Sexual Anorexia and Intimacy Anorexia

There has been a lot of discussion on the Sisterhood web site about the concepts of Sexual And Intimacy Anorexia.  Many opinions have been voiced, so I thought I would bring that topic over here and see what some of you might have to say.

So, here is what I wrote as a topic on the Sisterhood site:

 

Let’s talk a little about ‘anorexia’ as it seems to be a hot topic in the forums lately.

Simply put, anorexia means ‘lack of appetite’.

Some of the Sex Addiction gurus have coined this word and tacked it onto all sorts of ‘symptoms’. In my opinion this is done to confuse all of us, label things that already have a name and package it and make is seem new so that new and expensive treatments can be initiated.

Repackaging and re-branding is a very common and very powerful marketing tool. It’s done all the time. For example, let’s look at yogurt. A plain and simple food that just a decade ago no one would even consider eating except us health food nuts.

Look at yogurt today. It’s all packaged up to appeal to almost every segment of the population; babies, kids, teens, women, men, retirees, the elderly and the sickly. It comes in all shapes and sizes; custard, Greek, low fat, non fat, live or dead cultures, frozen, liquid, shakes and smoothies. It comes in tubs, jars, bottles, tubes and on sticks.

But, it’s still yogurt. But by repackaging it and re-branding it the yogurt business is booming.

This type of marketing is seen in almost every segment of our culture from aspirin to zippers.

But, what I see with this anorexia label, and Sex Addiction treatment in general, is much more complicated, and certainly more harmful than just a simple marketing technique.

We are not talking about products here, we are talking real live people and relationships in crisis.

I see the treatment for Sex Addiction exploding into a giant cash cow and there are opportunists on every street corner. By labeling and treating a symptom (and this includes the Sex addiction itself, which I consider a symptom rather than a disease itself), rather than looking at the larger picture of the background, genetics, symptoms and traits of the addict–and then addressing these as diagnosed disorders and treating them with tested psychiatric or psychological methods implemented by professionals, the addict, and the partner are left without adequate treatment and a much lighter wallet.

Sounds like ‘snake oil’ to me.

A simple review of the traits of Personality Disorders shows that many disordered people become withdrawn, solitary, have no desire for human attachment…oh hell, I could fill this entire page with symptoms that would mimic this so called ‘sexual or intimacy anorexia’.

If you would like to see the list just click on the ‘Resources’ menu on the right and download the DSMIII list of 14 Personality Disorders. The DSMIV had decreased the PD’s to 10, but I think this list is much more comprehensive and it is the best list I have found.

So. that’s my rant for the day. What do you think?

Related Articles

Responses

  1. Dear JoAnn,

    What do I think? Well, I think Dr. Weiss’ book “Intimacy Anorexia” describes my husband to a “T”. I could have written that book. He actively avoids any emotional intimacy or any conversation that might be or get deeper than a puddle after a spring rain. I’ve seen him turn my pleas for conversation into his manipulative tool du jour. My “husband” has used every avoidance technique in the book and he has all the symptoms enumerated by Dr. Weiss as signs/symptoms of intimacy anorexia. His latest avoidance techniques include 12-step meetings and sleep. Says the Prozac makes him sleepy. Net bottom line: He’s supposedly clean and sober, but my emotional needs still aren’t being met and I think he’s intentionally withholding from me.

    I will look through the DSM III list of personality disorders to see if those are a better fit.

    My Best, Betty

  2. We have an odd situation. My SA does not withhold affection from me…on the contrary, he wants me & everybody else. I think that in our situation I am the anorexic as a result from his “escapades.” He would LOVE for me to be intimate and affectionate with him. He begs for me to be more open and affectionate, says that is what makes HIM feel loved, but I just cannot. He has long ago killed the part of me that felt that way toward him, and I totally do not trust him, even though he is supposedly “clean and sober” as well. (I do not consider still trolling around on craigslist clean & sober BTW.) My emotional needs are null and void. I couldn’t even tell you what my emotional needs are.

    1. It’s very much the same for me, my husband desires me intensely and often, but since being betrayed I find myself less sexually aroused in general, sexuality is now associated with such perversions. It;s only been 6 months since his coming clean but I swear it gets worse every day, as if it’s ingraining itself on my mind, altering me permanently. (Don’t know exactly what ‘it’ is, probably best defined as unresolved feelings of the worst-imaginable emotional pain one can experience).

      1. My husband wants to have sex with me also. He has been recovering (off and on) for a few years now but I am beginning to think he will never know the difference between intimacy of the emotional kind and sex. I am so humiliated. the other night he decided to hold me in bed. He started trying to arouse me and I made it quite clear I was not interested. (he had just watched sexually stimulating scenes on tv), he didn’t stop pushing himself on me. I decided to go along with it since he had physically stimulated me. Then he could not maintain an erection so I rolled over to go to sleep. He then used me to masturbate on. I was so humiliated and disgusted that I could say nothing. He of course apologized profusely saying it was an accident. NO,it was NOT and accident. He caused it to happen.
        I can not stand the thought of him touching me. It was hard enough before this since I picture him using porn and other means of release. What am I needed for. I feel as if I am just a receptacle that needs to be used because the urge came on him and I was there so he couldn’t release himself some other way.
        I use to totally enjoy our sexual life. for a few years I have been repulsed by the thought of it. Now I am sickened even more if that is possible.
        How in the world do we go about fixing this. I would like to have a healthy emotional and sex life with my husband but I can’t even think of him in that way. I just feel dirty.
        Is there a way to regain the romance and still feel like a loved, clean, moral woman?

      2. You sure can’t regain it by yourself, Brenda! He’s got to do some work. OR you could get it with someone else.

  3. Aleigh,

    What you are experiencing is not sexual anorexia, IMO. It is a normal and natural response to an intensely traumatic betrayal… and ewwww… but I caught HPV from my addie BF and he was (and still IS, despite a stint in rehab) a CL “predator.” (which is my not-so-fond nickname for him). So, the fact that you don’t want to have anything to do with him, is a natural response to self-preservation.

    Now, as it happens, I also have a husband SA, who encouraged me to date a few years ago.

    Its all fucked up.

    I understand the numbness that you are feeling as well, which is another way the mind handles the trauma, because it is just too overwhelming, to take it all in at once. You’ll get your feeling back. I did, and look out!

    I am taking steps to leave my husband of 23 years. I cannot live with someone who could do this to me for years and years. I was honest with him, about what I was doing and it WASN’T what I really wanted. AND, I had asked him over and over what HE was doing/hiding… and he wouldn’t tell me, but goaded me into looking, and it was THEN, that i found TONS of blatant evidence! what an idiot!!!

    Until five years ago, I didn’t even have an inkling that he was fucking around like he was, behind my back and on web cam outside our bedroom door. And he wasn’t just looking for sex. NOPE. He was looking for a relationship with another married woman– and he had affairs.

    yeaach… yeah… to feel more like a man.

    what a fucking loser!

    I can’t tell you what you should do, but honey, do you have a talk therapist to discuss your options and feelings with? Someone who really understands trauma and what you are going through? I find it very helpful, and for me, therapy seems to be a lifelong thing, on and off.

    If you need further support, from a really fantastic group of women, I would suggest the sister site SOS
    http://sisterhoodofsupport.com/ There is a nominal monthly fee (because it is very expensive to run it), but it is worth every penny.

    My best,

    Lexie

  4. I was just having a conversation with a friend of mine over a similar line of thought. She works for the state attorney general’s office and works as a prosecutor for all these deviant SA’s that the state finds out on social media and arrests.

    The comment was that these men’s lives are obsessed with sex… and yet given the opportunity to actually have sex (normal 2 partner loving commitment kind of stuff) they reject it, avoid it, even fear it. They binge inappropriately at one end of the cycle, and fast at the other (and start picking up a holier than thou attitude along with it as they feel they are superior at “controlling” their lives so well) they justify their actions constantly.

    These sick men have spent the majority of their lives dealing with their own inadequacies to the point that they’ve convinced themselves that they are normal and that nothing is wrong with them. They cut themselves off emotionally from human kind to a point that in many of the cases my friend was telling me about they don’t even recognize the look of pain or fear in their victims faces. They objectify other human beings to a point that they loose their core humanity – reading body language appropriately and feeling sad for or protective of others.

    It’s not just anorexia in binging and fasting from sex… it’s cutting themselves off from the basics of humanity (caring, protecting the weak, improving our human condition) and social acceptance (taking for their needs rather than giving and reaping the benefits).

    As for my addict… we have a fairly normal sex life for 7 year marrieds with two young toddlers. I often would like more, and he has denied me in the past because he’s “taken care of himself” earlier. What I really miss though is the love and closeness we could have if he wasn’t so damned selfish all the time. There is no real love in a marriage with a sex addict. Their love is directed elsewhere. If they did really love they wouldn’t hurt us repeatedly.

    1. I wonder what percentage of these “men” have asperger’s syndrome? They can’t read emotions correctly, that’s for sure.

      I also think they’re 12 years old, emotionally.

      A grown, adult woman cannot possibly have a fulfilling relationship with a 12 year old……not emotionally, not sexually. Adult “love and closeness” just isn’t possible.

      I found that once I looked at my “husband” and his actions, through the lens of a 12 year old, everything made sense. Try it….see if you experience the same “AHA! I get it now.” They’re not men, they’re 12 year old’s trapped in men’s bodies.

      1. Mine’s actually stuck around 14-15. That’s when he first started to get in trouble for his sex acts. 10 years in prison, half-way houses and treatment programs handed him a large collection of tools to use to get better – and an even larger collection of mental ideas and images to act out on. Counseling has left him second guessing every action he takes – except when he wants to act out.

        I really think we could cause a major dent in the porn industry if we could just figure out how to get these men past their teens and turn them into real men. Teach them how to connect on an adult level with others.

        It would be a miracle cure for sure.

      2. First of all, JoAnn, thank you for this site…it saved my sanity! I’ve read the site for the past 7 months after toiling through an emotional landmine of discovery – and the very worst behaviors way beyond the “porn” I was worried about – and coming back to the sparkly, but wizened, sense of myself. I’m still occasionally walloped by the sharpest pain or memory and need to just sit and feel the pain and I’m constantly letting go and integrating what was “THE” most painful experience of my life that woke me up!

        For Betty and others: You know what’s odd about the statement about twelve year old boys is that my twelve year old son is infinitely more emotionally literate and mature than my ex-narcissist/sa. I read many times over the years that the median age a boy will find porn in today’s culture is 11. A few weeks ago, on his computer, I spotted a google search for “naked 12 yr old girls”, I knew the day would come when his interest in sexual behavior and his own budding sexuality would meet. When I found the searches I made a point to have a neutral, informed, factual discussion about his emerging curious notions of sexuality. We talked about the naturalness of wanting to see girls naked at this age. We talked about law enforcement and their job to protect girls (like him, same age) who’s pictures are up on the internet naked and how the law enforcement will track those that are interested in seeing little girls naked. When I framed the naturalness of his desire being new and yet uninformed with potentially destructive consequences AND offered to go online with him and find some books to guide more informed discussions together he was right there for it. Is there still a need for a parental internet control? I think so, coupled with open non-judgmental conversations about sexuality and what it means to ourselves and how its interpreted in the culture. FYI, the books we are utilizing for our in depth sex-ed discussion are “Changing Bodies, Changing Lives” by Ruth Bell+ and “My Body, My Self for Boys” by the Madaras’. I guess I’m seeing a wonderful vehicle for another step in healing for myself in this opportunity to shape a man-to-be’s future sexual health through the lens of neutral facts, compassion, curiousness, and love. And as a mother I believe it is my spiritual responsibility to furnish my children with useful kind skills that will further aid in their own development and add to the greater good.

        Life does get better after chaos…Leila

  5. Ann,

    They do not know what love is. We all make the mistake of assuming that the playing field is even… That our SA is playing with a full deck.

    he’s not. he’s missing some key cards, but he has no idea of this, and so its a futile exercise to explain to someone, something he’s never had.

    Oh, he can often go through the motions, because he saw it in a movie, or read it in a book, (SAs are great at regurgitating stuff, especially when in “recovery”) or saw a couple in the park, holding hands and making out. But, its not really how he feels, because he has NO real feeling for anyone, except maybe for himself. Its not about you, either.

    Staying with a SA, is always going to be a losing proposition, if one is expecting a healthy, loving relationship.

    much love and light and strength, to you.

    L

    xo ~ L

    1. Well said, Lexie!

      On going through the motions……..My “husband” has now started using the phrase “make love” when trying to convince me to have dick wet, rocks off, 30 second sex. It’s just so darn funny watching him mouth the words knowing all the while that he has NO CLUE what they mean. I say things like:

      “Just as a blind person can say the color red, but have no clue what it means,

      Sex addicts can say and do things, parrot and mimic behavior, but they have no clue, no real feelings supporting the words or behavior. A deep and abiding emotional relationship is a necessary precursor to making love. Do we have a deep and abiding emotional relationship?”

      “Your entire perception of human sexuality has been informed, formed and molded by pornography. How does “making love” differ from “having sex?””

      He never knows what to say…..He has no feeling, no understanding…….none. I really think it’s aspergers.

      My best to you, Betty

    2. I think in my head I know you are right. I want a healthy, happy, loving relationship. This is not what I have with my husband. But I have hope still and can not give up yet. Is there any hope of a sexual anorexic recovering even a little? I have only just found this, you see, I was starting to think that I was going mad and that as my husband says our relationship problems are all my fault. I am becoming objective again. Just need to get my self esteem back. But can someone give me any hope that my marriage will get better if he accepts he has a problem or am I wasting my time?
      Hugs and positive thoughts to all of u
      Xx

  6. lx,

    I also lost my attraction for my SA, even before I knew that he WAS a SA. I think its probably nature’s way of protecting oneself from disease? Are you getting any kind of counseling? I have found it helpful. Are you planning on staying with your h or are you feeling, like a lot of us, paralyzed with fear and afraid to make such a bold move. It is excruciatingly painful. I know, and I also know that the thought of having my husband’s hands all over me, totally creeps me out! xo ~ Lexie

  7. My husband was sexually anorexic for years. He was told by specialists that he was just asexual. This was his main symptom of SA for at least 20 years. We were married during 12 of those years. It was extremely frustrating, that no one knew what it was. Once he started having se, it became acting out SA pretty quickly. If he had seen Dr. Weiss during the anorexia phase, maybe he never would have started acting out. So I think more doctors should be versed in sexual anorexia. It isn’t snake oil but a symptom of sexual addiction.

  8. My dear Jack,

    We here writing and reading this blog are absolutely not interested in your sexual dysfunction or the fact that you sought fit to have extra-marital sex without your wife’s consent–or knowledge and that you can only get it up with hookers and one night stands. That’s fucked up, for certain, but strange as it may seem to you, we really, really, REALLY DO NOT CARE. In fact, we are absolutely dumbfounded that you would find it at all appropriate to write on here, looking for what??? SYMPATHY??? WTF??? Well, you asked for it, so here goes… You are a pathetic piece of shit! We are YOUR wife as our husbands have decimated us with similar fucked up betrayals… so I have only one thing to say to you.

    hit the road, Jack!

  9. My husband has been in the sexual anorexia stage for years. Even with therapy and abstinence from porn he has no use for me as a woman. He has been in therapy for 6 months and abstinent from porn for almost 3 yrs now. I wonder when it’s time to say when. How long is too long? We’ve been married for 23 yrs. Should I impose a time limit? I feel panicked..I’m getting older… how long will/should I live without physical affection? I am so sad and desperate.

  10. I highly recommend the book “Your Sexually Addicted Spouse – How Partners Can Cope And Heal” By Barbara Steffens, PHD & Marsha Means MA.
    It is saving my life right now.

  11. How do they have ‘sexual anorexia’? I call bullshit. With Anorexia Nervosa, you don’t eat. You don’t want to eat. Food grosses you out.
    These freaks get sex in all kinds of ways. They aren’t denying themselves. I think it is much, much more about power than anything else. Does that block intimacy? Of course- but they aren’t denying themselves anything. They are denying their partner- often in a passive aggressive way.

  12. It seems just one more term to try and make the abuser the ‘victim’, so they can put on their phony victim face and crocodile tears.

  13. Betty is correct. When the SAs life has consisted of a porn diet, they are incapable of forming intimate bonds. I read somewhere that some desperately want to connect & be “normal” and fit in but they just can’t! In my case he started due to childhood trauma (parents divorce) & grew up neglected. Magazine pictures became a coping mechanism & way to self-medicate through life. As technology progressed, he also progressed. Somewhere in their minds they realize they aren’t like the rest but the denial is so thick from years of them thinking that what they’re doing is normal that it’s like a barrier to getting help. Lying becomes a way to hide unacceptable behaviors so of course true intimacy can’t be possible when you sneak around covering tracks. I’m in the midst of a divorce & alternate between compassion, hurt, anger etc. The more I read about SA the more I realize the need for good parenting, good research & the need to limit exposure to porn for kids. It’s too late for most of our SAs but there’s young people right now who can be saved with proper education. They should not use porn as a coping skill just like we wouldn’t want them to use drugs or alcohol to escape reality. Many start in adolescence & never learn to form meaningful, healthy relationships. Mine had no close friends but a lot of accquaintances. His narcissism is a cover for low self-esteem. It takes monumental determination to manage SA. They don’t seem to find value in meaningful relationships. Tragic for all involved.