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Intimacy Dysfunctions #2 - sex addiction v sexual anorexia, and serial monogamy




“I literally love affection. It’s not about sex. I crave somebody to cuddle with me and to lay their head on my lap. I crave kisses, holding hands and running my thumb across theirs. Just looking at someone and thinking how did I get this lucky?"

Anonymous



Please note that some of the content of this newsletter is of a sexual nature and may be triggering.

According to the ICD-10, the diagnostic tool used by therapists to classify mental health issues, sex addiction is described as a compulsive need to perform sexual acts in order to achieve the kind of 'fix' that a person with alcohol use disorder gets from a drink, or someone with opiate use disorder gets from using opiates.

A person with sex addiction may seek out multiple sex partners, though this in itself is not necessarily a sign of a disorder.

Some may act out in a compulsive need to masturbate, view pornography, or be in sexually stimulating situations.

A person with sex addiction may significantly alter their life and activities in order to perform sexual acts multiple times a day and are reportedly unable to control their behaviour, despite severe negative consequences.

A person may have a sex addiction if they show some or all of the following signs:

  1. Chronic obsessive sexual thoughts and fantasies

  2. Compulsive relations with multiple partners, including strangers

  3. Lying to cover behaviours

  4. Preoccupation with having sex, even when it interferes with daily life, productivity, and work performance

  5. Inability to stop or control the behaviours

  6. Putting oneself or others in danger due to sexual behaviour

  7. Feeling remorse or guilt after sex

8. Experiencing other negative personal or professional consequences

Compulsive behaviours can strain relationships with the stress of infidelity. Some people may claim to have a sex addiction as a way to explain infidelity in a relationship. We've seen this with multiple celebrities who have come out as sex addicts, such as Tiger Woods, Lindsey Lohan, Kanye West, and Pamela Anderson.

In contrast with sex addiction, GoodTherapy describes sexual anorexia as a severe aversion to sexual contact and the obsessive avoidance of sex. Other signs of sexual anorexia include shame and loathing after sex.

Anorexia literally means 'interrupted appetite' so it follows that those who have sexual anorexia actively avoid, fear, or dread sexual intimacy.

Sexual anorexia can include problems such as impotence in men, but often there is no physical cause. A person with sexual anorexia may also show fear and anger when the subject of sex comes up.

Sexual anorexia is brought on by trauma. While people with sexual anorexia and other intimacy issues long for affection, in many cases they have come to believe that they are undeserving of love and that they cannot trust others. Extreme abstinence and isolation seem to them the only way to stay safe.

Common emotional causes of sexual anorexia are:

  1. Sexual abuse and rape

  2. Negative attitude toward sex

  3. Strict religious upbringing about sex

  4. Communication problems

  5. Power struggles with a partner or loved one

In food anorexia, the person refuses to eat, controlling exactly what goes in her body. In sexual anorexia, the person denies access to sexual penetration and emotional contact. Convinced that 'no one can hurt me if I don’t let them in', sexual anorexics experience an emotional wasting away as they become increasingly isolated.

Much like bulimics, sexual anorexics may enact a 'binge and purge' cycle. Individuals may go through periods of extreme deprivation of sex followed by promiscuous sexual behaviour.

Sexual addicts, in an attempt to control their compulsive behaviour, may even enforce an anorexic phase, because of self-hatred, or as punishment or atonement for sexual acting out.

In Ready to Heal: Women Facing Love, Sex, and Relationship Addiction, Kelly McDaniel states, “Sexual anorexia is an extreme aversion to closeness, and sexual addiction is an objectification of the other person that makes closeness impossible”.

With both sexual addiction and sexual anorexia, a person has difficulty forming healthy, intimate relationships, and both feature symptoms of a deeper issue the person may be experiencing and that needs to be addressed through the appropriate treatment.

Treatment can include:

  • Attending a 12-step meeting focusing on compulsive sexual behaviors, such as SLAA (Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous) or SAA (Sex Addicts Anonymous)

  • Working with a qualified therapist

Sexual anorexia and sexual addiction could be considered to be on opposite ends of the same spectrum. On one end of the spectrum, a person is sexually binging, while on the other end, a person is sexually restricting.

However, the two are actually very similar in some ways. Both conditions can lead the person to experience powerlessness over their behaviours, and the consequences for their behaviours, and both can impact every aspect of a person’s life.

Additionally, both conditions share the tendency for the person to have obsessive thoughts about sex. A person with sexual anorexia has obsessive thinking around the avoidance of sex and intimacy while a person with a sexual addiction has obsessive thoughts around obtaining sexual gratification.






Serial Monogamy

Dr Krista Jordan describes serial monogamy as a pattern of moving from one committed partnership to another. The person has difficulty tolerating being single and wants relationships to move quickly into a deeper partnership.

How to Know If You’re Dating a Serial Monogamist

  1. Serial monogamists are always in a relationship

  2. Being single can be uncomfortable for them, and they may be hesitant to discuss their exes

  3. They don’t often have long periods of time being single, and may not always have time to get over a previous relationship before starting a new long-term relationship

  4. There is little time between the end of one relationship and the beginning of the next

  5. They get upset if you do not want to become exclusive after date two

  6. They’ve been engaged three or more times without getting married

  7. They want you to move in together after a few dates and have a pattern of doing that with all of their partners

  8. Their friends or family tell you that they are never single

  9. They’ve been married more than three times without losing any spouses through death

These partners tend to be clingy, and are likely to be insecure and require a lot of reassurances from you.

Serially monogamous dating is not to be confused with hook-ups, friends-with-benefits, or one-night-stands, where casual sexual encounters are normalised and of mutual agreement.

Serial monogamous dating is where a partner is taken home to meet the parents and discuss future plans, only to be dropped after a few months (or years) before moving on to the next person.

Since relationships are the single most important factor in happiness and are integral to our mental and physical health, learning how to create and maintain more healthy relationships is of vital importance.

I realise that the content in this issue may be considered explicit for some so if you were triggered, please feel free to reach out to me.



If you identify with any of the above and want to do some healing work, book a private session with me here!



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