Monday, April 5, 2010

What does a relapse in sexual addiction mean?

In the field of sexual compulsivity treatment, addressing the reality of a relapse is important. It is highy probably that you will experience some type of relapse around your high-risk situations, feeling triggers or thinking errors: you will move into a realm of acting out behaviors somewhere in your process. Why? Most likely because you’re HUMAN! Being human acknowledges that perfection is not possible. Here are a few suggestions to help you address a sexual health relapse.

1) In the process of moving toward sexual health, to assume that you will never make a mistake sets you up for the cycle of shame and guilt that is probably a big part of your cycle at this point. Now, this doesn’t mean being human is permission to relapse (nice thinking error), but it does provide a starting point toward self-forgiveness.

2) It is remarkably easy to relapse. Depending on the circumstances, the ease by which a relapse occurs is shockingly easy. If sexually explicit material is a form of relapse, simply walking in a mall could lead to a relapse (Seriously, have you seen the display windows!). Recognizing the ease by which triggers occur helps frame a plan for ongoing sexual health.

3) Relapse can help you learn. By examining the relapse, you can uncover new factors associated with your acting out cycle as well as set up plans to address these factors. In many cases, the relapse can help prioritize treatment issues.

4) The degree of relapse is a sign of progress. Often what happens is that the intensity of acting out decreases. Rather than hooking up with someone via a website, the behavior this time might be limited to viewing sexually explicit material. While still something to be addressed, this is progress in my book. (For a more formal discussion, search out the term harm-reduction). (As with #1 above, you can’t use this to justifying acting out.)

5) Telling on yourself when a small or large relapse occurs is a reflection of the treatment progress. By using your support network, you demonstrate the ongoing skills to move toward health. The amount of disclosure to your primary network is a measure of your progress. Your ability to learn from the relapse is also a measure of your progress.

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