Intimacy anorexia is a relationship disorder that is marked by a lack of intimacy in a relationship. It occurs when someone in a relationship actively withholds emotional, spiritual and sexual intimacy from their spouse or partner. This lack of intimacy harms the marriage, damages the relationship causing pain and loneliness and impacts the spouse or partner significantly.
Sexual Anorexia vs. Intimacy Anorexia
Sexual anorexia is a similar relationship disorder that affects the physical part of intimacy. It is related to a lack of sexually intimate interactions and also affects intimate emotional connections. Sexual anorexics fear opening up to intimate partners because they have anxiety and fears around being rejected or criticized.
Intimacy anorexia is different because this disorder concerns people who control relationships through the lack of intimacy and people who are not emotionally developed enough to understand the importance of sharing intimacy with their spouse or partner. Dr. Weiss was able to define, observe and document this type of behavior and develop a treatment program to recover from it.
Causes of Intimacy Anorexia
Intimacy anorexia is caused by four major sources
Sexual Trauma | Attachment Issues With | Sex Addiction | Role Modeling Neglect
The Opposite Gender Parent
- Sexual Trauma: Sexual trauma is one of the leading causes of intimacy anorexia. It is also a related factor in many addiction and mental disorders. This is because sexual trauma victims are sexual shamed and damaged which leads them to use coping mechanisms like controlling intimate behavior and interactions.
- Attachment Issues With The Opposite Gender Parent: Attachments to an opposite gender parent contributes to intimacy anorexia because of the communication relayed through the parental relationship. If a parent is emotionally distant, unavailable or abandons the child, the child can translate the parental behavior as an unsafe relationship which affects future relationships and intimacy with that same gender.
- Sexual Addiction: Sexual addiction contributes to intimacy anorexia because the addiction allows a person to fulfill their needs outside of the intimacy in their relationship. This leads to a lack of intimacy in their relationship since they don’t need to pursue and create intimacy with their spouse any longer. You can learn more about sex addiction here: What Is Sex Addiction?
- Role Modeling Neglect: Role modeling neglect is the last factor that causes intimacy anorexia. Role models set a good example of how things should be and how a relationship should be nurtured. Without a good role model, anorexics do not have an example to follow for establishing intimacy.
Characteristics of Intimacy Anorexia
Intimacy anorexia is defined by eleven characteristics. These characteristics explain what to look for in relationships where there may be problems related to a lack of intimacy consistent with intimacy anorexia. They also give a how to the why a person in a relationship actively withholds emotional, spiritual and sexual intimacy from their partner.
- Busy: Being busy is the main characteristic of intimacy anorexia. Anorexics are so busy that they have little time for their spouse. This leads to a lack of intimacy because they are “too busy” to have time to build or create intimacy.
- Blame: Blaming partners and spouses is a factor of dealing with a lack of intimacy in relationships. Anorexics use this factor to blame-shift problems away from themselves and onto their partner or spouse rather than acknowledging how they contributed to the problems in the first place and solving the problems together. This blaming decreases intimacy because everything is always the other person’s fault.
- Withholding Love: Withholding love and affection significantly impedes intimacy because it is the foundation for it. Everyone needs to be loved and feel affection. Anorexics withhold love because they either don’t understand this fact or do understand it and want to control it.
- Withholding Praise: Withholding praise is a sign of intimacy anorexia because it prevents speaking positivity into the lives of partners and spouses. Without this encouragement, it is much easier to negatively impact relationships and lose intimacy in the process.
- Withholding Sex: Withholding sex is one of the easiest intimacy anorexia characteristics to identify and impacts relationships significantly. Anorexics who engage in this behavior avoid having sex, shy away from sexually intimate situations and avoid being emotionally connected during sexual encounters.
- Withholding Spiritually: Withholding spiritually contributes to the lack of intimacy because it ensures that you and your spouse are not spiritually connected. Without that spiritual bond, the deep relational feelings are extremely hard to create and share.
- Feelings: Blocking feelings or not being willing to share feelings is a factor of intimacy anorexia because sharing feelings builds understanding, commonality and emotional intimacy. By not sharing feelings and blocking out partner’s and spouse’s feelings, anorexics shut themselves off from continued relationship development and deepening intimacy.
- Criticism: Being constantly critical of partners and spouses kills intimacy. Intimacy is associated with the feelings of being loved, understood, cared for and known. Anorexics destroy intimacy by overly using criticism or finding faults without basis so that their partners and spouses feel distant and disconnected.
- Anger / Silence: Using anger and silence can be a contributing factor to intimacy anorexia. Anorexics sometimes use anger and silence to maintain space between themselves and their partners or spouses and to control situations. This does not allow intimacy to grow because it closes communication channels.
- Money: Controlling money and resources is a lesser common factor in relationships dealing with intimacy anorexia. This is a trust and control factor because anorexics do not allow partners and spouses to manage or have their own resources. The result is an environment lacking trust which breaks down intimacy and increases stress, shame and anxiety.
- Roommate: The last roommate characteristic is where anorexics limit their relationships with their partners and spouses so much that almost every form of intimacy most couples experience is lost. The result is that partners and spouses are living with the anorexics but feel like they are hardly experiencing any intimacy past what a roommate or friend would feel.
Intimacy Anorexia Treatment and Recovery
It is important to treat intimacy anorexia as soon as possible. Relationships without intimacy become increasingly strained, distant and damaged until it feels like you don’t even know who your partner or spouse is anymore. Since the anorexia is significantly affecting both people in the relationship, professional help and counseling are extremely recommended. Our counselors help couples recover from intimacy anorexia by increasing awareness of their anorexia, by providing professional treatment and by helping them recover and intentionally practice intimacy daily.
Creating awareness of the intimacy anorexia condition in your relationship is the hardest part of the treatment process, and trying to convince an anorexic to get help can be difficult. It is best for them to decide to get help themselves or to suggest they get help. The easiest way to know if you are dealing with intimacy anorexia in your relationship is by reading through the characteristics, by taking one of our Intimacy Anorexia Tests or by calling us with your questions at 205-610-9319.
Professional help is necessary to recover from intimacy anorexia. This is because of the type and proximity of the intimacy issue. Intimacy anorexia is a relationship disorder, so it directly affects you and your spouse, and it is important to seek help outside of your relationship. You become much less effective at problem-solving when the problem directly affects and you are emotionally involved. Our counselors can help you address all of the areas of concern in ways that your partner or spouse will respect and understand.
Recovery from intimacy anorexia looks like practicing intimacy every day in ways that are intentional and structured. Our counselors help you practice creating and restoring intimacy in productive ways with the help of specific exercises and therapeutic DVDs.
Intimacy Anorexia Counseling Sessions
Our Intimacy Anorexia Counseling Sessions are meant for couples and individuals who are dealing with intimacy problems in their relationships, These counseling sessions are scheduled by the hour. You can schedule as many sessions as needed. Your counselor will help you and your partner or spouse rediscover your intimacy, address any evident characteristics and recommend resources to create and sustain long-term intimacy.