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How Triggers Can Drain Your Willpower

Last Updated: August 1, 2022

Keith Rose
Keith Rose

Keith Rose holds a Master of Divinity degree and BA in Sacred Music. Keith worked with the Covenant Eyes Member Care Team for 15 years. He has also served as a Bible teacher, pastoral assistant, and music director at his local church. He's now the editor of the Covenant Eyes blog and the author of Allied: Fighting Porn With Accountability, Faith, and Friends. He lives in Hendersonville, North Carolina with his wife Ruby and daughter Winslow.

Your willpower is a finite resource. You have to use it sparingly, but even in the best-case scenario, it has a limited shelf life. Like time, your willpower is ticking away. Unless you find a way to renew it, it’s going to run out. And when it runs out, you’re going to fall into the porn pit.

If you understand how long your willpower lasts under normal circumstances, you’ll know how long you should wait before you need a willpower recharge from your ally. But triggers drain your willpower too.

You can think of it like a video game. If your willpower takes an unexpected hit from a trigger, it’s an emergency situation—requiring an immediate recharge! 

Sexual Triggers

Sexual triggers are the most obvious ones—you know, the unexpected ad for a porn site or the sex scene in the movie you’re watching. Sexual triggers drain your willpower quicker than anything. In The Porn Circuit, Sam Black compares these triggers to a “superhighway” in your brain to the feel-good “rewards” of sexual pleasure. He writes:

After a person becomes sensitized, very little is needed to trigger a response; a superhighway is connected to the rewards circuitry. This superhighway has many entrance ramps; sexual cues are seen everywhere and sexual fantasizing comes easy.

In just seconds, a sexual trigger can take you out of a state where porn is the last thing on your mind to that white-knuckle feeling where the urges to seek it out are overwhelming. When you encounter a sexual trigger, you need an immediate willpower recharge.

Triggers to Anger

On the surface, anger has very little to do with porn. When you’re angry, you just get mad and feel like breaking stuff! When you’re in the porn mood—well, you know how that goes. But when anger is triggered, it sets off an emotional response that drains your willpower.

Whether you respond in raging fury or quiet frustration, anger burns through the energy that would normally go to sustaining your willpower. This makes you vulnerable to porn. When you’re angry, your willpower gets zapped whether you realize it or not.

Triggers to Loneliness

Loneliness is a growing problem today, with some health organizations classifying it as an epidemic.¹ Despite our digital connectivity, people feel more isolated and disconnected than ever. And loneliness is a powerful trigger that saps your willpower to resist porn. At Covenant Eyes, we frequently hear from people who face the trigger of loneliness:

“It all started when I used [porn] to get rid of my exam result tension, also many things were not going in my way in my life. Now I feel so lonely and has completely lost self-confidence, please I want help”

“I felt so depressed and lonely I just wanted affection that I could not get from home”

“Everyone likes me, but when it comes to relationships, I feel lonely and scared.”

Like many others, they felt their willpower drained by loneliness and fell back into porn, despite many efforts to quit.

Triggers to Tiredness

Statistics show that the highest porn use is at night and on weekends. Some of that is just the opportunity these times afford. But it’s partly because you’re tired, your willpower is tired too.

Your willpower is closely related to your physical and mental state. So, whether you’re physically weary from a demanding exercise regime or mentally exhausted from a long day at work, tiredness is consuming your willpower, and robbing your ability to resist porn.

What to Do About Triggers

The specific triggers you face may be different—there are as many different triggers as there are different people. But triggers are unavoidable. And triggers unavoidably sap your willpower to resist porn. (For more about triggers, see The Ultimate Guide to Identifying (and Redirecting) Your Porn Triggers).

What all these triggers have in common is they involve a breakdown of your human connections. With anger, the connection is turned into conflict. With loneliness, you’re feeling the absence of connection. With tiredness, you’re looking for an easy substitute for human connection—which porn seems to provide. So what can you do? When your willpower is drained by a trigger, you need a way to restore it.

And this is where allies come in. An ally is an encouraging, non-judgmental friend who understands the power of porn and is committed to helping you overcome it.

You can talk to your ally about your anger.

You can reach out to them when you’re lonely.

You can relax with them when you’re tired.

There’s incredible restorative power in human connection. Human connection renews your willpower and gives you the strength to resist porn. And defeat it.


  • Comments on: How Triggers Can Drain Your Willpower
    1. Fr. Sahayam


    2. Michael

      Thanks for this article.
      The struggle continues but I smell victory

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