For many people who struggle with sexual addiction, identifying the triggers – this people, places, things, smells, sounds, emotions, etc. – that bring about urges to use is a critical step to establishing sobriety.
The people we work with who struggle with sexual addiction often are unable to identify specific triggers. They’ll say things like, “stress” or “frustration” or “boredom.” Although this is the experience many of our clients have, there’s usually something more concrete “behind” these words or feelings that are the real triggers.
“Boredom,” for example, may bring about feelings of loneliness or low self worth (if I was worthy I wouldn’t be alone) and these feelings or thoughts are specific and can be worked with in therapy. Additionally, “stress” my be hiding feelings of being overwhelmed, which may bring up deeper emotions or wounds such as “not good enough” or “defective.” When we identify triggers at this level, we are now in a place to use evidence-based therapy techniques (we specifically use EMDR) to “decouple” the connection between these feelings and the urge to act out.
People who struggle with sexual addiction often have a more limited emotional vocabulary. Truth be told, many people who struggle with addiction of any kind often have this issue. So, when someone with sex addiction feels lonely, it’s often mistaken for boredom – but those feelings still triggers the lonely emotional centers. Without a clear understanding of lonely – and if you can’t identify the problem it’s hard to fix – acting out becomes a way to “deaden the pain” or escape or avoid those unwanted feelings.
Using Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy, our clients are able to “decouple” the emotions from the urge to act out. In essence, they are “desensitizing” the feelings, learning to sit with the feelings, and discovering different, healthier ways to understand and process the emotions.
The use EMDR in conjunction with the proven tools we use to treat addiction provide a powerful way for our clients to understand and manage their sexual addiction, their triggers and urges to act out.