Sexual anorexia

by Theresa Marie Abec, FLT Columnist

Do you feel married but alone? Do you feel your spouse intentionally inhibits “connectedness” to you? Sexual anorexia is when a spouse withholds sexual intimacy, emotions and spiritual connectedness purposefully from their spouse. It’s like starving your spouse, which causes problems in a marriage. How many times have you asked your spouse to “connect” but it ended in failure?

Sexual anorexia is one of the six types of sex addiction. Here are some characteristics of someone with sexual anorexia: staying so busy that there is no time for spouse, blaming spouse, withholding sex from spouse, using money to control spouse, criticizing spouse, withholding praise from spouse, and unwilling to discuss feelings with your spouse. There are four causes of intimacy anorexia: sexual abuse, sexual addiction, poor role modeling, and attachment issues with cross-gender parent.

Withholding intimacy is usually known to a spouse, but since sexual anorexics have friends and seem “normal” to the outside world, it seems to make this issue more isolative. For example Paula and Joe have been married 15 years and now Paula has made a call for counseling because she does not want to live like a roommate with her husband any longer. Joe was sexually abused when he was eight years old, and as a result of his abuse does not really want to open up and connect sexually with Paula because sex causes him emotional pain. He has had infrequent sex with her at the beginning of their marriage, but now they have sex a couple times a year. Joe uses his career and busyness with their children to withhold intimacy from Paula on purpose as a means to avoid. Paula, who tends to have a controlling personality, says she is not the woman she used to be, she feels her self-esteem has dropped and now overeats and has depressive symptoms. Both these individuals are suffering and feel trapped.

There is help for individuals with sexual anorexia and their spouses. Addiction is real and can be successfully treated. Recovery materials are available at

Theresa Marie Abec is a Board Certified Clinical Counselor and welcomes new patients looking for assistance with adults with mental health issues, specializing in sex addiction recovery therapy. She is currently under direct clinical supervision with Dr. Doug Weiss through the American Association for Sex Addiction Therapy (AASAT). To schedule an appointment with Theresa, call Serenity Health & Wellness Center at 419-891-2181.