Ever Heard of Sexual Anorexia?

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Last night I was looking through book giveaways on Goodreads and happened to spot a book about “sexual anorexia”. I’ve studied psychology and mental health issues for years, but that was a phrase I had never come across before. Now curious, I had to Google it and found the subject rather interesting.

Apparently, just as anorexics starve themselves of food, a sexual anorexic starves themselves of sexual experiences. Some do so because of strict religious or moral beliefs, but the majority do so because of fear of intimacy and trust or a history of sexual abuse. There do seem to be some who seem to have OCD issues about sex as well, and avoid it due to a belief that it is repulsive or disgusting. This last category seems especially hard hit because they tend to beat themselves up or feel degraded for even having sexual urges in the first place.

Often the sexual anorexics that are afraid of intimacy and trust might still indulge in porn, masturbation, and such, but they avoid actual sexual encounters with others. They often choose to be celibate, but some do get into relationships and then find ways to avoid actually being sexual with their partners, which obviously can lead to major issues between couples. I found it interesting that there is also a category of “sexual bulimics” which are people who might go out and sleep around a lot all at once, but then will starve themselves of sex for a long while afterward.

I know this may seem like a weird subject for a blog post, especially when I don’t have personal stories or experiences to share, but I find stuff like this fascinating. The intricacies and oddities of the human mind never fail to amaze me.

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Eating Disorders: My Experiences

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I’ve been watching some intervention episodes and other documentaries about eating disorders recently. I have never been officially diagnosed with an eating disorder of any kind, and am not sure I would consider myself an actual bulimic or anorexic, although I have had destructive behaviors related to both illnesses in the past.

Growing up, my mother and sister were overweight, and I saw what they went through being “fat”. The self-loathing, the cruel mockery from others, the way they would pick on people who were even larger than themselves in an effort to make themselves feel better. From a young age I learned that “fat” was a very bad thing to be. Maybe the “worst” thing you could be in many people’s eyes.

Around the age of 12, right after my dad died, I started putting on weight too. At first I think it was mainly just puberty, but the grief and loss of my father also made me turn to food for comfort. My mother and sister worked all the time after my dad died, so I spent most of my time at home all alone. The loneliness and heartbreak I felt soon turned me into a chubby little girl. I started getting bullied at school for my weight and went from being a confident, athletic, competitive kid to being someone who wished they could just disappear.

When I was around 15, I started working for the first time myself, and the increased physical activity and less time spent lonely and eating soon had me losing weight. I liked what I was seeing and started using little “tricks” to help myself lose more weight. Restricting what I was allowed to eat. Using laxatives if I overate. Trying pills that promised to rev up your metabolism, even if they made me more jittery and anxious.

Over the years, I have had periods of time where I fell into unhealthy habits with eating. Times where I binged and then tried to starve myself. Times where I tried to not eat and lived on water or Diet Coke (one of these periods led to my first visit to a doctor for depression). Obsessions with exercise. Endless calorie counting. Times where I saw the scale falling rapidly due to medicine side effects or a health problem and secretly rejoiced at the thinning. Using medicines that I may not actually need because they help me stay thin. Fearing the use of other medicines I may need because they cause weight gain.

As of right now, I am not actively involved in all of these behaviors on a regular basis, although I am certainly not above them and am still tempted. I do still rely on “stimulants” sometimes that I know probably aren’t good on my heart and health. Pseudoephedrine (a close relative of the diet drug Ephedra) is a big one for me, which is easy to excuse since I do have allergy and sinus issues, but I know I probably overuse it. The last time I was in the hospital, they said I tested positive for Methamphetamines, which was likely the Pseudoephedrine, since I don’t touch any illegal drugs.

I also tend to still play mind games with myself when it comes to food. I have a huge sweet tooth and I’ll tell myself, “Sure, you can have the cupcake/brownie/doughnut/cake/etc, but then you can’t have any lunch or dinner.” In my mind I justify this by saying the junk food is about the same amount of calories as a healthy lunch or dinner, so it is ok to trade them out, but I can’t help but wonder if this may be why I am often deficient in certain minerals and nutrients in blood tests.

This is the first time I’ve publicly shared these things, but I feel like it is something I want to get off my chest and be honest about.