Dr. Drew Discusses “Sexual Anorexia” With New York Times Reader

In a highly-unsurprising move, Dr. Drew invents yet another weird misnomer for something that can easily be explained: sexual anorexia.

A New York Times reader recently wrote into the good doctor about — what else — an ongoing sexual issue questioning the hype surrounding sexual addiction and whether no sex is just as bad as sexual addiction.  Simply based on the submitter’s five line diatribe, Dr. Drew Pinsky retorted with a new, scary-sounding “disease”:  sexual anorexia.

Pinsky states that not only is sexual anorexia similar to sexual addiction in its mechanisms, it’s also treated in a similar fashion (Read: Rehab.  And lots of psychological counseling).  Dr. Drew connotates the symptoms of sexual anorexia to more bulimic traits: a binge and purge of sex, if you will.

Evidently, individuals who are sexually anorexic have a “bipolar” type of reaction to sex — for a few months you might be totally for it and for a few months, adamantly against it.  Pinsky also correlates intimacy issues with the sex dysfunction (as he … normally does) and claims that a lack of sex is sometimes even worse for the patient than a compulsive, addictive sexual nature is.

Tell that to Elin Nordegren.

What do you guys think about this?  Do you think we, as a society, are over-diagnosing every little sometimes-insignificant thing?  Is popular society on the road to a mass hypochondriasis or are we simply becoming more evolved and thus, more aware of our bodies and minds?

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26 thoughts on “Dr. Drew Discusses “Sexual Anorexia” With New York Times Reader

  1. All the people I know with eating disorders also have what seems to me to be some sexual dysfunction – either not having sex ever because they are not comfortable with their bodies, or having sex to make themselves feel better about their bodies. I am not sure that they feed of each other, I would just say eatinf disorders AND sexual misfunction are symptoms of a greater ill.

    In my humble opinion of course.

  2. I don’t know if this is so common it deserves it’s own term, but I had an ex who would seem to fit this pattern – he used sex as a way to draw people into relationships with him, but once the relationship progressed to the ‘serious’ stage, he stopped wanting to have sex. He somehow didn’t seem to think it belonged in the context of a long term relationship, it was just a tool to get someone to like him in the first place. The way he thought about sex and relationships was really messed up, and yeah, he could’ve benefited from therapy. That’s way different from just not wanting sex all the time, though.

    • a “thing” need not have to be common to merely have a name. it’s a way to classify new information. i believe, however, it should not have a name that mimics eating disorders.

  3. I’m not sure if “sexual anorexia” is necessarily a disease so much as a symptom of self esteem issues or past sexual trauma or something. Although I suppose there are some people who probably just don’t want sex, too.

  4. I don’t think this is something of its own. People exhibiting such behaviour have something else going on – sometimes problematically, sometimes intentionally. but a pattern from other things hardly needs its own new name.

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  6. I recently had an interesting discussion about the (apparent) rise of psychological diseases in general. I’ve asked my friend what he thought about this, as especially in the USA everyone seems to go to a psychatrist at least once in their life. My friend said that this is because the American take on psychology is heavily influenced by the pursuit of happiness. Meaning, that in the US, once you do not feel happy you think you already have a problem and run to your nearest doctor, when in reality you are actually mentally fine, but might just go through a difficult time like each and every one of us does.

    What do you American folks think about that?

    • I think that’s partly true, partly due to mental problems becoming less shameful, and partly due to the wienification of a generation where parents were told to coddle their kids a la trophies for the losers of a game and so on, if you are told you are the best at everything and deserve accolades for everything then when you grow up and that stops you’re gonna have issues dealing with not being seen/praised as great anymore (such issues could be depression, anxiety, and other conditions they recommend you get help for) I don’t know if this theory is true or just the hostile imaginings of my caffeinated/sleeping pilled mind at the moment. If the latter my apologies.

    • I have a friend who’s a psychologist and he is forever saying that everyone should be in therapy. He hates that most medical insurances will only cover a certain number of sessions, usually enough to go about half the year.

      I think it’s nonsense personally. There are some people who can benefit from seeing a therapist but a great deal of them just need to take a look at their issue and deal with it. One of my friends spent several months in therapy, both individual and couples, because her husband looks at porn. She felt it was taking him away from her. However, she had no interest in sex so most of the time she’d push him away. It shouldn’t take months in therapy to figure out that if your hubby isn’t getting sex from you he’s going to take care of business himself once in a while.

      • You wonder about how analytical everything has become. My grandmother once told me that back in her time nobody ever wondered if they were crazy,basically they were to busy trying to feed themselves and their kids. Times they are a changing.

    • Well, Germany seems like the other extreme sometimes, doesn’t it? Things like depressions and stress and related illnesses aren’t talked about. I’ve often been reading about all kinds of issues people can have on American sites…but never heard any mentioning in Germany.
      Just last year there was a quite famous football (soccer) player in Germany, who commited suicide. He suffered from a very heavy depression. That was the first time depression really was a subject in the media and it was writen about how ‘taboo’ it is in the country to talk about things like this (here is some info: http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/0,1518,661500,00.html)

      I don’t know what I prefer. A society, where it’s normal to discuss all kinds of drugs with very heavy effects, because everybody seems to take them or a combination of them or a society where it’s basically impossible to be open about something like depression and stress. Where people just will think: ‘Pull yourself together, for God’s sake. How hard kan it be???’
      (Obviously that description is quite extreme. But that’s how it does seem sometimes).

      • Aye, I see what you mean. I know so many people that say “Builders never get depressions, it’s just a whiny student thing.” Drives me mad all the time.

  7. I think what he’s describing is a perfectly normal behavior for many women. Read any magazine article about how to improve your sex life and they’ll recommend just jumping in even if you’re somewhat ambivalent and you’ll find yourself warming up. I think having sex regularly makes women (and quite possibly men too) more horny and having a lack of sex means they aren’t as interested. I know that applies to me. If we’re going daily or more often I’m raring to go but if we miss a couple of days my body seems to assume that no more sex is coming and it just doesn’t bother me if I don’t get any. Of course eventually it will get to me and the cycle will start all over again, hopefully with a nice long period of daily sex.

  8. No, we are not on the road to diagnosing every little thing, we are there already. The DSM is the “diagnosis Bible” of the American Psychiatric Association. Every possible psychiatric diagnosis is in there. And there are a lot. See http://www.dr-bob.org/tips/dsm4a.html for a list.
    A couple of the more strange ones are “Caffeine Intoxication” and “Nightmare Disorder”.
    There is actually a real diagnosis for what Dr. Drew is talking about- “Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder”. I think he probably just came up with the “sexual anorexia” thing because it was more sensational sounding and would grab him some attention.
    I used to really like Dr. Drew in the early days, but now he is just a fame whore like the rest of the people on tv.

    • No kidding. One of the classes I had to do in grad school covered integration of special needs kids in to regular classrooms. By the end of the class we had managed to slap a diagnosis on every single person there. You can find a name and so-called disorder for every quirk out there.

  9. As a psych major and hopefully future clinical psychologist, I think that mental illnesses are overdiagnosed. There is no way that 1 in 150 kids are autistic, or there would be no reason to deem the behavior as abnormal. My personal opinion about that is lazy parenting, but I digress And I hate Dr. Drew and Dr. Phil and all these pop psychologists because I think they give the wrong impression of what psychologist are like (or what they should be). But, I do think that therapy can be useful for a lot of people. Not just in treating mental illness, but learning how to cope in a healthy way with stress. What really upsets me is that fat rich housewives can get help for their problems, but I see homeless mentally ill people in my city everyday who can’t function within society and have no place to go because all of the inpatient programs, halfway homes, and institutions have closed because the lack of funding. Bah humbug.

    • Autism isn’t a mental illness. Shouldn’t you know that?
      There are 4 autistic kids in my immediate family and friend group. Not one of the parents is lazy. In fact, most parents of autistic kids have to work twice as hard to take care of their children as parents of mainstream kids do.
      If you’re setting an example of what a psychologist should be like, I think I’d prefer the pop psychologists. They suck, but at least they know the difference between a neurological disorder and a mental illness.

      By the way most “fat, rich housewives” get treatment because they have insurance. They have insurance because they pay for it. If you have a problem with poor people not being able to afford healthcare, contact your local politicians and encourage them to support healthcare reform.

      • mental illness
        n. Any of various conditions characterized by impairment of an individual’s normal cognitive, emotional, or behavioral functioning, and caused by social, psychological, biochemical, genetic, or other factors, such as infection or head trauma. Also called emotional illness, mental disease, mental disorder.

        a disorder of the nervous system

        If we’re going to classify autism as a neurological disorder, which it is, and not also classify it as a mental illness, then we might as well do away with calling anything a mental illness. Autism is characterized by social and cognitive impairment, and is thought to be caused by genetics and it changes the way that information is processed in the brain by altering the way the nerve cells and their synapses connect. Does autism fall under the definition of mental illness that I have posted above? Yes.Almost all mental illnesses are neurological disorders. There are many cases of depression caused by environmental factors, but a lot of cases of depression are caused by the monoamine chemicals in the brain (serotonin, norepinephrine, dopamine). Or schizophrenia, for example, we find significantly higher levels of dopamine in the mesolimbic pathways than the general population. Should it be considered a neurological disorder then? Sure. Could it also be called a mental disorder or mental illness? Yes. Mental disorder or mental illness is really just a general umbrella term.

        And then one could argue that it’s neither a neurological disorder or a mental disorder or both. Some studies have suggested it to be a normal variance in behavior. I don’t agree with it, but that has been argued.

        Not all parents of autistic children are lazy, I really should have explained my statement. I know my mom sure as hell isn’t lazy, she works very hard to take care of my little brother who is autistic. What I meant by that statement was that it’s become the mental illness du jour in place of ADHD. What I mean by lazy parents is people who are like my aunt, who work very hard to get their children diagnosed with one of these illnesses in order to get their completely normal children,( maybe they have a little maladaptive behavior due to said parent’s laziness, but mostly normal anyway) drugged up so they don’t have to deal with them. Or also hypochondriac parents who think that any slight quirk in behavior means that their child has autism or ADHD. And the fact that some psychologists and psychiatrists will diagnose these disorders and prescribe medication for these children who don’t need it is an issue itself, but I’m not even going to get into that right now.

        And now I’ve really thought about “sexual anorexia” and I’ve come to the conclusion that’s it’s making normal behavior into pathology. There are sometimes when I’m totally for sex and it’s awesome. And then there are times when I turn off the light and say not tonight honey.

        • I appreciate your answer. I think people sometimes jump to psychological issues to take the pressure off of themselves. My 3rd grade teacher was convince that I had ADHD simply because I was bored out of my mind in math and didn’t pay attention, and still got everything right.

  10. I find what he is saying reassuring on a very personal level. We all have issues. I wish every single little idiosyncratic problem people face didn’t need a psychologists stamp of approval to say that these things are indeed profound and detrimental, but it appears that’s the only way our society is willing to talk about them. It’s as if it can’t be a conversation unless the APA finds a name for it. That sucks but at least those suffering from “sexual anorexia” or whatever you want to name or not name it, may finally know that there are others out there who feel this way.

    There has been a small but growing movement of A-sexuality in this country. It’s always nice to feel validated and worthy of understanding.

    Worst case scenario, we finally get over-saturated with clinical definitions for every psychological trait and wash it all away with an open and understanding society. For now many people are stuck hiding their feelings wondering, does anyone else feel this way?

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  13. my first question is why are issues that are becoming more commonly talked about and/or diagnosed seen as bogus? there are many, many diseases and disorders that have always existed but were either never named, or simply never talked about. just because an issue is only now being discussed and treated does not mean it was never there or that it’s not valid. for many people autism seems like it’s something that either just popped up or is just being stuck as a label on children, but really, it’s always been there but the children were either just put in a home or referred to as retarded.
    my second question is why do you think this is something dr. drew made up? it’s a term that’s been around for decades, but up until now, as with many other disorders is only now being discussed openly. -The concept of “sexual anorexia” was first mentioned by psychologist Nathan Hare in 1975, in an unpublished dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment for a Ph.D. at the California School of Professional Psychology in San Francisco. Ellen Goodman, the nationally syndicated columnist, revealed psychiatrist Sylvia Kaplan’s usage of the concept in 1981; which was quickly noted in the editor’s “Notes” in the journal “Black Male/Female Relationships.” A book by psychologist Patrick Carnes called “Sexual Anorexia” was published in 1997. Hare’s Ph.D. dissertation on “Black Male-Female Relations” (1975) as well as the now defunct journal called “Black Male/Female Relationships” (1979-1982) are available in University Microfilms, from the University of Michigan. See also Nathan and Julia Hare, “Sexual Anorexia,” Crisis in Black Sexual Politics, published in 1989 by The Black Think Tank, San Francisco,pp. 137-140, ISBN 0-9613086-2. Julia Hare has also used it in a book, “The Sexual and Political Anorexia of the Black Woman”-
    do your research before you start pointing fingers and insinuating that people are cry babies who should just suck it up. that’s a great attitude to have when nothing’s wrong with you or someone you love.

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