager. I guess the other route one could take to seek help for this vice and the deep psychological wounds that can underlie it would be counseling, however that is usually prohibitively expensive, and as well, if one studies the history of it, one sees that psychiatry is a joke and a pseudo-science.

This seems to be a growing problem that nobody is winning, and within the church (since this is a catholic website) priests seem to be much too cowardly to mention anything about it to their flock, who instead take their cues from the world around them and become trapped in this vice. I mean take these sermons by St. Alphonsus Ligouri (pdf) and compare it to the utter lack of mention about the vice of impurity coming from the pulpits to the faithful. There's definitely a spirit of wordliness begetting cowardliness in play here.

Thoughts on article?


Proto-science, not pseudo-science. There are differences. A proto-science is a science in search of a firm theoretical basis; there is empirical evidence, but interpretation of this evidence is a problem. As for it being a joke, yes, we’re generally very funny guys outside office hours. Especially the night after the board exam results are declared :smiley:

On a more serious note, there can be several solutions to this problem, depending on what causes the repetitive / compulsive masturbation. The trouble is that most psychiatric theorists are social liberals, and hence take the paradoxical “masturbation good, porn okay, compulsive use of either bad” position. Science teaches us otherwise, even if it’s often misrepresented.


I respectfully disagree. Concrete solutions are offered: 12 Step groups such as Sexaholics Anonymous come most immediately to mind.

There are also numerous outreaches and recovery programs available nowadays; Candeo ( and its Catholic offshoot RECLAiM ( being the most well known and possibly the most effective.

Moreover, the article you linked does provide some very important pieces of the solution:

*Numerous psychological studies have demonstrated the benefits of faith in addressing emotional conflicts such as sadness and anxiety. Spiritual direction, meditative prayer, and the grace of the sacraments are helpful in diminishing loneliness by strengthening a bond with the Lord's love, in building the trust that diminishes anxiety, in strengthening confidence in one's God-given gifts, and in decreasing anger.

Fr. John Harvey, OSFS, recommended the act of surrendering one's life into God's hands by a decision of one's will in this struggle. He wrote, "Masturbation can become so much a part of one's pattern of behavior that its elimination will leave a deep experiential void, which must be filled in some way. I suggest that experience of real relationships with God in prayer, and with other persons in friendship will fill that void." (Harvey 1993, p. 45)*

Hope this was helpful.**


I skimmed the article, but I like what I saw.

Very often, I see two distinct proposals for dealing with this problem: a spiritual, and a psychological approach, and too often people only want to consider one or the other. The spiritual way involves much prayer, and surrendering to God's grace (still not quite sure exactly how that is done), and frequent reception of the sacraments. The psychological approach includes behavior modification, cognitive behavioral techniques, and group support or talk therapy.

It makes sense to me that a concerned person of faith trying to overcome habitual masturbation would seek to avail themselves of both ways, and the Church is recognizing this too. More and more, I see the tentative findings of neuroscience showing up in Catholic reports on the subject, and I am encouraged by this development.

One thing I notice, Catholic resources for chastity are very often geared toward young people - teenagers and young adults. The idea seems to be, if you never start, you never have to quit (and quitting can be quite difficult). These resources are not so helpful for those with an established habit, but still better than nothing.

As for priests bringing up the subject, it is still socially taboo, not to mention an age-appropriate subject. How would parents with very young children feel if Father made this the topic of every other homily? Whenever I bring up the subject in the confessional, the priests I encounter are never shy, and always offer some sort of pastoral advice.

The bottom line for me is, once you start, quitting will require diligence and very often hard work. Most people, myself included, do not want to face this. We want easy. Asking another for help will take us out of our cocoon comfort zone, and we resist this as well. The situation is far from hopeless, however, if overcoming it is truly our intention.


:thumbsup: Shout out for Reclaim and Candeo! These are arguably the two best programs which integrate both the spiritual and psychological approach to recovering a balanced and chaste sexuality that I have yet seen. Reclaim is specifically set up for Catholics, under the guidance of Bishop David Ricken of the Diocese of Green Bay, Wisconsin.


[quote="Estevao, post:1, topic:345145"]
Thoughts on article?


Ok, now I have read what good St. Alphonsus Liguori has to say. Are you suggesting that a return to fire and brimstone sermons will help solve this problem? Like it or not, the Sexual Revolution did occur, in spite of fiery preaching. I am not so convinced that a fear based approach ever really did keep people from carrying out deeds of darkness (or deeds of solitary sin often done in darkness). More likely, it left them with silent shame, afraid of facing reproach instead of forgiveness in the confessional.

We need to hear the true teaching of the Church, yes, but to close our eyes to a better physiological and psychological understanding of the nature of habitual sin would be foolish, in my opinion.


I would go so far as to say, because of such preaching, especially when it became obsessive and other equally grave matters were neglected. (I’m not referring to St. Alphonsus, who was a great saint and preacher, but to some of his successors who lacked proportion.) Restraints are a tricky thing. Too little, and we run wild. Too much, and we struggle to break free, wounding ourselves in the process. Striking a balance is what the Church has always tried to do. Bl. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body is an excellent example. :slight_smile:


The OP laments the lack of solutions offered in the article referenced in the first post. It may be that there are not simple, canned solutions. But, there are various good and proper strategies, but none are guaranteed to "work" for everyone. And what does "work" mean? If you get married, you will probably stop. As you get older, your desire naturally wanes, and you may eventually stop.

Further, the experience of each individual is different. I know one woman who tells me she has never masturbated, and moreover, has never experienced the slightest desire or inclination to do so. Clearly, we humans are very diverse!

It would be a mistake to assume that everyone who has masturbated is headed for the psychological issues covered in the article. Yes, it's better not to start, but that won't be the situation for a majority of teens (boys at least). But, the occurrences will be minimised if their life is otherwise well ordered, and happy.


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