Mental masturbation

Have you ever heard of mental masturbation? Sounds like a somewhat abrasive idea. I did not expect to be writing an article with the word masturbation at any point in my life, let alone in the title, but here we are. 

What if I told you that many people are guilty of this habit every day? 

Picture this; you open Youtube on your phone or computer. Your goal? To watch content from your favorite motivational content creator. A few hours later, you are still in the same spot about to watch another video from your recommendation, either on the same topic or something related, at least according to the recommendation algorithm. 

How many of these ‘educational’ binges have you had in the last three months. You are probably thinking to yourself, what’s so wrong with watching motivational videos? There is absolutely nothing with them. To understand the problem, it may be best first to understand what mental masturbation is. 

What is mental masturbation?

Shocked, Exploding Head, Emoji, Overwhelmed, Emoticon
Too much information

According to Urban Dictionary, mental masturbation refers to the act of engaging in intellectually stimulating conversations, usually as an excuse to avoid taking constructive action in your life. But, it’s not only limited to engaging in intellectually stimulating conversations. It encompasses any intellectually stimulating activities that may make you get a lot of a-ha moments but that you will likely not act on. 

What are concrete examples of mental masturbation?

Examples of mental masturbation

Example 1 – In my life

About five days ago, I realized that I wanted to take concrete steps to lose some of the excess weight I’ve been lagging about. I have been on this journey before. The last time though, I did not know that the steps I was taking would lead to weight loss. I now know what my body needs to lose weight, namely light cardio and a form of intermittent fasting. 

Yet, I spent an entire afternoon researching videos on OMAD (a version of intermittent fasting). Initially, I was just looking for a bit of information on what to expect. How I ended up watching more than ten testimonials on the effectiveness of OMAD, I am not sure. It’s almost like I was looking for someone to convince me to do something I already knew I wanted to do and I knew would work. 

Example 2

Books, Stack, Literature, Knowledge
mental masturbation can be reading too many books on the same topic

This might be a little controversial but bear with me. Let’s say you believe in religion/spiritual movement A. Beyond the time when you are a newbie, how many times do you find yourself consuming content after content from said topics? Yes, they may be encouraging, and yes, they may be enlightening, but how much is too much. 

How do humans learn?

There are many theories on how people learn, each with its merits and demerits. Mental masturbation contradicts the experiential learning theory. Imagine teaching kindergarten-level children about how certain animals look in a book. Then imagine taking another group of kids from the same level to the zoo and letting them see the animals for themselves. Which group do you think they would remember more. I’d like to argue that they will likely remember the zoo experience for longer than they will remember the theoretical concepts. That is one of the reasons why using the experiential model of teaching is so effective

The consumption bias

E Commerce, Shopping Basket, Shopping
There’s more to consumerism than shopping

We live in a world where there is no shortage of things to consume. By now, you must have heard about how consumer-centric our society is. Studies are mixed when it comes to the effects of consumerism on happiness but it is becoming clear that increased consumerism does not necessarily equate happiness Thatmay explain why more and more people are trying out minimalist lifestyle but i digress. 

One of the ways we find ourselves consuming more than we should is through researching and gathering information. The internet is a blackhole of information not all of which is accurate. This is what had led to the increasing popularity of the term ‘information overload‘. Information overload has a significant role to play in analysis paralysis which is the lack of action by individuals due to overthinking or overanalyzing a situation.

Unfortunately, unlike binge eating, where your body may physically stop you from consuming any more food, there is no natural mechanism preventing you from consuming too much information. Instead, you find that many people switch between topics when they are ‘tired’ of one subject, almost like switching from candy to cakes when you’re full. 

What’s so bad about mental masturbation?

Books, Pages, Open, Open Books, Novels
When it comes to mental masturbation: how much is too much

The problem with mental masturbation is that it gives you the illusion of making progress even when you are not. Most of our information sources are designed so you feel rewarded for completing specific steps. You feel good for each article or video you complete. In that sense, you may not be making any progress, but your brain is being rewarded for every piece of content you consume. The result is an urge to consume more and more. 

What should you do?

We will dive deeper into the seolutions for mental masturbation in the future but here’s the gist of it; develop a bias towards action. You gain nothing from watching hundreds of online workout videos. If you were, however, to follow one for one month, the difference might be noticeable. One tip to help you is to decide how long you can research a particular topic before taking action. 


From this article, I’m sure you can recall instances of mental masturbation in your life. Or, you may know someone that likely needs to read this article. In a future article, we will dive deeper into what you can do to stop it. Additionally, we will also talk about the connection between mental masturbation and ADHD. 

Thank you for reading my article, 

Until next time, 

Wishing you love and light, 


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