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What Is Sexual Anorexia?

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What Is Sexual Anorexia?
A real medical problem that could happen to anyone, and an indication of other deeper problems.

By Tara Weng, GalTime

The phrase sexual anorexia may seem a taboo one at that, but the truth of the matter is, it's a real, medically studied problem.

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It's a term that's been coined from the clinical diagnosis: sexual aversion disorder. The condition has been described by the experts as "one that goes far beyond inhibition or sexually negative attitudes. It is an obsessive state in which the thought of being sexual by oneself or with others is almost unbearable."

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Dr. Paul Hokemeyer, puts it in perspective.

"While some people may snicker at the concept, sexual anorexia is a very real phenomenon. Sex is one of the ways we communicate with other people and with ourselves. When the sexual part of ourselves is shut down or limited our psychological life suffers. Just like a a pond needs to be constantly re-fed, so too does our erotic life. When its not, it stagnates and becomes toxic."

Dr. Hokemeyer goes on to explain that sexual anorexia is just one of the ways people seek out--in an attempt to manage emotional pain. He associates the condition with a certain way men and women can feel a "sense of mastery over their bodies, their lives and even their emotions."

Associating it with other forms of addiction, Hokemeyer acknowledges that this type of "coping mechanism" can work in the short term, but over time shutting down one's sexuality can take a hefty toll.

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Hokemeyer outlines the four most common characteristics associated with the disorder:

  • Rigidity around sex (i.e. never having sex and/or refusing to discuss sex)
  • Fear of sex, sexuality and sexually related issues and objects (i.e. becoming anxious when the topic of sex is discussed, when other people express their sexuality, or when sexual objects such as lingerie are shown or discussed)
  • Shame and guilt around sex (i.e. feeling “damaged” because of your sexual past or current sexual desires)
  •  Self-harm to avoid appearing sexual (i.e. gaining weight to avoid sexual advances from others)

While there is no "cure-all" for sexual anorexia there is hope. Some clinicians suggest the following for sufferrers:

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  • Typical treatment would involve discovering and resolving underlying conflict or life difficulties.
  • The choice of behavioral or psychodynamic psychotherapy depends on the diagnostic understanding, but can be an aid.
  • Marital therapy is indicated if the cause is interpersonal.
  • Panic states can be treated with tricyclic antidepressants, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, monoamine oxidase inhibitors, or benzodiazepines.

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