“Not tonight. I have a headache.”
“I’m not in the mood; I just don’t feel like it.”
“All you can think of is sex. There’s a time and a place for it.”
Quite common phrases uttered between couples. There are times, though, that the lack of desire to have sex with your partner –or just have sex in general– surpasses boredom (which in itself is quite alarming when it comes to having sex) or even just everyday tiredness. Okay, sometimes the hustle and bustle of everyday life, work, responsibilities and routine, just leave you completely and utterly exhausted; so exhausted you can’t seem to work up even the slightest heat.
So, what happens when it becomes the norm and not the exception, when this reduced libido becomes a permanent state? When it’s not that you’re not currently in the mood, but you aren’t ever in the mood anymore?
Where is the fine line between just not feeling like it and Sexual Anorexia drawn?
Sex is something that we can easily fall into excesses of. Those are classified as “hypersexual disorders”. And as with anything, the coin of hypersexual disorders has two sides as well; Sex Addicts, which is widely recognized as an official condition, and Sexual Anorectics. We’ll leave the addicts for another article on another day, but you get the idea there – and it’s actually quite understandable as a condition. Sure, getting addicted to sex can happen. But feeling a complete aversion towards it? Apparently that can happen too.
Okay, to make things simple, think food. I mean, food is great, who doesn’t love to eat? Sure not all dishes are exquisite, there are times when you just don’t feel like eating, and if you do, it’s because you have to. Food is ready and available to you, but you choose not to eat even so. And then there are some who are anorexic. The term “anorexia” is used for the complete loss of appetite. In extreme cases, a person suffering from anorexia consumes minimal amounts of food, if any at all. Anorexia is rarely pathological, and so it stems mainly from someone’s emotional and psychological state. There are those who begin to eat excessively after a life-changing disappointment, and there are those who stop eating altogether. Other times it has to do with one’s idea about their physical image. In any case, the result is that, someone suffering from anorexia, slowly withers away into nothing, their health and psychological state diminishing with each passing day.
Got it? Good. Now take that and apply it to sex.
Sexual anorexia is the complete loss of “appetite” for sex; in any form. People with this condition fear, avoid or are completely averted by the thought of intercourse or emotional and sexual intimacy. It was first discussed as a theory in 1975 but it was officially introduced by Dr. Patrick Carnes in 1997.
There is no physical cause and either sex can experience it. As in people with typical anorexia, who avoid nutrition to keep fat, or other things, at bay, sexual anorectics refuse all emotional and sexual sustenance, in order to keep chaotic feelings, anxiety, and unexplored trauma buried deep inside. They deny themselves the pleasure of relationships, intimacy, dating, physical closeness – sex.
So, basically, very simply put, it’s not that they can’t have sex, it’s that they choose to steer clear of –even the possibility of– getting laid.
For this anorectic, the fear of loss, rejection and pain that might be caused by a failed relationship, even as a simple thought, are much too emotionally threatening; even as a possibility. Above all, for them, is emotional self-protection. They seek situations that offer controllable intimacy and they tend to substitute real emotional closeness and intimacy achieved in a loving relationship with sex and intensity in short-term situations they have the deception they can control. They do not allow themselves to get close enough to fall in love so they don’t have to face the perspective of being hurt in the future. Which, ultimately, leaves them feeling more empty and in pain than to begin with.
They can become obsessed with avoiding having sex, something that, eventually, begins to dominate their life. It can happen whether you have just ended a relationship, if you have been single and alone for a long period of time, or even while you’re in a loving and healthy relationships. It’s triggered by an experience and, if not dealt with, can become a quite serious condition. It’s not healthy. Period.
As far as causes are concerned, though usually sexual anorexia isn’t a pathological condition, we may find mild cases of it in people with hormone imbalances, intense exhaustion, or in women who have recently given birth and/or are breastfeeding. The psychological causes are significant here as they are not as temporary as physical ones. They include experiences such as sexual or physical abuse, rape, communication problems, a deeply pious religious background, an upbringing with a negative view of sex in general as an act, past failed relationships or even problems in the current relationship.
It can be treated with the administration of hormone balancers or mood regulators. But it is also necessary to seek the help of a specialized psychologist to determine the exact emotional causes and help overcome them.
So, there’s a huge difference between just not being in the mood for it after a fight or because you’re not really feeling it, and swearing off it because you’re too afraid to stick your neck out and live a few healthy emotional rollercoasters – ones that are natural in any relationship.
I mean, seriously, think gourmet dishes and foodie-food. A health nut? Well, I’m sure that your menu contains a few tasty things as well. And if you’re anything like me, when the word “delicious” is uttered you’re already imagining burgers, pizza, chicken wings, curly fries, crepes and cheese cake. There’s always the possibility of a stomach ache from eating too much. Are you going to starve yourself just to avoid it? Gorge, splurge, view it as an all you can eat buffet of pleasure. It’s a goddamn pity. There are so many people who are truly -emotionally and sexually- hungry out there.
After all, if you think about it, sex is like pizza; even when it’s bad, it’s good.