Sex is a physical act as much as it is an act of emotion, psyche, and spiritual connection. Engaging in physical, sexual intimacy is a physical closeness that makes many people uncomfortable. Low self-esteem, insecurity, vulnerability, and even trauma regarding sexual intimacy is not reserved for those who might struggle with a mental illness. However, it can be a particularly complicated area for those living with and recovering from eating disorders.
Eating disorders are usually talked about with a focus on food, control, perfectionism, weight, and body image. These factors can contribute to difficulty in sexual intimacy. Because sex is so physically close, if someone is at odds with their physical appearance, sex can be triggering. Furthermore, if that physical appearance is still toxically connected to how one perceives themselves (i.e. “today I feel fat, so today I have low self-esteem”), it can cause a deep level of discomfort.
The effects of eating disorder on one’s sex life can range from preventing intimacy due to insecurity. Eating disorder behaviors like restriction, starvation, and purging, can deplete the body’s natural energy as well as throw off normal hormonal balance. Finding a desire for sexual interaction can be challenging when there is hardly a desire to eat.
The Double Edge Sword Of Eating Disorder Recovery And Sex
Recovery from eating disorders is usually successful as a patient starts to normalize their weight, working through underlying issues contributing to the eating disorder, and learn to be more body positive. Working on raising levels of confidence and body acceptance leads to tremendous shifts in perception and sexual desire. Unfortunately, there is still the old programming regarding weight, body image, and being wanted. As sexual desire increases with weight gain, there could be a newfound insecurity in the body. Though the individual has learned to accept and embrace themselves, they are still aware of the shame, stigma, and stereotype which gets applied to the physical form and what is defined as sexually desirable.
Before getting intimate with others, recovery demands that we become most intimate with ourselves, in mind, body, and spirit. Eating disorders separate us from ourselves. Through recovery, we learn how to be close with ourselves, our bodies, and our minds, creating a holistic whole self once more.
Avalon By The Sea provides primary mental health care for men and women needing to recover from eating disorders. Call us today for a confidential assessment and more information on our residential treatment programs at 1 888-958-7511.