When we think of the word ‘anorexia’, we think of an eating disorder, right? Usually, anorexia presents itself in those living with it restricting their diets, depriving their body of the necessary nutrients and calories needed. But have you ever heard of sexual anorexia?
Sexual anorexia, a term made popular by sex addiction expert Dr. Patrick Carnes, is the opposite of sexual addiction. It’s a compulsive avoidance of sex and sex-related matters. An intimacy disorder, this is where someone will actively avoid intimate touch, relationships and connections with others.
What Are The Symptoms of Sexual Anorexia?
The people most at risk of sexual anorexia are both men and women, and they may also have other problems, such as dietary and food issues, substance misuse such as drugs or alcohol, and other obsessive or anxiety issues.
Sexual anorexia usually (but not always) manifests itself as a result of trauma from sexual abuse or body dysmorphia, or it may have originated in a repressive home life, or a religious upbringing. Fears about bodily features, nakedness or physical contact with another person can lead to the person deciding not to engage with any sex and intimacy. This is because they fear judgment, ridicule or rejection and may project their negative beliefs about themselves on to potential sexual partners.
Here are some symptoms to look out for:
- Persistent fear of intimacy, sexual contact, sexual pleasure, sexually transmitted infections, etc.
- Preoccupation, to the point of obsession, with sexual matters, including the sexuality, sexual intentions and sexual behaviors of others, and their own sexual adequacy
- Negative, rigid, or judgmental attitudes about sex, body appearance, and sexual activity
- Shame and self-loathing over sexual experiences
- Self-destructive behavior in order to avoid, limit, or stop sex
For someone suffering with sexual anorexia, the possible rejection they might encounter from another someone when they put out some interest is just too threatening. It feels safer to remain isolated, no matter how unsatisfying that lifestyle may be.
How Can Sexual Anorexia Be Treated?
Unfortunately, at this time sexual anorexia is not recognised as a psychological disorder. However, if you believe you were suffering from this, please note that problems of avoidance of sex are well recognised by sex therapists, couples counselors, and psychologists.
If you or your partner are having difficulties with feelings about sex or sexual expression, you may be able to get a referral to a sex therapist from your doctor. When you meet with a sex therapist, it’s likely you will be asked about your sexual history and attitudes towards sexual activity. Good, consistent therapy can improve communication with yourself and others, increase interpersonal skills and promote healthy, intimate sexuality.