Emotional / Intimacy Anorexia : What are you looking for?
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Emotional / Intimacy Anorexia

by Kathryn Wenzel on 08/05/14

What is Emotional / Intimacy anorexia?

The active, almost compulsive sabotaging of emotional, mental, physical and at times sexual intimacy with the primary partner.

Emotional / Intimacy anorexia involves a pattern in which one or both members in a relationship, typically the primary committed relationship, put up barriers, avoid, or withhold nurturing the relationship. The pattern is not merely isolated to a single type of behavior but occurs across different spheres of intimacy. So, although "we just don't talk" might be a symptom of intimacy anorexia, this alone would not be sufficient for diagnosing the syndrome. 

In emotional / intimacy anorexia the lack of "talk" is not compensated by nonverbal communication and serves to weaken the sense of emotional, intellectual, physical, spiritual, and/or sexual closeness and attachment to each other. The intimacy anorexic restricts the free flow of love much the way a food anorexic restricts the intake of food. Because it is not nourished, the relationship withers. 

The individuals in the relationship wither as well. Deprivation from the anorexia can result in a sense of emotional isolation that can leave both of you, but particularly the partner, feeling that despite being married, you are alone in this relationship. Given that some researchers contend that emotional isolation is a more dangerous health risk than either cigarettes or high blood pressure, the individual impact of intimacy anorexia can be enormous. 

What are the causes of emotional / intimacy anorexia?

While there may be several causes or combination of causes, the three primary reasons are; 
  1. Sexual trauma (protecting yourself)
  2. Attachment disorder with cross-gender parent
  3. Sexual addiction (bonded to fantasies)

What are the characteristics of acting- in (emotional / intimacy anorexia)?

  1. Withholding love and or respect from your partner.
  2. Withholding praise and appreciation from your partner.
  3. Controlling your partner with anger and or silence.
  4. Ongoing criticism, which causes isolation from your partner.
  5. Withholding sexual intimacy from your partner.
  6. Unwillingness or inability to discuss feelings with your partner.
  7. Staying so busy that you have no relational time for your partner. 
  8. Making it about your partner'??s issues instead of owning your own.
  9. Controlling or shaming your partner over money issues
  10. Feeling more like roommates than lovers.

What are anorexic pattern? Why do anorexics use acting-in tactics?

  1. To control your partner.
  2. To avoid intimacy with your partner.
  3. To impose guilt and/or shame on your partner.
  4. Because your partner is not your desired or preferred fantasy sexual object.
  5. Stress
  6. A way to not acknowledge you are sexual.

How Do I Know if My Relationship is Anorexic?

You can request an evaluation from me to assess the specific patterns in your relationship. To begin to self-assess the patterns in your relationship, ask yourself the following questions:

For the Partner:

Are you starved for affection in the relationship? 
Do you feel loved and appreciated, or deprived and neglected?
Do you feel as if you are married but alone in this relationship?
Do you feel locked out from her/his feelings or as if yours are unappreciated?
Does s/he blame shift to deny responsibility or avoid looking at his/her own issues?
Has your spirit and self-esteem been systematically chipped away at?
?Do you feel rejected, unwanted, or unattractive to your mate?
Is s/he controlling about money?
Does s/he clam up when you try to communicate about something important to you? 
Do you worry about upsetting him/her or feel like you have a walking on eggshells lifestyle?
Do you feel more like roommates than lovers?

For the Anorexic:

Does your behavior communicate you don't need your partner?
Do you guard your heart so your mate can't get in?
Do you play the blame game?
Do you use criticism to push your partner away?
Do you withhold or sabotage sex?
Do you control or use guilt trips or shaming to manipulate your mate about money?
Do you stonewall when your mate tries to communicate with you?
Do you use anger to shut down attempts to connect?
Do you feel more like roommates than lovers?

Is There a Difference Between Emotional / Intimacy Anorexia, 
Sexual Anorexia, and Sex Addiction?

The answer is complex because it's both yes and no. There can be a great deal of overlap between these disorders, but they can and do occur independently of each other. Pornography and sexual addiction involves compulsively acting out with sexual behaviors. Sexual anorexia involves compulsively acting in with sexual behaviors, which may or may not include a more widespread withholding in other areas of intimacy. Intimacy anorexia, however, involves acting in across multiple intimacy domains, which may or may not include a withholding of sexual intimacy. 

The pioneering work in identifying and treating intimacy anorexia issue was done by sexual recovery expert Doug Weiss. Doug identified a more pervasive pattern of withholding in his sex addicted clients, a pattern that goes beyond the withholding of mere sexual intimacy. In his studies, 29% of male addicts met criteria for intimacy anorexia and 39% of female addicts met criteria. In addition, 39% of partners and spouses of sex addicts also met criteria for intimacy anorexia.

We see a lot of overlap between sex addiction and sexual anorexia. The irony is that the same client who is out of control with pornography or sexual behavior outside of the primary relationship, may simultaneously go for weeks, months, or years placing little or no energy into nurturing a sexual relationship with his or her partner. More often than not emotional / intimacy anorexia is also present. 

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