Sexual Compulsion Triggers

Identifying Sexual Compulsion Triggers: a key component of sexual addiction treatment is figuring out when and where during your day that you are most likely to act out sexually.  Then creating a plan for how you will deal with these chunks of time so that when they come up, you do not act out.  These time periods where you are more likely to act out sexually, are known as acting out hot spots.  For some, a hot spot may be a regularly occurring time in the morning, afternoon, or evening, and it can be pinpointed easily when a daily schedule is mapped out.  For others, hot spots are times when they become stressed out and need a release, so they are less predictable.  A hot spot could be any times during the day where you have nothing do.  Or it might be a time when you are in transition from one activity to another.  Or you may wake-up feeling pressure inside to act, go through your day without acting out, and the hop spot will come when you are looking for a reward for you good behavior. Sometimes hot spots are the same time every day, sometimes they are not the same time, but have a pattern, and others are scattered and change with the week or month.

Sitting down and writing out your schedule from the minute you wake up to the minute you go to bed, including every single thing you do during the day, is how you can see what days and times you are most likely to act out sexually.  To do this, take out a sheet of paper.   Write the days of the week at the top.  Under each day write what time you wake up.  List everything you do in your morning routine and how long it takes you.  Move on to your commute to work.  Then list the typical activities you do while at work during the day such as making phone calls, filing, time on the computer, lunch breaks, coffee breaks, and so on. The more detail you can put the better.  List the time frames for each activity as well (i.e. coffee from 11:15 to 11:30, meeting with boss 11:30 to 12:15).  After work, schedule in your commute home, and any evening activities you engage in.  Put in dinner time.  If you watch a certain TV show, put it in the schedule.  The list the activities in your evening routine and the time it takes you.  Continue this process for every single day of the week.  It will probably be more difficult to create a definitive schedule for any days don’t work, but do your best.  Make sure you record any and all FREE TIME! For most people with a sexual addiction, free time is an acting out hot spot.

Once you have created your weekly schedule, sit down and really reflect on it.  Think of you most recent acting out behavior, when did it occur, where was it, how long did it last, who was there, did anything out of the ordinary occur right before or right after you acted out.  Write that in the schedule. Follow that process back until you notice a pattern and can zone in on your hot spots.  Now take those times you have marked as hot spots, write them on another piece of paper, leaving some space between each one.  What you are going to do now it make a list of coping strategies that you will engage in during those hot spots.  Make copies of this list and keep it on you, maybe in your wallet, or visible like on your fridge, especially during your hotspots.

Some of the coping strategies you can use include: holding yourself accountable, setting up a regular exercise schedule, going to a meeting, engaging in a hobby, removing yourself from tempting situations, and using the buddy system.

  • To hold yourself accountable means to set a plan into motion that will stop acting out behaviors from occurring and prevent slipping back into those behaviors once they have stopped.  In your plan you will include anything you think will fill the time slot you’ve considered to be an acting out hot spot.  The plan should include a list of at least 2-3 proactive strategies you will try for each hot spot or when you get an urge to act out.  These strategies will be used when you get an urge to act out.  Since each hotspot is different, you may need different strategies.  Consider if you have one spot at 11 am and one at 11 pm.  You can go for a cup of coffee with a coworker or friend at 11 am, but will having caffeine at 11 pm make you jittery and thus more prone to act out? Develop the strategies around the hot spots, and go with a trial and error game plan until you find ones that work for you.  Carry the plan around with you, share it with a friend, and write a diary or journal about your experience in trying to fight the hot spots.  Keep a record of what works and what doesn’t work.  Make sure to edit the plan, and you activity log as often as necessary. If a hot spot changes into a scheduled activity, put that in your schedule.  If a new hot spot creeps up, put that in too, then develop a new plan.
  • In your plan you can include exercise.  Exercise is a great way to relieve sexual stress Exercise routines are a good way to battle hot spots because they are routine.  When someone engages in routine exercise for a long enough time, they start to fell like it is something that has always been a part of them.  Our bodies are made for movement and many times, if we are not getting enough exercise, we will become vulnerable to negative ways of coping.  If you have a chunk of time to fill that is the same time every day or week, you can plan to go to the gym then.  Exercise helps work out some of the energy that is built up in preparation for sexual acting out.  It can also be a way for you to make some acquaintances if for instance you join a gym and go to a cardio class during your hot spots.  You will meet new friends, relieve stress, and start the fight against your addiction all in one.
  • Some people find it helpful to be in a public place during their acting out hot spots. The theory behind this is that if you are not in your comfort zone of your home, office, or where ever your behaviors occur, you will be less likely to engage in those behaviors.  However, for some people, being alone in an outdoor place brings excitement and a potential to act out.  In this case, it is suggested to find something to do with another person and to not go out alone.  Try to meet a friend for coffee, or take a walk in the park together, play a game of chess, anything that physically and mentally engages you with another person in a non-sexual way.  Going to a meeting is a great way to build a connection and get out of your comfort zone.  Scheduling these “coffee dates” on a regular basis will remove the hot spot from your schedule by replacing it with an activity.
  • Lastly, developing a list of people you can “check in with” during your hot spots is critical.  These people include a sponsor, a family member, a friend, a spouse, a spiritual guide/pastor, or therapist.  The key point to keep in mind when creating this list is that these people should be informed of you addiction. They need to know why you are calling them.  They also need to be people you trust.  Make sure you include people you know are going to pick up when you call. Or that they will offer support and non judgment when you tell them you are having an urge.  When a list of 5-10 people, who meet the criteria above, is created, the next step is to practice calling them.  This may sound odd but it is very helpful.  Have an initial conversation with the person explaining why you will be calling, and what you need from him or her when you call.  If you simply want a distraction and a plutonic conversation tell them that.  If you plan on calling this specific person when you have a strong urge, explain that too. When you are practicing, say “I will be using you as a person to hold myself accountable not to act out sexually when I have an urge to do so.”  Come up with your own version of the above statement, just make sure the message gets across that you need someone to check in with and offer support in a hot spot.  The more you say it, the more comfortable it will become.  Practicing will also help the person on the other end get comfortable with the situation as well.  Once you feel comfortable saying this and calling to “check in” when the urge is not that strong, you will feel more at easy when you have to call that person during a hot spot.

When battling a sexual addiction it is necessary to create action based strategies to do during your “acting out hot spots.”  This is simply because will power alone will not work.  Relying on will power will exacerbate the cycle of obsessive worry, acting out, and shame and guilt.  Think of it like this: a person on a diet trying not to think about food can only think about food and then eats chocolate cake then feels bad about it.  Addictive cycles work the same way, forcing yourself to quit acting out will not be enough when that urge takes over; however having a concrete plan of action at you disposal will help fight the urge.


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