Sexual Addiction, Compulsivities and Sexual Anorexia

Sexual addiction as defined by The National Council on Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity via Society for the Advancement of Sexual Health (SASH), as any sexually-related, compulsive behavior which interferes with normal living and causes severe stress on one’s self, relationship with others and on one’s living and work environment. Sexual addiction is a persistent and escalating pattern or thoughts, feelings, urges and or patterns of sexual behaviors (acted out or not) despite efforts to stop the behavior and or despite negative consequences to self or others. Sex addiction may be identified as any compulsive or impulsive sexual activity that falls into one of three categories: shameful, secretive or abusive. Sexual addiction has been referred to as sexual addiction, sexual dependence and sexual compulsivity. Regardless of its name, it is a compulsive behavior that completely consumes, dominates and guides the addicted person’s life to the point where an individual may feel “a loss of control” over his or her behavior, a “compulsion to act out”, or a “craving” for the desired behavior.

Some out of control, obsessive or ritualized behaviors which may reflect sexual addiction may include in isolation or together: exhibitionism and voyeurism, masturbation, simultaneous or multiple, repeated, or sequential affairs, pornography, cyber sex, phone sex; multiple anonymous partners; unsafe sexual activity; partner sexualization or objectification; strip clubs and adult bookstores; prostitution/escort use/sexual massage; sexual aversion; and or drug/alcohol problems related to sex.

Often early childhood trauma or attachment deprivation may be at the root of intimacy difficulty, contributing to problems relating to sex. Denial, minimization or rationalizations are defenses which causes the sex addict to ignore other problems, justify and/or rationalize the consequences, and/or blame others. 

Sexual Anorexia
What is Sexual Anorexia?

Sexual anorexia is an obsessive state in which the physical, mental, and emotional task of avoiding sex dominates one's life. Like self-starvation with food or compulsive dieting or hoarding with money, deprivation with sex can make one feel powerful and defended against all pain.

As with any other altered state of consciousness, such as those brought on by chemical use, compulsive gambling,  eating, or any other addiction process, the preoccupation with the avoidance of sex can seem to obliterate one's life problems. The obsession can then become a way to cope with all stress and all life difficulties. Yet, as with other addictions and compulsions, the costs are great. In this case, sex becomes a furtive enemy to be continually kept at bay, even at the price of annihilating a part of oneself.

Deprivation or restricting one’s self, as seen in food anorexia is similar to sexual anorexia. In both disorders, the sufferers starve or withhold in the midst of availability. Both types of deprivation share the isolation and loss of self; the same distortions of thought, and a heightened need for control over self, others and the environment. Withholding nourishment results in anxiety or tension which is displaced onto sex.

As a result, the sexual anorexic will typically experience the following:

A dread of sexual pleasure
A morbid and persistent fear of sexual contact
Obsession and hyper vigilance around sexual matters
Avoidance of anything connected with sex
Preoccupation with others being sexual
Distortions of body appearance
Extreme loathing of body functions
Obsessional self-doubt about sexual adequacy
Rigid, judgmental attitudes about sex
Excessive fear and preoccupation with sexual diseases
Obsessive concern or worry about the sexual activity of others
Shame and self-loathing over sexual experiences
Depression about sexual adequacy and functioning
Self-destructive behavior to limit, stop, or avoid sex

Sexual anorexic’s personal histories often include sexual exploitation or some form of severely traumatic sexual rejection-or both. Experiences of childhood sexual abuse are common with sexual anorexics which may be accompanied by other forms of childhood abuse and neglect. As a result of these traumas, they may tend to carry dark secrets and loyalties that have never been disclosed.