'No, I don't want sex.' You may have sexual anorexia

Saturday November 9 2019

A couple battling intimacy issues. Sexual

A couple battling intimacy issues. Sexual anorexia is abnormal and compulsive avoidance of sex and intimacy. FILE PHOTO 

By DAILY NATION

Annah dragged her friend, Jane, into the clinic.

"I hope you can help her doctor. She has not had sex for more than 10 years now," Annah explained.

"She thinks it's normal. But I find it absurd that an attractive woman like her would have no desire for sex or date for so long," Annah added.

Jane sat motionless as her friend did the talking, her face repulsive and avoiding eye contact.

From her friend's long and eloquent narrative, I picked that at the age of 35, Jane neither had a baby nor a boyfriend. She was sexually inactive.

Jane saw herself as a social failure who was good for nothing. Her mum at home had been piling pressure for her to get married.

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Jane's calm demeanour soon turned into restlessness. She frowned and behaved as if she would walk out of the room at any moment.

FEAR OF SEX

And then, suddenly, she poured out her heart. "I prefer to be pure, to be clean, to have peace of mind; haven't you heard that men mistreat their wives? Aren't you worried about HIV? Would you rather I died of the disease? Are you saying I need to commit to some strange man my whole life? Sorry, but I can't!"

"There you go again!" Annah exclaimed. "She gets emotional whenever we discuss issues of relationships and sex. It is the best way to create enmity with her. In fact, if I were not her best friend she would have walked out of this room by now."

Jane was suffering from sexual anorexia. Anorexia is a term commonly used to refer to compulsive avoidance of food due to an abnormal lack of appetite.

Similarly, sexual anorexia is abnormal and compulsive avoidance of sex and intimacy. It is lack of appetite for sex, intimacy or romantic relationships.

Sexual anorexics have a pathological fear of sex. They only see danger and destruction in sex, nothing good.

They do not believe that sex can be pleasurable. They fear and abhor the imagination of being intimate and romantic.

SELF-LOATHING

They go to any length to evade relationships that could become intimate.

Even more worrying is the rigid belief and negative attitude that the sexual anorexic has about sex.

They are strongly and negatively judgmental of other sexual behaviours and sexual activities. The beliefs could even be supported by distorted religious beliefs.

Should they get sexually aroused or if by any chance they get involved in sexual activity, the sexual anorexic feels guilty and dirty.

They can go the extent of self-destruction to punish positive sexual desire or arousal. In rare instances, they may respond by overindulgence in what they do not believe - casual sex and become even more self-hating.

Incidentally, some sexual anorexics find themselves in marriage. They often deny their spouses sex. Some may become hostile after a sexual act.

CAUSES

Some pretend that they enjoy sex but they do it just to keep the marriage going while hurting internally. Their real wish is that they could avoid sex.

"So tell me, doctor, exactly what causes sexual anorexia?" Annah interrupted as I explained the diagnosis to them.

Well, there could be multiple causes of sexual anorexia. Sometimes it is a result of an unpleasant experience in early childhood.

It could be a rape or incest experience that has left a deep-seated scar and the person is hurting internally without realising it.

Occasionally, it is a disappointment in a relationship like being cheated on by a lover you so much trusted and gave everything. In other cases, it may be a distorted strong belief system pegged on religion or culture.

Treatment involves confronting the cause of the problem and dealing with it in a sincere way.

TREATMENT

The sexual anorexic may not even tie his or her belief and behaviour to the cause. The sexologist has to dig deep into the victim's life and help them realise the source of their troubles.

"Oops, I don't believe this," Jane exclaimed loudly. Tears were flowing down her face. She then cried out heartily and uncontrollably as her friend hugged her.

"I am sorry Jane, did I touch a raw nerve?" I interjected. "I was raped on my way to school by a gang of boys. I was 12," she whispered.

She had never discussed the experience with anybody and she hated men and took them as beasts. She could not have sex with beasts.

'Sad, very sad indeed,' I thought to myself as I referred Jane for psychotherapy, the ultimate care for this kind of problem.

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