Sexual Anorexia – Misunderstood Condition Explained

You may not have heard of it, or even believe it exists, but it's real.
Getty Images/iStockphoto

People who have little desire for sexual intimacy, or who avoid, fear or dread sex, may have a condition called sexual aversion or sexual avoidance. Some call it sexual anorexia — a term that was first coined more than 30 years ago.

"Medically, it is called inhibited sexual desire or sexual aversion disorder. It's important to stress that it can affect both men and women," sexologist and clinical psychologist Dr Craig Viljoen told HuffPost.

People with this condition have very low sexual desire, or the complete lack thereof. "A partner affected by this hardly initiates sex or responds to the other partner's sexual advances," explained Viljoen. The subject of sex may trigger feelings of anxiety, stress and even anger, and so they avoid it often — and on purpose.

As pointed out by Healthline, sexual anorexia can be a primary or secondary condition. It's a primary condition if the person with inhibited sexual desire has never had sexual desire, and it's a secondary condition if the person began a relationship with normal sexual desire, but later became uninterested.


People most at risk of developing the condition have a history of trauma in their past, such as sexual abuse, or having to endure emotional and physical trauma. Owing to these experiences, a person's brain may become wired to recognise intimate relationships as dangerous and as experiences better avoided than embraced, explained psychotherapist Dr Paul Hokemeyer.

Body dysmorphia, shame or rejection, humiliation, religious dogma and premature exposure to graphic pornography are also some for the condition's causes.

"There are also medical factors to consider," added Viljoen — such as chronic illness, erectile dsyfunction in men, side-effects of medicines, or hormonal changes and hormonal imbalance caused by, for example, pregnancy and breastfeeding in women, which may greatly affect one's sexual desire.


"It's important to get help, as the disorder can injure not only the affected person's sexual experience, but also that of a partner," said Viljoen. The partner may begin to wonder if they are not sexually attractive or impressive enough, and it may result in the premature ending of relationships and other effects.

He recommends seeing a professional such as a psychologist, sexologist, sexual therapist or sex counsellor if you suspect that you suffer from sexual avoidance. More importantly, if it's because of underlying issues that have never been addressed, a professional can help you get to the root of those issues.