Sexual anorexia is characterized by the compulsive desire to avoid sexual intimacy. It occurs in men and women at similar incidence rates. Like anorexia, people with sexual anorexia avoid the nourishment that comes with sexual relations. This is, most often, because the person wants to avoid feelings, trauma that may be unexplored, and out of control feelings that may arise when the person begins to get deeper into a relationship. The opposite of a sex addict, in most ways, sexual anorexics starve themselves of soothing touch, the dating scene, and authentic relationships with other people.
WHAT MAKES SEXUAL ANOREXIA AN ADDICTION?
Sexual anorexics are similar to sexual addicts but in reverse. They compulsively avoid sex or intimacy, which behaviors that may include:
- A constant fear of intimacy, sexual pleasure or contact, or sexually transmitted diseases
- Preoccupation with all sexual scenarios, including the sexuality, intentions, and behaviors of others, not to mention their own inadequacy
- Negative attitudes about body appearance, and sex that may include a rigid and judgmental outlook
- Shame, regret, and intense self-loathing over most experiences with sex
- Termination, avoidance or limiting of sex using self-destructive means
CAUSES OF SEXUAL ANOREXIA
The fear of rejection is very strong and overpowers any possible need to create real relationships. Sexual anorexics feel safer when isolated, even if they aren’t satisfied with this reality. This denial of intimacy may be due to a variety of causes such as body dysmorphia, a highly repressed upbringing, sexual abuse, or a religious upbringing that was very strict. Often the emotional center of the sexual anorexic may be filled with a great deal of shame, black and white thinking, and judgment which extinguishes their ability to explore or express curiosity around potential sexual situations.
Like many others who have deep-seated issues, the sexual anorexic may try very hard to hide their intimacy issues, such as declining events, creating excuses, pretending they are ill, or moving apartments, jobs, and schools to avoid the pleasure and pain of being part of a community.
This leads the person to a life of isolation. They become and may remain an outsider.
Sexual avoidance may also occur in relationships that have been working for a long time. One partner may stop showing love, affection, or participation in sexual relations. This may either be revenge for some slight or passive-aggression using subtle means like keeping an observer between the two partners so they are never alone. This person may also stay at work until very late at night all of the time.
Other symptoms of intimacy avoidance include engaging in the silent treatment or being extremely critical. Both of these behaviors are used to distance the partner. The silent treatment can be used to avoid an intimate conversation and continue the relationship in the same cycle, while withholding of intimacy can be used to try to control the partner if deliberate, and to signal some sort of emotional disconnect if done through more subtle means. Either way, the issues with the relationship need to be discussed so the partners can move forward.
One partner may not have sex but may watch pornography or pay for sex. The core issues are not with sex, but with intimacy. They enjoy the feeling of sex or watching sex occur but want it with no strings attached. Not only can pornography fulfill their every fantasy but it allows them to enjoy intimacy from a safe distance. As does paying for sex with a stranger.
This behavior may also be seen in sexual addicts. Though they may move from partner to partner, which is similar to the sexual anorexic’s behaviors with apartments, and jobs, the sexual addict may avoid long-term, committed relationships as vehemently as does the sexual anorexic.
Both conditions are a symptom of a much deeper disconnect between the sexual anorexic and everyone they come into contact.
WHAT SEXUAL ANOREXIA IS NOT
It’s important to note that sexual anorexia is not the same as asexuality. People who have sexual anorexia do have sexual desires and fantasies. They may want to be with others but they have a profound fear of intimacy and rejection that inhibits their expression of their sexuality. It is also not caused by hormonal imbalances.
WHERE CAN YOU GET HELP?
There are many support groups available for those with sex addiction, and these groups may also be helpful for a person who has sexual anorexia. There is literature available in these groups and a 12-step program that may prove beneficial for the sexual anorexic, as many sex addicts also display symptoms of sexual anorexia Common ground can be found between the two groups.
Psychotherapy is an excellent treatment for sexual anorexia. Whether this is couples counseling or just a one on one environment with a trusted therapist that, it may help those with sexual anorexia.
Some people who have not had sex may have little knowledge about sex. Not only do they avoid sex but they do not talk or learn anything about it. For them, sexual education may need to be the first step to help them become more comfortable with intimacy.
Contacting a counselor, sex therapist, or psychologist may eliminate the avoidance of sex or sexual expression
You may be able to find a psychological association near your home or go to the Society for the Advances of Sexual Health (SASHA) where you may be able to find a sex therapist that specializes in sex addiction and sexual anorexia.
There are a lot of resources to help you understand the emotional issues that may be holding you back from fulfilling sexual experiences, intimacy, and a strong bond with another person. Sexual anorexia seems the safest route, but it can limit your enjoyment of life. By talking through any issues that may be plaguing you in a safe, calm, and open environment, you can get to the root of your intimacy issues. With these out in the open, you can begin developing relationships that go deeper and will help you nurture the trust you possess.