Sexual Anorexia: A primer

I have alluded repeatedly on this blog to the conditions of sexual and social anorexia. I’d like to shine the light on sexual anorexia today. Many sexual anorexics find themselves partnered with sex addicts. Some people, like myself, vacillate between sex addiction and sexual anorexia. They’re really just two sides of the same coin- obsessive efforts to find a sense of control, either by avoiding or using sex. I’d like to quote a passage from this article:

In his book Sexual Anorexia: Overcoming Sexual Self-Hatred Patrick Carnes—who coined the term sexual addiction—writes about sexual anorexia as a disorder that parallels sexual addiction and compulsivity, based on childhood sexual trauma. He describes it as “an obsessive state in which the physical, mental, and emotional task of avoiding sex dominates one’s life.” The sufferer is preoccupied with avoiding sex, and finds sex repulsive—which is quite different from having a low libido or simply being neutral and not interested in sex. For the most part, people with low sexual drives are not avoiding sex; they are unable to activate their libido, no matter how hard they try. They simply have no interest, because their desire has been squelched or is non-existent. They may be avoiding a partner who wants sex more than they do, but they are also trying to avoid having to face a low sexual desire. Sexual Anorexia is defined by a set of characteristics that suffers typically experience

-A pattern of resistance to anything sexual

-Continuing that pattern of avoidance, even though they may know it’s self-destructive (i.e., harm a marriage, prevent relationships)

– Going to great lengths to avoid sexual contact or attention

-Rigid or judgmental attitudes toward sexuality—their own, and others

-Resistance and avoidance of deeper, more painful life issues

– Extreme shame and self-loathing about their bodies, sexual attributes and experiences

-Obsessing about sex and how to avoid it, to a point where it interferes with normal living

-Possible episodes of sexual bingeing or periods of sexual compulsivity

The sexual anorexic’s primary goal is to find ways not to combine intimacy with sex. Both men and women can suffer from this disorder, and most keep silent about it. They initially feel out-of-sorts and don’t speak openly about their apathy for fear of being judged negatively in today’s society, which values sexual behavior so very highly. Other symptoms of sexual anorexia can include

• a desire to control one’s body,sexuality and environments;

• terror and high anxiety of being sexual or appearing sexual in any way; and

• anger and self-hatred.

Sexual anorexia can be very hard for our partners to understand, especially when we’re swinging back and forth from “binging” in our sex addiction to “purging” and “starving” in our anorexia. There is hope for us. Working the steps in a sex-related fellowship is a tried and true path to wellness and serenity. There are also fellowships for our partners. Both types are listed on my sidebar. May you begin or deepen your journey and your relationships today.

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2 responses to “Sexual Anorexia: A primer

  1. Pingback: Sexual Anorexia: A primer | Hope for Delilah | Vacation Meaning and Examples

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