Sexual Anorexia


Sexual Addiction exists on a continuum; out of control compulsion is on one end and sexual anorexia is on the other. In the middle of the continuum is a range of healthy sexual behaviors. The sexually anorexic has an aversion to being sexual and this leads to problems in intimate relationships. As the anorexic avoids sex they disconnect in order to avoid intimacy and deeper connections with others.

Alone bench


The following are six types of sexual anorexia identified by Dr. Patrick Carnes, Ph.D. :

  1. The Anorexic: This is a total aversion to sexual thoughts, feelings, and behaviors
  2. Binge and Purge: This person is sexually out of control at times and rigidly in control at other times.
  3. The Addictive Switch:  This person stops acting out sexually but becomes compulsive in other forms. This is known as the dry drunk syndrome.
  4. The Anorexic Partner:  This person becomes anorexic due to their sexually addicted spouse’s compulsions. This person feels betrayed and fearful of trusting the addict.
  5. Simultaneous Anorexia: Both partners are anorexic
  6. Simultaneous Binge and Purge: Both partners binge sexually outside the marriage while sexually averse to one another.



There are many causes for sexual anorexia. As a result of sexual trauma, some survivors disconnect from their sexuality due to fear and shame. Some people who experienced sexual trauma engage in sexual activity then later withdraw if triggered by the past. Some anorexics grew up in rigid families and learned that sex is bad so they disconnect from their sexuality. Finally, some partners of sex addicts withdraw from their sexuality because of the hurt, betrayal, and victimization by the addict.


  • Redirecting conversations that could lead to sex
  • Dressing in an unappealing manner
  • Staying up at night until partner has gone to bed
  • Simply refusing sexual advances
  • Fear of sexual pleasure
  • Judgmental attitudes about sexual behavior
  • Self doubt about sexual adequacy
  • Avoidance of anything connected to sex
  • Taking pride in not needing sex
  • Loathing of one’s body functions
  • Avoiding intimacy because of sexual fear
  • Obsessive concern or worry about the sexual intentions of others
  • Obsession with unavailable people