An Example of Sexual Anorexia
Peggy was date raped when she was sixteen. She dated little after that and avoided getting involved with anyone for fear she might be raped again. She was voluntarily sexual for the first time with Hal her senior year of college after they had been dating for almost six months. They had met the year before in a Spanish class. They got to know each other slowly and Peggy felt safe with Hal. Soon after they started being sexual they moved in together and continued to have sex which both enjoyed.
A year and a half after their graduation they got married. Both had good jobs and the future looked promising. Soon after the marriage, however, Peggy began to lose interest in sex and she had some dreams about the sexual abuse. Hal tried to be understanding but he was also frustrated that she no longer wanted to be sexual.
It eventually became an impasse in their marriage. A couple years went by in which Peggy often worked late and complained frequently about being tired. She also developed a habit of staying up late and coming to bed after Hal had retired and gone to sleep. Hal noticed that she didn’t spend time with her friends anymore and she dressed less attractively. Sex was just something they didn’t talk about. But several times during the two years the tension exploded into a loud argument with Hal blaming Peggy for being selfish and unresponsive and Peggy blaming Hal for being demanding and unsympathetic.
They met with a minister a few times who tried to get them to be more understanding of each other. He also suggested they see a professional counselor but Peggy was unwilling.
After five years of marriage Hal admitted that he was thinking seriously about divorce. This hurt Peggy greatly and she told him she would try again to be sexual if he would stay. Gradually they resumed some semblance of a sexual relationship that was not enjoyable for either. One night during sex Hal became aware Peggy was crying softly. He pleaded with her to go to see a therapist and finally Peggy relented. The therapist referred them to another therapist specializing in working through childhood sexual abuse. The second therapist connected them both to 12-step programs for added support: Peggy to Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous (SLAA), which addresses sexual anorexia, and Hal to the companion program for partners called Co-SLAA.
The psychotherapy and 12-step support enabled Hal and Peggy eventually to have a successful marriage, including a mutually enjoyable sexual relationship. Their formula for success learned from their work in therapy included a rule that if Peggy’s fear came up during sexual activity, they automatically stopped and Hal learned how to put his sexual need aside at that time in order to be loving and supportive to Peggy which helped her move through the association with her trauma.
This story illustrates how childhood sexual trauma can push the victim to the abstinent (anorexic) end of the sexual addiction continuum. More commonly the effects of the trauma place the person at the other end of the continuum, in hypersexual behavior.
To read about the "binge and purge" form of sexual anorexia, click on the link below.