3 minute read

Trigger Alert! What’s Yours?

Last Updated: March 19, 2020

Peter Kleponis
Peter Kleponis

Dr. Peter Kleponis is a Licensed Clinical Therapist and the director of Dr. Peter Kleponis & Associates Counseling Services in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania.  He holds an M.A. in Clinical-Counseling Psychology from LaSalle University in Philadelphia, PA, and a Ph.D. in General Psychology from Capella University in Minneapolis, MN. Dr. Kleponis specializes in marriage & family therapy, pastoral counseling, resolving anger, men’s issues, and pornography addiction recovery. He is the author of Integrity Restored: Helping Catholic Families Win the Battle Against Pornography.

For those who want to end their use of pornography, the first step is admitting the problem. After this, you need to identify your triggers. A trigger is a person, place, thing, emotion, or experience that can easily lead one into viewing pornography.

Some triggers can be easy to identify, such as a day at the beach with young girls running around in bikinis. Others, however, can be more difficult to trace. This was the case with Jeff. He was in sales and worked from home, and would often find himself viewing pornography throughout the day. To Jeff, life seemed good, and he couldn’t think of any reason why he kept viewing porn.

Types of Triggers

In order to identify various triggers, it’s important to understand the different types of triggers. While there are countless triggers out there, we can divide them into two categories: sexual and non-sexual.

Sexual Triggers

Sexual triggers are usually things that are blatantly sexual, such as the day at the beach as mentioned above. They can also include things such as pop-up ads on the internet, television commercials during sports games, lingerie catalogs, sexual scenes in cable/satellite television shows or PG, PG-13 or R-rated movies, men’s lifestyle magazines, etc. Advertisers (and pornographers) know that men are visually stimulated and that “sex sells.” Thus, any type of media geared toward men will often have sexually suggestive (or explicit) content. Such content could easily become triggers for pornography use.

In addition, for some, just the sight of a computer, television, cell phone, tablet, etc. could be a sexual trigger, especially if those devices are used to access sexual media. Even memories of past pornography viewed can be triggers. We call this euphoric recall.

Looking at his use of media and when he would fall into viewing pornography, Jeff realized that it often began when he was surfing sports websites. Often there would be advertising links that would lead him to view pornography. Lingerie ads on the internet and in newspapers were also sexual triggers for Jeff.

Non-Sexual Triggers

Non-sexual triggers can be harder to identify; however, they are far more powerful than sexual triggers. They are usually rooted in painful emotions. Men can then turn to pornography to cope with these painful emotions. To help identify non-sexual triggers, I use the acronym: BLAST. The letters stand for the following:

B: Bored or Burnt Out
L: Lonely
A: Angry, Apathetic, Afraid, Ashamed, or Abandoned
S: Sad, Stressed, or Selfish
T: Tired

For Jeff, the most common non-sexual triggers were boredom, loneliness, stress, and being tired. While he was successful at his job, he no longer found it mentally stimulating or fulfilling. Being alone all day at home left him feeling lonely. Making sales wasn’t difficult for Jeff, so he found himself with a lot of free time during the day and he would easily get bored. Not having a fulfilling career was also stressful for Jeff. He was tired of the monotony. He longed for more excitement in his life.

Experiencing these negative emotions would lead Jeff to surf the internet. He would end up on sites that would be sexually triggering, and the combination of sexual and non-sexual triggers would lead him to view pornography. Jeff used the excitement of pornography to deal with the boredom and monotony of his career.

An Exercise to Identify Your Triggers

One doesn’t always act out with pornography immediately after being triggered. It could take hours or days before falling. For example, a man who is triggered to use porn may wait several days until he is on a business trip to view pornography. Some act out with pornography and have no idea how or when they were triggered. In these situations, I recommend an exercise called “Clocking.”

Clocking Exercise: Think of the last time you viewed pornography. What happened in the 48 hours prior to viewing porn? Try to identify any sexual or non-sexual triggers during that time. Many people are surprised at how many triggers they can identify when doing the clocking exercise.

Related: 3 Powerful Porn Triggers (And How to Overcome Them)

Develop New Strategies to Deal With Triggers

Once sexual and non-sexual triggers are identified, strategies can be developed to properly deal with those triggers. This can help you avoid acting out.

For example, Jeff began to look for new opportunities within his company to make his job more interesting and challenging. Instead of working from home, he began to go into the office more often to work so that he would be surrounded by other people.

On days when he did work from home he would make plans to have lunch with friends or colleagues. He also limited his internet use during the day and installed Covenant Eyes on his computer to monitor his internet use. Altogether, this helped him overcome his use of pornography.

When you learn what your sexual and non-sexual triggers are, it can be easy to develop strategies to prevent you from falling into pornography use. Remember, the pornography use is the symptom. Understanding triggers can help you uncover and effectively deal with the root causes of it. This can contribute to lasting sobriety.

  • Comments on: Trigger Alert! What’s Yours?
    1. Art

      Yes. I can relate to the various types of “triggers” mentioned.

      Please continue to pray.


      • I have been addicted to pornography since my teens and I have several of the triggers mentioned above but thanks to covenanteyes, my wife and a brother from our church who is also my accountability partner I have been pornography free for 5 months now. I still need prayer though because I still fear I may fail even with all the good months I have had so please pray for perseverance and courage to continue fighting.

      • darryl allen

        My triggers seem to be multiples, today stress, emotional pain,hope I can catch a meet

    2. Clive

      Nice article, its true about these triggers and its something i experience but sadly i have both sexual and non sexual triggers at play in my life no matter i will try to follow what’s being advised here in order for me to overcome this. I’m tired of all the frustration i fill after watching porn but i just can’t refrain from watching it again and again. I feel hopeless sometimes.

      • Chris McKenna

        Hello, Clive – this is one of our most popular posts with clear steps for breaking free. Each is necessary. If you want to break free, then it really requires getting very serious about the issue, no holds barred, willing to do whatever it takes. Blessings to you, brother.


      • Tim Burress

        Hey Clive – I was the same, I tried a lot of different programs, SA groups, and I know this is going to sound like an advertisement but I have nothing to gain from my comment. It was the software and accountability partner that made the difference. The key is you have to load the software on every device, I changed my subscription to TV and cut the cord. Actually ended up saving some $$.

        Do it! I have now gone almost 6 months with no porn and feel great.

    3. Identifying triggers alone seldom addresses the heart, the core issue of all sexual sin. Technique is not transformation. Jesus was the expert on “sexual addiction.” Out of the heart come sexual sin!!

      • Richie S Baker

        I agree. The grace of Christ is what ultimately frees us. I do believe however, that God in His divine providence over our lives provides tools like Covenant Eyes in some instances to facilitate our healing. May the grace of Christ be with you.

    4. Samantha

      While I do agree that it is important to identify what triggers a person to sin, I don’t believe it will ever be enough to truly transform a person trapped in this type of sin. When a fallible person attempts to go it alone, no matter how solid their strategy is, they will continue to fail and fail hard. And even if they don’t continuously fail, they will be trapped in a never ending struggle to keep their strategies in place. This is not freedom. I’m not saying that strategies don’t have their place. They do. But when a person accepts the freedom from sin that was given to them through Jesus on the cross, they are truly free. They have the saving knowledge that even when their strategies aren’t strong enough to help them overcome a temptation they have a loving Father and Savior right there at their side willing and truly able to carry them through the temptation. No amount of bouncing your eyes, avoiding triggers, or even filtering and accountability software will truly change the heart of a person. Only Jesus can do that.

      So please, don’t depend on strategies too much or become too discouraged when you find that they aren’t enough to truly change your heart. Jesus can and will change your heart if you let Him. How can He do this, you ask? Get to know Him and you will see.

    5. Alan findell

      I am getting better at not looking at porn still a way to go but with the Lords help I will get there. However am single and go through tough times when I can’t stop masturbating if I could get over this I would have beaten my desire to look at sexual thoughts

    6. Kenneth

      Due to struggles with pornography (and cybering), a sexual trigger for me is red hair. The trigger is becoming less frequent now that I have figured out that it is a trigger by naming it. It also helps too that I have talked to my spiritual brothers about it, and they can keep me accountable if they catch me eyeing women with red hair.

    7. Alex

      Understanding these triggers have been super important. My trigger is my Pornhub personal account and ALL the saved videos I liked or watched. They were like my prizes, and be so excited to watch them later, which I’d the term clocking. This makes 100% sense. I deleted my Porn Hub account – 500 saved video GONE! This was a huge step. I’m excited to change and become better.

    8. All are of mine is my triggers that you talk about In this season

    9. Shane

      Anger and a few other things are triggers for me. However, one that I have that I feel is a bit strange is that me an my wife will “flirt” with each other throughout the day. I don’t think that is wrong in anyway but it tends to get me (us) “fired up.” So I guess I go to bed with expectations of an intimate evening. But when her head hits the pillow she is usually out pretty quickly or she suddenly changes to “I’m too tired,” or “I don’t want to,” etc.
      Sometimes this happens multiple days in a row and I eventually can’t contain myself anymore. Unfortunately I turn to some form of porn for satisfaction.

      • Keith Rose

        Hi Shane! Thanks for reaching out. It’s not one we’ve explored much, but I do think expectations/anticipation can be a significant trigger. Two things stick out to me. First, it’s VITAL to keep pursuing intimacy with your wife. However, at this stage in your recovery journey, you may need to look for ways to cultivate intimacy are less sexually stimulating. For suggestions, see Beth Denison’s helpful article, “10 Ways to Build Intimacy Apart from Sex.” Second, as you continue your journey away from porn, it’s ESSENTIAL that your recovery isn’t dependent on your wife’s behavior. There are always lots of things we need to work on in our marriages, and how we communicate about sex expectations is one of them. But this work needs to happen apart from porn recovery. (This is why some certified sex addiction therapists even advise a 90-day sexual detox period while you’re in the early stages of recovery, to help disassociate sexual feelings from porn). When porn is still in the picture it’s going to make it difficult to have open trust and communication about sex. Jay Pyatt shares some great wisdom on how he rebuilt trust with his wife after years of porn use.

        I salute your commitment to overcoming porn, you’re doing great. Stay strong, and don’t loose heart!


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