Masturbation is the act of stimulating the external sexual organs by oneself, accompanied by fantasies that are usually of a sexual nature, and having as its aim the discharge of sexual excitation. The most important consequence of masturbation is the guilt which usually accompanies it, and the struggle to defend against such guilt which may last for years and absorb all the energy of the psychic system.
Freud tended to the view that neurasthenia could follow upon excessive masturbation; it is nowadays felt that neurasthenia is more likely an outcome of insufficient orgasm - that is, if anxieties and guilt disturb the satisfactory character of the masturbation. It would also seem that the adolescent in conflict about the practice has a deep need to believe that masturbation is a wrong thing and he often resists enlightenment about its harmlessness. This may be because the conscious masturbatory fantasies are distorted derivatives of unconscious Oedipal fantasies, and if the adolescent did believe that masturbation was harmless, he would have to face the Oedipal desires which were responsible for the guilt.
Some religious teachers have gone to absurd and unscientific extremes in their efforts to discourage the young from the practice of masturbation. Such statements have included threats of insanity as resulting from its practice. This is without scientific foundation. The only psychological illness that can result from masturbation is from irrational and excessive fears and guilt feelings arising from such warnings, especially when such fears and feelings are related by the young person to experiences beyond his control. On the other hand, compulsive forms of masturbation can be symptomatic of emotional and mental disturbances that stem from other sources.