What Is Sexual Anorexia?
Sexual Anorexia Defined
Sexual anorexia is having little or no desire for sexual contact. Anorexia means “interrupted appetite.” People who have sexual anorexia actively avoid, fear or dread sexual intimacy. Inhibited sexual desire, sexual avoidance, and sexual aversion are phrases that describe the same condition. Sexual anorexia can include problems such as impotence in men, but often there is no physical cause. Both men and women can suffer from sexual anorexia.
The main symptom of sexual anorexia is a lack of sexual desire or interest. A person with sexual anorexia may also show fear and anger when the subject of sex comes up. Slovenian physician Dr. Sanja Rozman explained at the 2011 Global Addiction Conference that someone with sexual anorexia can become obsessed with avoiding sex to the point that it “dominates one’s life.”
Both physical and emotional problems can lead to sexual anorexia in some people.
Physical causes can include:
- hormone imbalances
- recent childbirth
- medication use
Common emotional causes of sexual anorexia are:
- sexual abuse and rape
- negative attitude toward sex
- strict religious upbringing in relation to sex
- communication problems
- power struggles with a partner or loved one
Sexual anorexia can be difficult to diagnose. There is no single test to identify the condition. Blood tests can show hormone levels that might interfere with libido. Talk therapy with a counselor, psychiatrist, or sex therapist can also help diagnose severe lack of sexual desire.
Hormone therapy is an effective form of treatment for some people with sexual anorexia. Adults who suffer from inhibited sexual desire because of low testosterone or estrogen levels may benefit from medical treatment. This can be especially helpful for men with lack of sexual interest related to erectile dysfunction. Menopausal women with low desire may also benefit from hormone replacement therapy to help boost libido.
The emotional side of sexual anorexia needs to be treated too. Couples counseling, relationship training, and sessions with a sex therapist are all options to consider. Conflict resolution can play a positive role in treating problems with sexual desire. People who were brought up thinking that sex is wrong, as well as people who have suffered from sexual trauma, can work through their past issues with a trusted professional in an effort to gain a healthy attitude toward sex.
Sexual Anorexia and Pornography
The availability of online pornography may be linked to sexual anorexia in some cases. Researchers from the Italian Society of Andrology and Sexual Medicine (SIAMS) studied more than 28,000 Italian men. They found that looking at vast amounts of porn from early adolescence eventually caused the men to feel detached and uninterested in real-life sexual situations.
Sexual Anorexia Vs. Sexual Addiction
Some people with sexual anorexia go through cycles where they experience symptoms of sexual addiction as well. Dr. Patrick Carnes, author of Sexual Anorexia: Overcoming Sexual Self-Hatred, explains that in many people, sexual anorexia and sexual addiction come from the same belief system. Think of it as two sides of the same coin. The need to be in control one’s life, the feelings of despair, and preoccupation with sex are present in both conditions. Sex addicts are too compulsive and promiscuous to take control and deal with the negativity in their lives. The difference is that sexual anorexics gain the control they crave by rejecting sex.
The outlook for people with sexual anorexia varies greatly. The medical half of the equation can be relatively easy to fix. But the deep psychological component of sexual anorexia can be difficult—and time consuming—to treat. Many centers that deal with sexual addiction have treatment programs for sexual anorexia too. Keeping the lines of communication open can help prevent your partner from feeling rejected. Focusing on nonsexual affection and touch may help couples work through an inhibited sex drive with feelings of hope for the future.
- Carnes, P. (1997). Sexual Anorexia: Overcoming Sexual Self-Hatred. Retrieved June 25, 2013, from http://books.google.com/books?id=3MUnheB4UZkC&printsec=frontcover&dq=sexual+anorexia&hl=en&sa=X&ei=EdzIUZGXBbPB4AOM8IEo&ved=0CC8Q6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=sexual%20anorexia&f=false
- Carnes, P.J. (2007). The Case for Sexual Anorexia: An Interim Report on 144 Patients with Sexual Disorders. International Institute for Trauma and Addiction Professionals. Retrieved June 25, 2013, from http://www.iitap.com/documents/ARTICLE_Case%20for%20Sexual%20Anorexa%20144%20patients_PCarnes.pdf
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- Global Addiction 2011. (2011). Global Addiction Conference. Retrieved June 25, 2013, from http://www.globaladdiction.org/dldocs/GLADD2011FinalProgandAbstractBook.pdf
- Morse, W.I. (1985, April). Inhibited Sexual Desire and Sexual Avoidance. Canadian Family Physician, 31, 781-786. Retrieved June 25, 2013, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2327527/
- Inhibited sexual desire. (2010, September 11). National Institutes of Health. Retrieved June 25, 2013, from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001952.htm
- Is Sexual Anorexia the Flip Side of Sex Addiction? (2010). The New York Times. Retrieved June 25, 2013, from http://consults.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/03/11/is-sexual-anorexia-the-flip-side-of-sex-addiction/?_r=0
- Italian men suffer 'sexual anorexia' after Internet porn use - ANSA English - ANSA.it. (2011, March 4). ANSA.it. Retrieved June 25, 2013, from http://www.ansa.it/web/notizie/rubriche/english/2011/02/24/visualizza_new.html_1583160579.html