Sex Addiction and Sexual Anorexia

sexual anorexia

Sex addiction has received a fair amount of publicity over the course of the past several years – from the movies Shame, Nymphomaniac, and Thanks for Sharing which feature sex-addicted protagonists to a variety of celebrities checking themselves into sex rehab, it almost seems as if sex addiction is the trendiest new addictive disorder. Sex has long-since been a vital part of mainstream media and culture, but sex addiction in itself is relatively new to the scene. Taboo and fascinating, the explicit coverage of human sexual struggles has slowly become an integrated part of movies, magazines, newspapers, and talk shows alike. Of course, when mainstream media clings to and gratuitously covers any given topic, it is sure to be grossly distorted. What we know of sex addiction (Michael Fassbender intensely eyeing a gorgeous stranger on a subway) may be a little skewed. In reality, it is not all that glamorous. In fact, sex addiction can be wholly devastating.

The Truth About Sex Addiction

Sex addiction, which is also known as hypersexual disorder, is characterized by persistent, uncontrollable, and escalating sexual thoughts and behaviors that result in a slew of harshly negative consequences. Despite accumulating consequences, the sex addict struggles to regulate his impulses, and eventually finds that he is utterly powerless over the psychological compulsion to satisfy his urges. While the DSM-V does not yet recognize sex addiction as a diagnosable disorder, research undeniably shows that there is a clear prevalence of adverse sexual behavior amongst certain individuals, which psychologically mimics the development and symptomatic presence of chemical addictions (such as alcoholism).

Signs and Symptoms of Sex Addiction

There are numerous types of sexual addiction. Not all sex addictions involve a compulsion to engage in promiscuous sexual behavior, as is often depicted by mainstream media. People may be addicted to a variety of sex-related behaviors and activities, including:

  • Masturbation
  • Fantasy
  • Pornography
  • Prostitution
  • Exhibitionism or Voyeurism
  • Sadistic or Masochistic behavior

The emotional, psychological, and physical effects of untreated sexual addiction can be severe, and are often demoralizing as well as harshly damaging to many areas of life. According to Departmental Management of the USDA, 45 percent of women and 38 percent of men who battled sexual addictions were found to have contracted at least one venereal disease. In another study, it was found that around 70 percent of women who battled sexual addictions had experienced at least one unwanted pregnancy as a direct result. Sexually transmitted diseases and other physical consequences are far from the only serious repercussion of hypersexual disorder. The condition frequently leads to serious interpersonal and relational issues as well. Marriages will be ruined, time spent with family members and friends will be compromised or abandoned, and productivity at work will suffer greatly, leading to inevitable issues with coworkers and management. Psychological effects are also serious and injurious, and range from immense and lingering feelings of guilt, shame, inadequacy, and hopelessness to the development of comorbid psychological disorders such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and issues pertaining to emotional dysregulation and impulse control.

Sexual Anorexia

On the flip side of sexual compulsivity is a disorder that is talked about much less frequently; one that can be just as devastating and demoralizing. Sexual Anorexia is a disorder that is characterized by the compulsive avoidance of sexual intimacy. While the concept of sexual anorexia has been around since the mid 70s, it was not until Dr. Patrick Carnes published a book on the subject in 1997 that the disorder began to gain widespread recognition. In order to maintain control of feelings related to sexual anxiety, unaddressed trauma, and emotional instability at bay, the sexual anorexic will deprive him or herself of any sensual sustenance. They deny themselves the natural and human pleasure of romantic relationships, dating, sexually stimulating touch, and oftentimes, any form of genuine emotional connection with others.

Most sexual anorexics fear rejection on such an overwhelming level that they opt to stay away from other human beings entirely. Isolation feels inherently safer, no matter how unsatisfying. In some instances, this disorder stems from exceedingly low self-esteem or a distorted sense of body image, or from unresolved sexual abuse or trauma. This specific disorder has also been known to arise from an especially repressive or religiously-oriented upbringing, where sexual intimacy was scorned or disallowed. Like all sexual dysfunctions, there are varying degrees of sexual anorexia. The disorder may show up briefly within long-term partnerships, with one partner either subconsciously or intentionally withholding intimacy from the other.

Treatment for Sexual Dysfunction

Just like sex addiction, this disorder is a telltale sign of a deeply rooted disconnection with self, and is best treated through intensive therapeutic counseling as well as supplemental 12-step program involvement. We at Next Chapter Treatment work with men who suffer from co-occurring disorders, such as sex addiction and chemical dependency, or sexual anorexia and relational trauma. For more information on our comprehensive program of addiction and trauma recovery, please feel free to contact us today.