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Sexual anorexia is a pathological loss of "appetite" for romantic-sexual interaction, often the result of a fear of intimacy to the point that the person has severe anxiety surrounding sexual activity and emotional aspects (i.e. an intimate relationship).
Sexual addiction and sexual anorexia
In the view of some practitioners, corroborating the "seminal" work of Patrick Carnes, there are people who appear to have a sexual addiction which is expressed through a variety of behaviors such as the compulsive use of strip clubs, prostitutes, cyberporn sites, etc. but fit the definition of sexual anorexic in that they seem to lack the ability to have a relationship of a sexual nature beyond a paid-for or anonymous experience. The person does not have an aversion to sex but to intimacy.
History of the term
The concept of sexual anorexia was first mentioned by psychologist Nathan Hare in 1975, in an unpublished dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment for a Ph.D. at the California School of Professional Psychology in San Francisco. Ellen Goodman, the nationally syndicated columnist, wrote about psychiatrist Sylvia Kaplan's use of the concept in 1981 and this was noted in the editor's "Notes" in the journal Black Male/Female Relationships.
A book by psychologist Patrick Carnes called Sexual Anorexia was published in 1997. Hare's Ph.D. dissertation on Black Male-Female Relations (1975) as well as the now defunct journal called Black Male/Female Relationships (1979–1982) are available in University Microfilms, from the University of Michigan. See also Nathan and Julia Hare, "Sexual Anorexia," Crisis in Black Sexual Politics, published in 1989 by The Black Think Tank, San Francisco, pp. 137–140, ISBN 0-9613086-2. Julia Hare has also used it in a book, The Sexual and Political Anorexia of the Black Woman (June 2008, ISBN 978-0-981-7999-02).
A sex addict is more likely to be capable of being in a more intimate relationship and is often married or in a committed relationship when deciding to get treatment for their addiction. A sexual anorexic may have a social phobia or be so fragile emotionally that the risk of rejection or criticism is far more frightening than being isolated. Narcissistic traits are often seen in both sexual anorexics and sex addicts, but in the sexual anorexic, the traits are considered far more "brittle" and the pain of rejection and criticism is far more deeply felt than for the sex addict.
Treatment is aimed at helping the person see where their fears lie and to see the world in less black and white terms. The patient is encouraged to take calculated risks with social activities and distorted thinking is gently challenged with facts and reality. The goals for both sex addicts and sexual anorexics is to learn to have healthy sex and get emotional needs met in direct ways, and to set healthy boundaries. This is an issue that requires ongoing treatment in planned stages with the end goal of autonomy, independence, and improved social relationships.
- Douglas Weiss Ph.D., Sexual Anorexia, Beyond Sexual., Emotional and Spiritual Withholding (1998)
- Carnes, Patrick J. (December 1998). "The case for sexual anorexia: An interim report on 144 patients with sexual disorders" (PDF). Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity. 5 (4): 293–309. ISSN 1072-0162. doi:10.1080/10720169808402338. Retrieved 2006-11-27.
- Nelson, Laura (June 2003). "Sexual addiction versus sexual anorexia and the church’s impact" (PDF). Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity. 10 (2/3): 179–191. ISSN 1072-0162. doi:10.1080/10720160390230682. Retrieved 2006-11-27.
- Katehakis, Alexandra (November 2, 2010). "Understanding Sexual Anorexia". Good Therapy On-line article about sexual anorexia