What Are The Triggers Of Sex Addiction Relapse?

A person seeking to manage an addiction to sex must learn how to recognize and respond to a variety of "triggers", which are risk factors that can lead to a return to unwanted behavior, known as a "relapse".  It's been said that a relapse of sexual sobriety starts well before the actual behavior returns, and so it's wise to be vigilant about the following categories of triggers.

Environmental triggers of sex addiction relapse

It's natural to want to look at people we find visually appealing, but gazing at sexually attractive people is risky for a person with a tendency toward sexually compulsive behaviors.  Even when not immediately arousing, visual lingering is capable of fueling an unhealthy spiral of risky thoughts, feelings and fantasies.  The danger is not limited to overt staring: even a series of subtle and seemingly innocent glances is sufficient to "drink in" another person's sexual allure.  The need for careful "eyeball management" can be challenging for a person who has grown accustomed to experiencing such visual "hits" hundreds of thousands of times over decades.  Techniques such as the  "3 second rule" can be useful for rapidly recognizing and stopping the influence of environmental triggers.  

Psychological triggers of sex addiction relapse

Compulsive sexual behavior can be triggered by a wide range of psychological stress factors.  A brain that begins engaging in sexually obsessive channels of thought is often unconsciously attempting to numb, divert or otherwise manage a dificult emotional state such as anger, anxiety, sadness or shame.  It's important to develop strong coping skills for effectively dealing with these emotions.  As an Atlanta therapist specializing in the treatment of problematic sexual behavior patterns such as sex and porn addiction I spend a lot of time helping my clients develop emotional resiliency and coping mechanisms for managing psychological stressors.

Opportuniistic triggers of sex addiction relapse 

Sexually addictive urges often intensify in the absence of accountability to others. Some sexual impulses are fueled simply by the opportunity to engage in them without being discovered.  This is why internet filters can be very valuable in reducing the opportunity to "get away" with online sexual excursions.  One of the many benefits of 12-step support groups is their ability to provide a much-needed source of accountability and reduce the risk of extended periods of isolation.  

Cognitive triggers of sex addiction relapse  

Certain trains of thoughts can be dangerous for a recovering sex addict.  Daydreaming about past sexual escapades (known as "euphoric recall"), engaging in sexual fantasy, and minimizing the potential negative consequences of resuming unwanted sexual behavior are just some of the distorted thought patterns that can lead a sex addict to relapse.  These patterns can be hard to recognize in their early stages without mindful vigilence, which makes them doubly dangerous.  Counseling and 12-step support groups can help disrupt the many examples of "stinking thinking" which are common to all addictive thought processes.

Biological triggers of sex addiction relapse

Basic physical influences and natural sexual drives can pose a challenge to extended sexual sobriety.  Waking up with an erection or simply going for periods of time without sexual release can spark strong desires to engage in sexual behavior.  Having the benefit of a receptive sexual partner is a great blessing for some recovering sex addicts.  Occasional masturbation in a safe manner (which means no pornography, among others things) is an eventual option for some recovering sex addicts but not for others.  This is best discussed with trusted sources of guidance such as a therapist, 12-step sponsor and recovery community members.  The reality is that extended sexual abstinence can effect a person much like an extended diet: initially the hunger is there but after a period of time the body adjusts to the new reality and cravings diminish greatly.

Triggers are an inevitable part of any addiction recovery process.  It is certain they will occur, but it is not always possible to know when and where.  The ability to plan ahead for how to deal with each type of trigger is essential to maintaining long-term sexual sobriety.  

As a certified sex addiction therapist (CSAT) who helps people in Atlanta live in a sexually balanced and controlled manner that is safe, sane, ethical and fulfilling, I welcome you to contact me directly if I can provide professional assistance for your journey.