s*xual anorexia, a term made popular . s*x addiction expert Dr. Patrick Carnes, is the compulsive avoidance of s*x and s*x-. matters.
In his book, s*xual Anorexia: Overcoming s*xual Self-Hatred, Carnes presents s*xual anorexia as a form of s*x addiction. The word anorexia means without appetite (anorexia being derived from the Greek word, orexis), so s*xual anorexia refers to a lack of s*xual appetite.
What makes it a form of addiction is the compulsive avoidance of s*x that s*xual anorexics build their lives around. This can include:
Persistent fear of intimacy, s*xual contact, s*xual pleasure, sexually transmitted diseases, etc.
Preoccupation, to the point of obsession, with s*xual matters, including the se*uality, s*xual intentions and s*xual behaviors of others, and their own s*xual adequacy
Negative, rigid, or judgmental attitudes about s*x, body appearance and s*xual activity
Shame and self-loathing over s*xual experiences
Self-destructive behavior in order to avoid, limit or stop s*x
Who’s at Risk for s*xual Anorexia?
s*xual anorexia can affect men and women alike. According to Carnes, victims of past s*xual abuse or s*xual rejection are most often affected, and are often unaware of the reason for their difficulties with s*x.
Individuals with s*xual anorexia may also have concurrent problems with other addictions, such as food addiction, substance addictions, and other obsessive or anxiety-driven problems.
People who strongly identify with cultural, social or religious groups that involve s*xual oppression, repression or other negative approaches to se*uality may also be particularly vulnerable to developing the obsessive avoidance of s*x that characterizes s*xual anorexia.
Do s*xual Anorexics Ever Have s*x?
s*xual anorexics may be prone to occasional periods of s*xual promiscuity, or “sleeping around,” a bit like bulimics — people who periodically starve themselves of food, then binge and purge what they have eaten.
For example, a s*xual anorexic may abstain from s*x except when he’s intoxicated. In this case, the rigid boundaries around s*xual expression crumble when inhibitions are lowered.
Despite their aversion to s*x, s*xual anorexics may be engaged in “s*xual” relationships, including marriage, although the quality of the relationship is likely to be impaired . the s*x avoidance of one or both partners. Ironically, a s*xual anorexic may even form a relationship with an “acting out” s*x addict, as one partner loses control over their se*uality while the other has excessive control. In a situation like this, one partner may be promiscuous, while the other abstains from s*x.
Help for s*xual Anorexics
s*xual anorexia is not an official diagnosis in the American Psychiatric Association (APA)’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), but problems of avoidance of s*x are well-recognized . s*x therapists, couples counselors and psychologists. If you or your partner are having difficulties with your feelings about s*x or s*xual expression, you may be able to get a referral to a s*x therapist from your doctor.
You can also contact your local psychological association or the American Psychological Association website for help finding a psychologist.
The Society for the Advancement of s*xual Health (SASH) can also help you find a therapist with expertise in s*x addiction and s*xual anorexia.