Sexual Anorexia

Private Personal And Couples Counselling For Sexual Anorexia in Sydney & Online


The word anorexia means “interrupted appetite”. Sexual anorexia is a term describing a behaviour of compulsive sexual intimacy avoidance. Psychologist Nathan Hare first mentioned the concept of sexual anorexia in 1975. Psychiatrist Sylvia Kaplan made use of the concept in 1981, and this was published in the editor’s ‘Notes’ in the journal Black Male/Female Relationships. Dr Patrick Carnes, authority in sex addiction research, published his book ‘Sexual Anorexia’ in 1997.


Sexual Anorexia, or Sexual Avoidance Disorder (SAD), can be defined as an extreme fear, or obsessive avoidance, of sexual contact and sexual intimacy. People, who suffer from sexual anorexia, may feel disgust and self-loathing after sex, or may experience irrational fear of sexually transmitted diseases, (STIs). Sexual anorexics, male or female, may engage in self destructive behaviours of either avoiding sexual intimacy altogether, or acting out episodes of sexual promiscuity and extreme sexual deprivation.


Sexual anorexia is caused by trauma and dysphoria. People with sexual anorexia, or other intimacy disorders, long for love and affection like anyone else, but believe they are unworthy of love and therefore cannot trust others to love them. Extreme sexual abstinence and isolation seems the only safe way.

Underlying causes of sexual anorexia may include;

  • Sexual rape
  • Body shaming
  • Negative sexual learnings and attitudes
  • Strict religious upbringing
  • Power struggle and sexual communication problem with a partner
  • Sexual coercion
  • Domestic violence
  • Impotence with no physical cause
  • Orgasmic difficulties


Sexual anorexia can suddenly flip over to extreme sexual promiscuity with acting out compulsive sex binges and filling a gap of harmful sexual deprivation. Acting out behaviours can vary and may include, compulsive masturbation, pornography binges, sex dating, paid sexual activities, swinging, anonymous sex, Internet sex, flirtation, grooming, seduction, or having sex with multiple partners.


Sexual anorexics do not necessarily have an aversion to sex itself, but are mistrustful of intimacy and sexual attachment to a partner. Mood swings between fear, disgust, and anger are common when the subject of sex is raised.

Symptoms of sexual anorexia may include;

  • Distortion of thoughts
  • Obsessional self-doubt about sexual adequacy
  • Distortion of body image
  • Obsessive exercising
  • Unattractive self-presentation
  • Self-destructing sex-avoiding behaviours
  • Extreme shame and self-loathing over sexual thoughts and experiences
  • Extreme fear of sexually transmitted infections, STIs
  • Psychosomatic illness that preclude sexual activity
  • Extreme loathing of body functions
  • Eliminating anything that could possible stimulate sexual arousal
  • In extreme cases – self-mutilating of body parts to make oneself unattractive
  • Occasional periods of sexual binging and extreme promiscuity
  • In addition, sexual anorexics may compensate their lack of sex, love and intimacy with a number of non-sexual compulsive behaviours, such as;
  • Chemical addictions
  • Behavioural addictions
  • Compulsive shopping
  • Compulsive exercise
  • Compulsive eating behaviours
  • Compulsive cleaning
  • Compulsive money behaviours
  • Hoarding behaviours


You are not alone. Sexual Anorexia and Sexual Avoidance Disorder are fully treatable intimacy disorders. Please contact our experienced sex therapist Heide at Sex Addiction Australia for further information or booking a confidential consultation Book Or Enquire Online or call Heide directly in Sydney  (+61) 02 9380 4486 or email