Sexual anorexia is a complete or almost complete avoidance of sex and an aversion to sexual intimacy.
What Is Sexual Anorexia?
Sexual anorexia is not in and of itself a diagnosis, and can be caused by a variety of factors. It manifests primarily as consistent avoidance of sex. People with sexual anorexia might go months or even years without having any kind of sexual intimacy with their partners. Like anorexia nervosa, sexual anorexia can be perceived as a way of gaining control over one’s own body by depriving oneself. People with sexual anorexia may feel guilty or shameful about sex, might engage in unhealthy practices such as weight gain or drug use to decrease their partner’s interest in having sex with them, and may compulsively avoid sex or any acts that could lead to sex.
Some people with sexual anorexia do not have sex with their primary partners but watch pornography or pay for sex. When this occurs, sexual anorexia is correlated with a fear of intimacy rather than of sexual intercourse itself.
How Is Sexual Anorexia Treated?
A number of factors can contribute to the development of sexual anorexia. Unlike low libido, sexual anorexia is not caused by hormonal imbalances. Nor should it be confused with asexuality. Instead, sexual anorexia is a psychological phenomenon characterized by depriving oneself of the possibility of a fulfilling intimate life. Depression, anxiety, abuse, relationship problems, body image issues, and inexperience with sex can all contribute to the condition.
Psychotherapy can be extremely helpful in treating sexual anorexia, and couples experiencing the problem frequently benefit from relationship counseling. Therapy can help people to slowly reframe their negative thoughts about sex and unpack past experiences or difficult emotions that can contribute to sexual anorexia. Because some people with sexual anorexia have never had sex and have avoided talking or learning about sex, some people with the condition benefit from sex education that can help them feel more comfortable when they finally do have sex.
- Is sexual anorexia the flip side of addiction? (n.d.). The New York Times. Retrieved from http://consults.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/03/11/is-sexual-anorexia-the-flip-side-of-sex-addiction/
- Sexual anorexia. (n.d.). The Dr. Oz Show. Retrieved from http://www.doctoroz.com/blog/paul-hokemeyer-phd-jd/sexual-anorexia
Last Updated: 01-24-2018
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Hashmi D.September 8th, 2014 at 8:05 AM
Taylor V.July 6th, 2015 at 11:15 PM
Or maybe you’re just asexual…
Mitchell LMay 18th, 2016 at 12:09 AM
It seems my girlfriend who was so intimate loving and caring to me is agreeing with my words that I love her. But she is not so actually into me like we were. I feel like I am getting manipulated. I was suppose to see her today but she backed out again and said she was in but just burnt out. What should I do. Do you think she is cheating on me. I would really like to have a solid input on this situation. She’s depressed and she’s not 100% happy with her body. Please someone help me though this tough time.
WynandJuly 23rd, 2016 at 12:00 AM
My wife seems to not want sex at all and even when it does happen she seems closed off. She does not want foreplay giving or receiving. I have tried everything from doing all the work in the house to attending the kids and mentally making her at ease. She likes all the caring and loving things I do but it still does not get any physical attention. This has made me grumpy and angry and I am starting to just back away. Hope someone can help me
COctober 13th, 2016 at 6:43 AM
My husband is the same as your wife. I don’t understand. He makes me beg for it, yet, he only touches me 2-3 times a month. I need more than that…
MOctober 24th, 2016 at 8:50 AM
I am the sexual anorexic in my almost-20 year marriage. I’m commenting here to give the other-side-of-the-coin perspective to the comments posted. Imagine if everything you did was for the benefit of someone else, regardless of how it made you feel. Imagine if you felt no connection to anyone or anything in your life. Imagine not having any friends – none – and no family relationships. Imagine instantly crying at the sight of anyone laughing and not being able to remember the last time you laughed. Imagine the feeling of despair when you see groups of friends having a good time together and feeling like/knowing you’ll never have that. Then imagine a life where you live every day knowing you will never experience or feel anything – anything at all. Every assumption makes the divide deeper – do you still love me? are you cheating? why don’t you want me? why are you so sad? we used to be ok… The only trust you feel is the trust that you will never feel anything ever again and that others will only blame you for not being able to fulfill their needs. Personally, I don’t know why my husband loves me or stays with me. I don’t understand why he doesn’t see me the way I see myself. Why would he choose to deal with broken when he can find someone who isn’t? Being in pain 24-hours a day is awful, but it also teaches you how to live with it and realize it’s the new normal. I just hope a bit of perspective from the dark side gives some insight.
Tom WNovember 2nd, 2016 at 1:24 PM
I find myself in the same boat as the last post. I pretty much know it all goes back to childhood issues and core beliefs that were accepted by me about myself then. If have fought it my whole life. The problem is finding the leverage and or direction to bring change to it all. I think making friends is a key in the whole thing because without the feedback of friends I become trapped in an endless loop of looking for answers in my mind instead of bringing change to my life. That can be scary so I avoid it but I still think that is pretty fundamental in feeling better about myself and finding more confidence. I hate that I have such inner turmoil and I hate how it affects my relationships with others or lack there of. I’m condemning my self to just more of’ the same If I can’t find a starting point and begin to love myself more. Its not that others can’t and don’t see the beauty of me but its that I don’t and that is screwed up.
BrentSeptember 12th, 2017 at 6:43 AM
I’ve been with my girlfriend for 4 years and I love her. When we 1st got together we had sex regularly for the 1st couple months . Then it abruptly stopped about the time we became more intimate. Now we haven’t had sex in 2 years with only a few interactions in the year and a 1/2 before that. I need help….. Her description of her sexual anorexia is much like the woman’s post above . It effects her all day every day just like it effects me to be without intimacy for years. I don’t wanna go the next 40 years of my life without sex…. I’m at my wits end . Finding the right therapist within a proper distance of where we live is almost impossible….
SamFebruary 18th, 2019 at 12:38 AM
I am wondering, if someone has sexual anarexia and romantic intimacy in general makes them extremely anxious and feel sick but they can’t figure out the cause of their anxiety, then could the cause have been a tramatic event from their childhood that they have repressed from their memory? If so then does the abuse have to have been sexual?
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