Chronic Illness in Marriage, Marriage Help & Resources, Mental Health, Mental Illness in Marriage, Sexual Integrity

Understanding Intimacy Anorexia

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4 Causes that Are Keeping You and Your Spouse Disconnected 

Now that we have discussed the seven most common symptoms of Intimacy Anorexia, you probably have a pretty good idea by now if you happen to be living with someone who struggles with intimacy anorexia, or maybe you are one who is struggling with intimacy anorexia, or perhaps even both.  (I seem to fall into the category of both.)  When people begin to realize what they are dealing with, the next question we usually ask is “what causes intimacy anorexia?”.

I’m so glad you asked! There are numerous causes for people growing up to become intimacy anorexics.  Below are the four causes of intimacy anorexia.

1. Sexual Trauma:

This is at the root of many addictions and psychological disorders. Before sexual abuse occurs, people hold beliefs about the world, such as the world is actually a safe place, people can be trusted, I am OK, and so on. After the abuse, these beliefs are shattered and replaced with ones like the world is not safe, people cannot be trusted, and I am NOT OK.  Because people are usually very young when they are abused they do not possess the abstract reasoning skills they need to effectively process the abuse so they blame themselves or perhaps, even think they deserved it. To be able to cope with the abuse, the child will start to shut down, put up walls, avoid risk and stay away from letting others into their heart. Over the years, these coping strategies “morph” into Intimacy Anorexia structures that form their identity as adults. They often have inner agreements with themselves that they cannot give and receive love and be safe,  even if they trust someone, their heart will still be broken.

2. Poor or perhaps even no attachment with opposite gender parent.

In this case, if you are a man, this would be your mother; if you are a woman, then this is your father, (it can also be your step-mother or your step-father.   These are the first relationships where you generalized about the opposite sex and formed your opinions about them.

So, let us say that you are a woman and your father was generally shaming and critical. He may have even been moody, drunk, critical, and unpredictable, or perhaps, he was even mentally ill? Perhaps he was even critical or shaming of your looks, appearance, or mannerisms?

Another type of experience is abandonment.  It could be through the death of a parent, or divorce, lack of involvement, or mental illness or suicide.

These patterns lead us to the emotionally distant and unavailable parent. Though they may have physically been present, there is no intimacy, no openness, no sharing, no involvement. The child concludes the parent does not want to know them so they close themselves off to cope with it.

Every child needs to “attach” to their biological parents, and when they cannot accomplish this vital attachment, it has dire consequences. There is an entire school of psychology called the “attachment theory” that studies this phenomenon, and how attaching or perhaps even not attaching can affect people later in life.

3.  The Third C ause of Intimacy Anorexia is Sexual Addiction:

Many people struggle with some type of sexually compulsive behavior, whether it be pornography, internet chat rooms, affairs, phone sex, or even something else. The majority of them are actually in an intimacy anorexic relationship. The two (sexual addition and IA) do not always go together, but there is a high correlation. There are actually six types of sex addicts, but one of the types is actually the Intimacy Anorexic sex addict. It is crucial for us to understand this because without getting help for their Intimacy Anorexia most sex addicts will not maintain their recovery.

4.   The Fourth Cause of Intimacy Anorexia is Role Model Neglect:

This is comparable to the emotionally unavailable parent, but the common theme that comes from those who struggle with intimacy anorexia is the fact that they felt “managed” as kids rather than “parented”.   Perhaps their parents did not actually want a child, they were not “planned”, or perhaps they are from a large family where there was no time for real connection. If the parents were both Intimacy Anorexics and the child did not see any real emotional connections or even displays of affection or love, they grow up thinking that this is normal.

As we are able to see, the root causes of Intimacy Anorexia are actually quite varied, and some individuals could possibly have a mix of some or perhaps even all of these factors. The good news is that anyone can recover from intimacy anorexia and learn to develop the emotional skills necessary to have the relationships they always wanted.

A cautionary note: If you are living with an Intimacy Anorexic, you cannot change them. Let me repeat that….you cannot change them.  You can only change yourself and your reactions and responses to the Intimacy Anorexic.

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