What may start off seemingly innocent–flirtatiously texting someone you know or online–can turn into a serious addiction with a host of negative mental, emotional, and even physical consequences.
Sexting can be defined as sexually interactive or arousing text messaging, ranging from verbally sexual messages to pictures and more. In the beginning, it may feel fun and exciting to flirt this way, however, over time sexting can lead to several serious, negative consequences.
Symptoms & Outcomes of Sexting Addiction
The negative effects of sexting are similar to those of other sexual addictions. Simply speaking, the symptoms of sexual addictions often include:
- Loss of productivity
- Difficulty focusing
- Feelings of guilt & shame
- Insecurity and low self-esteem
- Deep, internal loneliness
- Low energy or difficult feeling energized without external stimulants
- Difficulty feeling positive emotions
- Depression and anxiety
- Brain fog
- Poor decision making due to hyperfrontality or the erosion of your prefrontal cortex (the rational thinking part of your brain) similar to that of drug use
- And adrenal fatigue, resulting in feeling depleted or overwhelmed in addition to lower testosterone, serotonin, adrenaline, and dopamine
Sexting can also lead to dating and relationship problems as it clouds your thinking in finding and choosing the best partner for you. Furthermore, sexting can reduce or eliminate your feelings of real love and reduce loyalty and commitment.
How to Quit a Sexting Addiction
Successfully quitting any sexual addiction requires a multi-fasceted approcah and strategy. This means working through the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual aspects of recovery with practical strategies that rewire your brain and illicit long-term change.
The following strategies are taken from the book “Fight The Beast: The Proven 30 Day System for Quitting Porn and Sexual Addiction” by Heather Nielsen. In her ground-breaking new book, she shares the step-by-step method for healing, rewiring your brain, and gaining freedom from porn successfully used by thousands in the Fight The Beast program.
Understanding Why You Engage in Sexting
The first thing to do when quitting any addiction, is to identify what that addiction provides or its perceived value to you. Understanding the perceived benefit of any addiction is actually the secret to recovery. It is only by identifying and understanding your reason for continuing the behavior, you will be able to replace it, satisfy your deeper needs, change your reasoning, and successfully quit.
You may ask yourself: Why do I do it? What do I get from sexting?
When it comes to sexting, people often engage for the following reasons:
- Loneliness (emotional or physical)
- Seeking validation
- Wanting to feel connection
- Or to enjoy physical pleasure from something that feels less meaningless and more connected than porn
Understanding why you personally engage in the behavior will help you create a strategy for recovery.
Strategy #1: Address Your Deeper Needs
When quitting a sexting addiction, part of your recovery strategy will include replacing your deeper needs with a healthy alternative. Loneliness and connection, for example, can be satisfied with a healthier outlet such as planned activities with friends and family. The need for validation can likewise be replaced by developing a healthy self-esteem.
By identifying and replacing your deeper needs with healthier alternatives, you are able to break free from the root causes of your addiction to achieve freedom and greater peace of mind.
Strategy #2: Clearly Define Your Goal and Commitment.
Without clearly defined parameters and a written goal, you are more likely to go beyond your boundaries and relapse.
Try the following format:
“I want to quit [define my new boundaries] because I acknowledge the negative repercussions such as [negative side effects you would like to avoid], and I strongly believe that [my motivating reason] is more important to me than relapse.”
Also, be sure to write it down! Writing down your goals greatly affects your success.
Strategy #3: Remove Triggers
The next key strategy is to remove your triggers. Because sexting typically involves another person who is likely reaching out to you, it can be difficult to not give in. This can add an extra component of guilt or pressure to give in.
To be effective in sexual addiction recovery, you must remove triggers wherever possible. Triggers can be any person, place, thing, thought, behavior, or activity that prompts you to crave or think about your addiction. Triggers can be external or internal, and it’s important to learn to identify which ones affect you. Triggers can also include things like social media, apps, movies, TV shows, and even friends that are influencing your addiction or hindering you from reaching your goals.
If your sexting addiction is attached to a specific person or several, it will be important for you to draw a line or possibly even cut ties with those relationships. If it comes down to it, that may mean: setting a date, getting tough with yourself (and possibly them), and saying goodbye. The initial sacrifice may be hard, but I assure you the benefits will far outweigh the loss.
Remember, a real and healthy relationship will respect your decision to end a bad habit. However only an unhealthy and disrespectful relationship will object or continue to cross your boundaries. This can be a useful tool in determining if a relationship has long term potential or if it is a problematic distraction.
Strategy #4: Choose an Accountability Partner
Find an accountability partner or surround yourself with like-minded individuals who can push you to success. When you have an accountability partner, you are less likely to justify relapse. This is a powerful tool for success you shouldn’t skip!
Look for someone who will be supportive, encouraging, and provide well-grounded advice.
If you’re worried about judgment or shame when choosing an accountability partner, consider joining our free and supportive community at http://member.fightthebeast.org!
Remember: It’s a journey!
Quitting any sexual addiction is a journey that takes time and effort to work through. Although it may be difficult, don’t lose hope! There are many resources out there, including those at Fight The Beast, that can help you achieve your goals and break free from sexting addiction.
Stay in the fight, and remember: your freedom is worth it!
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