If you have little desire for sexual contact, you may have sexual anorexia. Anorexia means “interrupted appetite.” In this case, your sexual appetite is interrupted.
People with sexual anorexia avoid, fear, or dread sexual intimacy. Sometimes, the condition is also called inhibited sexual desire, sexual avoidance, or sexual aversion. It can involve physical problems, such as impotence in men. It often has no physical cause. Both men and women can experience sexual anorexia.
The main symptom of sexual anorexia is a lack of sexual desire or interest. You may also feel afraid or angry when the subject of sex comes up. At the 2011 Global Addiction Conference, Dr. Sanja Rozman explained that someone with this condition could become obsessed with avoiding sex. The obsession may even start to dominate your life.
Physical and emotional problems can lead to sexual anorexia.
Physical causes can include:
- hormone imbalances
- recent childbirth
- medication use
Common emotional causes include:
- sexual abuse
- a negative attitude toward sex
- strict religious upbringing about sex
- power struggles with a partner or a loved one
- communication problems
Sexual anorexia can be difficult to diagnose. A single test to identify the condition isn’t available. If you suspect you have it, talk to your doctor or counselor. A counselor, psychiatrist, or sex therapist can help diagnose your symptoms. Your health team might order tests to check for underlying health conditions. For example, blood tests can show hormone imbalances. These imbalances may interfere with your libido.
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.
Treatment for the emotional side of sexual anorexia is also necessary. Effective communication and conflict resolution skills can help couples address sexual problems. Couples counseling, relationship training, or sessions with a sex therapist may help. If you were brought up to think sex is wrong or you’ve experienced sexual trauma, work through your issues with a professional therapist
Pornography use may be linked to some cases of sexual anorexia. Researchers from the Italian Society of Andrology and Sexual Medicine (SIAMS) studied more than 28,000 Italian men. Men who looked at a lot of porn from a young age often became desensitized to it. They were more likely to lose interest in real-life sexual situations.
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 may be easy to fix depending on your underlying health conditions. However, the deep, psychological aspects of the condition can be harder to treat.
Many centers that treat sexual addiction also have treatment programs for sexual anorexia. Ask your doctor or counselor about treatment options. Keep the lines of communication open with your partner. This can prevent them from feeling rejected. Focus on nonsexual affection and touch while you work through your sexual challenges. This may help you feel connected and hopeful about your future together.