Intimacy anorexia is an extreme form of love avoidance in which emotional, spiritual, and/or sexual intimacy is actively withheld from the primary relationship partner. So what does that have to do with sex addiction? For some of you, maybe a lot.
Intimacy anorexia was first identified by sex addiction and relationship recovery expert Doug Weiss. Doug found that approximately 30% of recovering sex addicts and 40% of their partners demonstrated intimacy anorexia. The rates of intimacy anorexia in my own counseling practice are roughly similar to those of Weiss. That’s a lot of intimacy deprivation going around.
In my own counseling practice, I’ve found intimacy anorexia to be an important obstacle to obtaining and sustaining sexual sobriety. For many recovering sex addicts, reining in sexual acting out is relatively easy, but if the intimacy anorexia isn’t addressed the resulting intimacy deprivation poisons the progress of the spiritual, emotional, and relational growth and ultimately sews the seeds for the addict’s next relapse. I call this a flat tire recovery. Standard recovery behaviors may put air in the tire so it looks good on the surface, but isn’t enough to prevent the slow leak back to flat.
Why should partners of sex addicts care when these disorders co-occur? You should care because the sex addiction is just the tip of the iceberg. It’s the intimacy anorexia that lies below the surface that can hurt you the most. It’s the withholding of affection and appreciation; the unwillingness to share his heart or lack of interest in knowing yours; the criticism, blame, or silent treatment; the sexual rejection or use of you as an object for sex that rips the hole in your heart and puts you in intimacy deprivation.
I’ve counseled a large number of recovering partners of sex addicts in my career. In working with women who have experienced both sexual betrayal and intimacy anorexia, 100% describe the long-term effects of the intimacy anorexia as more damaging than the sex addiction. As long as the intimacy anorexia is active, these women feel Married and Alone, even long after their husbands have achieved sexual sobriety.
To find a counselor who understands what intimacy anorexia has to do with sex addiction contact the American Association for Sex Addiction Therapy.
Dr. Janice Caudill is the founder and Clinical Director of McKinney Counseling & Recovery. MCR offers individual, couples, group therapy and multi-day intensives for partners of sex addicts and wounded hearts struggling with sex addiction, infidelity, love addiction or love avoidance, intimacy anorexia, or relational trauma in the McKinney, Plano, Allen, Richardson, Frisco, Carrollton, Lewisville, Dallas and surrounding areas.
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