Researchers who psychoanalyze human behavior, like Freud, have many theories about how fetishes develop. But, in general, they agree that a fetish becomes an issue when it’s harmful to yourself or others.
That’s why getting a therapist is the best way to understand and get rid of fetishes. Here’s how.
1. Understand Your Fetish
Most people have some sort of sexual interest, kink or fetish. But what separates a normal interest from a serious problem is the need to have that object or act around in order to feel aroused. This is what is referred to as classical conditioning, where your biological response (salivation) got paired with the fetish object in a way that makes you think of it when you’re aroused.
Most fetishes aren’t considered disorders, but if they become addictive or interfere with your ability to live your life, you should speak to a therapist who’s experienced with working with people who have fetishes. You could also try connecting with others who have similar interests through kink-friendly communities, such as Fetlife.
If you are in a relationship, make sure that your partner is aware of the fetishes that you have. This will help prevent them from being surprised or offended when you’re doing something related to your fetish. If they aren’t interested, then that may be a sign that they aren’t the right partner for you.
2. Reach Out for Help
If you feel that your fetish has caused distress, it may be time to seek treatment. Although kinks and fetishes are common, they can become a problem when they cause recurring distress and interfere with your daily functioning. Some people are able to manage their fetishes without seeking professional help, but others find themselves struggling and experiencing shame.
Many fetishes are a result of trauma, and some are linked to the experience of being physically assaulted or abandoned by a parent or other family member. In this case, the fetish might be a way to soothe an unmet emotional need. In other cases, it might be a form of sexual arousal to counteract feelings of numbness and disconnection.
Fortunately, it’s easier than ever to get the help you need. BetterHelp’s telehealth services make it possible to connect with a therapist in your area who specializes in paraphilias and other psychiatric conditions. They can offer you cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) techniques to identify underlying causes and change your associations between your fetish and sexual behaviors.
3. Work with a Therapist
Fetishes and kinks are a normal part of sexual experience for most people, as long as they are safe and involve consenting adults. However, fetishes can also become dangerous and even qualify as a psychiatric disorder, such as when they cause distress or interfere with daily functioning. Additionally, fetishes can lead to illegal activities or to relationships that are unhealthy and dysfunctional.
A therapist can help you confront any shame or fear associated with your fetishes, as well as teach you new ways to cope with them. A therapist can also teach you techniques to reduce your fetish-related urges and desires through cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), aversion, or covert conditioning.
For some people, medication is also an option. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, can be an effective treatment for fetishes and other paraphilias, as they can help to reduce obsessive behaviors and lower anxiety and depression. Ultimately, talking to a therapist about your fetishes can help you gain more control over them and lead a happier, more fulfilling life.
4. Unlink Your Fetish Object from Sexual Arousal
Fetishes are often thought of as weird or erotic, but they’re actually much more common than we realize. Studies show that most people have at least one fetish.
Fetishes can be anything from inanimate objects, to body parts not traditionally viewed as sexual, or even nongenital body fluids such as urine and menstrual blood. Other popular fetishes include shoes, stockings, hats, skirts, full-body costumes, and medical objects like stethoscopes and catheters.
The term fetish is often confused with kink, but it is very different from it. Kink is usually associated with more non-standard or unconventional sexual practices and fantasies, whereas a fetish is an intense desire and gratification related to an object or body part that is not typically viewed as sexual.
Some experts believe that fetishes may develop as a result of positive associations with certain objects or body parts during adolescence, and some research supports this theory. However, other theories suggest that it’s simply a matter of personal taste, much like people have different tastes in food.
5. Embrace the Shame
Fetishes can be tied to feelings of shame. Cuckolding, a popular fetish where one partner has sex with another man while the primary male watches, is an example of this. Similarly, exhibitionist fetishes—people who are turned on by flashing their penises—can also be rooted in shame.
Getting over shame is an important part of treating a fetish. A therapist can help with this through cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which involves teaching you how to change thoughts that trigger deviant sexual behavior. They can also use techniques like covert sensitization, which aims to increase the salience of negative consequences for deviant sexual behavior.
Many people with fetishes struggle to seek treatment. They may think that their fetishes are not real or normal, so they don’t think they need help. But if your fetishes are making it difficult to form meaningful connections or to live a full life, then it’s time to seek professional help. Getting rid of your fetishes will take time, but with patience and a good therapist, it can be possible. Noah Redd is a genderqueer, kinky writer who kicks the heterocispatriarchy where it hurts. She blogs at Everyday Feminism and writes for a variety of publications about relationships, sexuality, and that weird fetish that makes you blush.