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Is my sexual fetish healthy or addictive?

Updated: Jul 31

While fetishes and kink can be a healthy part of sexual expression and sexuality, for some it might lead to addictive patterns or problematic sexual behaviour.

Increasingly, we see many men come to our clinic seeking support for what they believe is an unhealthy engagement or attachment to a particularly kink or sexual fetish. Some men report feeling ashamed for their particularly attraction to a behaviour or object, while for others it has led to challenges in their relationships or daily life.

It's important to understand that for most people, sexual fetishes and kink can be incorporated into healthy sexuality and lead to fulfilling desires and sexual arousal. Let's take a deeper look at fetishes and how to determine whether it is a sign of a problematic behaviour or a healthy part of being human.

So what is a fetish or kink in the first place?

A fetish or kink refers to a sexual attraction or interest in something that is not typically considered sexually arousing or common. A fetish involves a fixation or obsession with a particular object, body part, or activity that is necessary for sexual arousal or satisfaction. Examples of common fetishes include foot fetishism, BDSM, or sexual arousal from a specific material or fabric.

Kink, on the other hand, refers to an alternative or non-traditional sexual behavior or preference, which can include a wide range of activities such as role-playing, dominance and submission, or bondage.

It's important to note that while kinks and fetishes are not considered mainstream or typical sexual behaviors, they are not inherently problematic or harmful. As long as they are practiced in a consensual, safe, and non-exploitative manner, they can be a healthy and enjoyable part of an individual's sexual expression. However, if a fetish or kink interferes with an individual's daily life or causes distress, it may be worth seeking support from a mental health professional.

Does having a sexual fetish or kink make me a sex addict?

No, having a fetish or kink does not necessarily mean that you are a sex addict. A fetish or kink is a specific sexual interest or attraction to a particular object, body part, or activity that is not considered mainstream or typical sexual behavior. While some individuals may experience distress or impairment due to their fetish or kink, this does not automatically indicate a sex addiction.

Sex addiction typically involves a level of unmanageability in one's life, consequences, withdrawal symptoms when not engaging in the behaviour, and efforts to stop without being able to. For many, having a sexual fetish, such as a foot fetish or wearing clothes of the opposite sex, may lead to shame or distress about the behaviour but does not lead to unmanageability or addictive properties.

It's important to remember that having a fetish or kink is not inherently problematic or harmful, as long as it is practiced safely, consensually, and does not interfere with daily life or relationships. Everyone's sexual preferences and interests are unique, and there is no "right" or "wrong" way to experience sexual attraction or arousal.

How do I know if my fetish is addictive or just enjoyable?

Determining whether a fetish is addictive or just enjoyable can be challenging, as it may depend on individual factors such as the frequency and intensity of the behavior, the impact it has on daily life and relationships, and whether it causes distress or impairment.

One way to assess whether a fetish is problematic is to consider the following questions:

  1. Does engaging in the fetish interfere with your daily life or responsibilities?

  2. Do you feel unable to control your engagement in the fetish or experience distress when you try to stop?

  3. Does engaging in the fetish cause harm to yourself or others?

  4. Is the fetish causing problems in your relationships or social interactions?

  5. Do you feel ashamed or guilty about engaging in the fetish?

  6. Are you secretive, manipulative, or lying to cover up your behaviour?

If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, it may be worth seeking support from a mental health professional or addiction specialist. A therapist can help support you to better understand if the fetish is addictive or work through the shame that may exist from incongruency or moral dissonance.

It is important to note that not all fetishes are problematic, and many people are able to engage in them in a healthy and consensual way. Ultimately, the decision to seek support or change a fetish behavior is a personal one and should be based on individual needs and values.

How do fetishes develop? What is an arousal template?

An arousal template refers to the unique set of cues that an individual finds sexually arousing. These cues can include physical, visual, auditory, or psychological stimuli that trigger a sexual response. The arousal template can be influenced by a variety of factors, including genetics, early life experiences, cultural and social influences, and personal preferences.

The arousal template can be formed in a child as early as the age of 8. Some factors that may lead to forming an arousal template include:

  • Family messages

  • Early sexual experiences

  • Religion/spiritual influences

  • Media (TV/internet)

  • Childhood Abuse

As individuals experience different sexual stimuli throughout their lives, their arousal templates can evolve and change. For example, exposure to new sexual experiences or the development of a fetish can modify an individual's arousal template.

Understanding one's own arousal template can be helpful in developing a healthy and fulfilling sex life. It can also be important to communicate one's preferences and boundaries to sexual partners to ensure that both parties are comfortable and consenting. Additionally, being aware of the diversity of arousal templates can help promote understanding and respect for others' sexual preferences and identities.

What goes into an arousal template?

An individual's arousal template can be highly individualized and can involve a wide variety of cues that trigger sexual arousal. Here are some examples of things that may be included in an arousal template:

  1. Physical sensations, such as touch, taste, and smell

  2. Visual stimuli, such as specific body types or physical features, clothing, or images of sexual acts

  3. Auditory cues, such as the sound of a partner's voice or specific music or sounds

  4. Psychological factors, such as emotional connection, power dynamics, or role-playing

  5. Specific acts or behaviors, such as kissing, oral sex, or BDSM activities

  6. Fantasies or scenarios, such as having sex in a specific location or with a specific person or group

  7. Fetishes, such as foot fetishism or BDSM

It's important to note that everyone's arousal template is unique, and there is no "right" or "wrong" way to experience sexual arousal. Additionally, it's important to ensure that all sexual activities are consensual and that partners communicate openly and honestly about their desires and boundaries.

Can Therapy help with Addictive Fetishes?

Yes, therapy can be helpful in addressing addictive kinks and fetishes. A mental health professional with experience in treating sexual disorders or problematic sexual addictions can work with individuals to identify the underlying causes of their addictive behavior and develop strategies to manage and modify the behavior.

Therapy may involve various approaches, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which helps individuals identify and modify negative thought patterns and behaviors, or therapy designed to separate the addictive components of the fetish from the healthier, expressive forms of the behaviour. Group therapy and support groups can also be helpful in providing a supportive and non-judgmental environment for individuals to share their experiences and learn from others.

It is important to note that the goal of therapy is not to shame or eliminate a person's kinks or fetishes but to help them manage their behavior in a way that is safe, consensual, and does not interfere with their daily life or relationships. It is possible to engage in kinks and fetishes in a healthy and consensual manner, and a therapist can help individuals develop strategies to do so.

Want to learn more? Book a free 20-minute consultation with us to see if we can help support you on your journey of sexual self-discovery!

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