In it he cites excessive eating, intemperance in drinking, and idleness as causative factors of onanism.

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Cancerous humor, which would lie dormant in the system their lifetime, is inflamed, and commences its eating, destructive work.

The mind is often utterly ruined, and insanity supervenes.

"Onania" was a huge success with over 60 editions published and being translated into several languages.

In 1743–45, the British physician Robert James published A Medicinal Dictionary, in which he described masturbation as being "productive of the most deplorable and generally incurable disorders" and stated that "there is perhaps no sin productive of so many hideous consequences".

Social views regarding masturbation taboo have varied greatly in different cultures, and over history.

There are depictions of male and female masturbation in prehistoric rock paintings around the world.

Doctor John Harvey Kellogg was an especially zealous campaigner against masturbation.

Kellogg was able to draw upon many medical sources' claims such as "neither the plague, nor war, nor small-pox, nor similar diseases, have produced results so disastrous to humanity as the pernicious habit of onanism," credited to one Dr. Kellogg strongly warned against the habit in his own words, claiming of masturbation-related deaths "such a victim literally dies by his own hand," among other condemnations.

In his observation of "congenital idiotism" (page 292) he notes, "The venereal appetite exists in them with great force, and they gratify it after puberty by onanism." By 1838 Jean Esquirol declared in his Des Maladies Mentales that masturbation was "recognized in all countries as a cause of insanity." If the practice [of self-indulgence] is continued from the age of fifteen and upward, nature will protest against the abuse he has suffered, and continues to suffer, and will make them pay the penalty for the transgression of his laws, especially from the ages of thirty to forty-five, by numerous pains in the system, and various diseases, such as affection of the liver and lungs, neuralgia, rheumatism, affection of the spine, diseased kidneys, and cancerous tumors.