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Anxiety, Panic & Guilt of Masturbation

15 October, 2017
Q I deal with anxiety and panic attacks. I have gotten better over the years without any medication, but I still have some lingering worries with it. Is it okay that I am using a self-help guide specific to treating anxiety and panic? The basis of it is based on scientific fact and guides one through the behavioral transformation to eliminate panic and anxiety. Also, I have this thought pattern regarding masturbation: if I masturbate, I will have a "bad anxiety day" the next day as a form of punishment from Allah. I don't know if this is irrational, but it is a pattern that has befallen me. I am not here to justify masturbation or this becomes a discussion about it. I am more curious about that thought pattern being rational/irrational. Thanks.


In this counseling answer:

” If you are seeking a possible permanent change, then CBT may be effective for stopping masturbation. ”

As Salamu ‘Alaykum brother,

Thank for writing to us with your most important question. Anxiety and panic disorders are most uncomfortable and at times frightening as I am sure you know. I applaud your ability and success with using self-help techniques and cognitive-behavioral methods (CBT) to overcome this often debilitating disorder. Anxiety/panic disorder is very common, affecting 40 million adults in the USA alone. The most common treatments are psychotherapy (cognitive-behavioral therapy) and medication. While most who suffer from anxiety/panic disorder do well with psychotherapy alone, people with severe forms usually do end up taking medication, and others (such as yourself) can study the problem, take courses and utilize their own inner resources and learned a skill set to combat the anxiety disorder on their own. There are many self-help courses, classes as well as study guides to teach people how to overcome anxiety panic disorder as you have done.

Regarding your question about using the CBT you have learned to overcome anxiety/panic, to avoid or stop masturbation is subjective in terms of belief systems and goals. If you are seeking a possible permanent change, then CBT may be effective for stopping masturbation. The SocialAnxietyInstitute points out ‘only a change in the brain’s neural pathways (this is what “learning” is) can cause permanent changes to occur so that we can change irrational thinking into rational thinking and then act on it. This is the heart of cognitive and behavior therapy. This is the way the human brain works. As we have discovered more about the human brain, it has helped us develop and design therapies that cause the brain to change, and allow solutions to problems like social anxiety. As many of us have found, if, in the past, we have learned irrational thoughts and beliefs, then, today, we can more easily learn rational thinking patterns and belief systems’. I would advise caution in using CBT for masturbation unless it is an addiction. Sexual addiction is treated by CBT as it causes a change in the way the brain constructs thoughts and neural pathways concerning excessive, ‘abnormal’ sexual desires or impulses.

If masturbating is irrational and an addiction, I may suggest using CBT, but in sha’ Allah use caution as you do not want to get married and then associate sexual desire with punishment. While there are no long-term studies that I could find regarding CBT and masturbation, it would appear to be based on the brief literature reviews that this is one of the issues that it may facilitate associations in the future, as CBT is, as stated, a change in our neural pathways and cognition-learning and associations. Again, as it is used in sexual addiction successfully, you may want to use caution unless you do have a true addiction to masturbation. I would suggest in sha ‘Allah that you explore other options as well.

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Lastly, the urge to masturbate is your body’s way of telling you that you have natural needs that can be fulfilled through marriage. As you are 24, the idea of marriage is not premature. As the goal of CBT is to reduce, reconstruct or change irrational thoughts or behaviors “CBT is to modify one’s thoughts, beliefs, and perceptions, and to change one’s usual pattern of behaving, modifying the way in which you think can facilitate both emotional and behavioral change.” If you are willing to change your associations of desire, please do make du’aa’ to Allah for guidance as CBT can be a powerful reconstructive tool.

We wish you the best brother. You are in our prayers.


Disclaimer: The conceptualization and recommendations stated in this response are very general and purely based on the limited information provided in the question. In no event shall AboutIslam, its counselors or employees be held liable for any damages that may arise from your decision in the use of our services.

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About Aisha Mohammad
Aisha has a PhD in psychology, an MS in public health and a PsyD. Aisha worked as a Counselor/Psychologist for 12 years at Geneva B. Scruggs Community Health Care Center in New York. She has worked with clients with mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, panic disorder, trauma, and OCD. She also facilitated support groups and provided specialized services for victims of domestic violence, HIV positive individuals, as well youth/teen issues. Aisha is certified in Mindfulness, Trauma Informed Care, Behavioral Management, Restorative Justice/ Healing Circles, Conflict Resolution, Mediation, and Confidentiality & Security. Aisha is also a Certified Life Coach, and Relationship Workshop facilitator. Aisha has a part-time Life Coaching practice in which she integrates the educational concepts of stress reduction, mindfulness, introspection, empowerment, self love and acceptance and spirituality to create a holistic healing journey for clients. Aisha is also a part of several organizations that advocates for prisoner rights/reentry, social & food justice, as well as advocating for an end to oppression & racism. In her spare time, Aisha enjoys her family, photography, nature, martial arts classes, Islamic studies, volunteering/charity work, as well as working on her book and spoken word projects.