Characteristics of
Intimacy Anorexia®

The Hidden Addiction​

Intimacy anorexia is a hidden addiction. The way intimacy anorexia presents in relationships and marriages is often not readily apparent and the signs and symptoms can also be confused with other disorders or conditions. Use the characteristics below to help discern if the lack of intimacy you are experiencing in your relationship or marriage is a direct result of intimacy anorexia.

Busy - Intimacy anorexics stay so busy that they have little time for their spouse.

There are often more subtle ways in which anorexics are able to keep themselves so busy that they have little time for their spouse.

Staying so busy inside of the house may include: doing homework together with a child (without the spouse), playing with the children and excluding the spouse, housework or working on solo projects around the house. Technology is a dream come true for many intimacy anorexics, since it can feel as if they are actually doing something or relating to the images on some type of screen. Some intimacy anorexics have busy avoidant strategies outside of the home to actively withhold intimacy from their spouse. These activities can be positive and easily justified by the intimacy anorexic.

Example: “Busy was just an excuse. Priorities were really messed up, such as not spending quality time with my spouse, and not putting him first. The kids and their needs took over and there was no balance. It became easy for me to “fill my day” with activities, so I was exhausted and would fall asleep early with no energy, e.g., cleaning, cooking, doing school activities, church, and Sunday school.”

Blame - The intimacy anorexic will blame their spouse for the problems in the marriage.

Blame, as an anorexic characteristic, is almost universal. Blame comes to life when an issue or problem comes up in the marriage and the anorexic blames or puts responsibility on the spouse for the issue, instead of acknowledging their contribution to the problem or issue.

Intimacy anorexics wants to be in the “good box” all of the time, you will see that it makes being flawed (irresponsible, thoughtless, careless, bad, etc.) unacceptable to discuss (if you are the anorexic).

Example: “I would define blame as using my spouse’s behavior as a reason to accuse them of something they were not responsible for instead of looking at my own behaviors.  Blame includes displaced anger and failure to take responsibility for my own behavior.

Withholding Love - Intimacy anorexics actively withhold love the way their spouses like to be loved.

The anorexic often has a difficult time perceiving the intangible nature of withholding love. To withhold love is to not give love to your spouse the way you know how to, or how they have asked to be loved. Each one of us wants to be loved, and yet, we all experience being loved in many different ways. Spouses may want emotional sharing, long walks, a thoughtful note or gift that says “I was thinking of you.”  Some just want help around the house or with the children.  Each spouse needs to be shown love, and the anorexic already knows how the spouse wants to be loved.

Example: “Not getting the love tank filled, lack of joy and celebration is withholding of love and is a slow fade.  It is a game that I wish I never played.  Tit for tat…  So my love tank was filled with friends, my children, family, activities, things I excelled at like work and running marathons.

Withholding Praise - Intimacy anorexics do not regularly give praise to their spouses privately.

To withhold praise is to not share with your spouse about their positive qualities as a person and their positive impact on your life.

If you’re an anorexic, think about the last week or month, and how frequently you intentionally praised your spouse. How often are you praising your spouse in front of his/her family, your friends, or even the children? If you’re the spouse of an anorexic, reflect on this as welL when was the last time you received a heartfelt praise from your spouse, without asking for it?

Example: “My spouse is unable to see the good in me or praise me.  They chooses not to praise me for anything because wants to keep control of me and tries to make me think that everything is my fault.

Withholding Sex - Not all intimacy anorexics withhold sex, but most intimacy anorexics withhold intimacy during sex when they do have it.

By far, of all the behaviors that are characteristics of intimacy anorexia, withholding of sex is probably the easiest to measure, and at the very least, most obvious. Withholding sex from your spouse is avoiding having sex, sabotaging sexual encounters, or not connecting emotionally during sex.

You can tell whether you are the spouse or the anorexic by observing the last time you had sex.

Example: “Sometimes weeks, sometimes months, would go by without sex and my spouse was mostly blaming me for us not having sex.  I was always ready because I figured I had to take what I could get.

Did You Know?

Dr. Douglas Weiss first documented this condition and coined the term “Intimacy Anorexia®” when he started seeing a separate, yet related aspects of sexual anorexia in his private counseling practice.


Did You Know?

Dr. Douglas Weiss first documented this condition and coined the term “Intimacy Anorexia®” when he started seeing a separate, yet related aspects of sexual anorexia in his private counseling practice.


Withholding Spiritually - Intimacy anorexics can be very religious or a spiritual leader, but they rarely connect spiritually at home.​

The characteristic of withholding spiritually is also only noticed by the spouse. I have had clients that were even spiritual leaders, pastors, rabbis, and medicine men that didn’t connect spiritually with their spouse. Withholding spiritually is withholding spiritual connectedness from your spouse. This mean regardless of faith practices or lack thereof, there is no real spiritual connecting behavior with the spouse. The anorexic might be religious to the hilt, but lacks spiritual authenticity in the presence of their spouse.

Example: “My spouse will say a 20 second prayer with me at bed time.  They will not pray with me otherwise, attend a Bible study, or talk about God.

Unable to Share Feelings - The intimacy anorexic is someone who is unwilling or unable to share their feelings with their spouse.

This characteristic can be described as being unwilling or unable to share feelings with their spouse. Having difficulty sharing feelings is a universal characteristic of the intimacy anorexic.

The sharing of feelings is an act of authenticity that can be scary, difficult, or both for the intimacy anorexic. Their unwillingness or inability to share feelings can be intentional, so as to not give you love the way they know you like it.

Example: “My spouse told me last summer, that I liked to go deep and they just liked to not think about things and just have fun.  They will not share anything with me about how they feel.  If I ask, they will get angry and starts to blame and accuse.

Criticism - Ongoing or ungrounded criticism toward their partner or spouse is another characteristic of intimacy anorexia.

Having ongoing or ungrounded criticism which leads to distance in the marriage is the seventh characteristic of intimacy anorexia. This can be the low grade put downs toward the spouse, noticing what they do wrong, or just regularly pointing out their bad ideas. The ungrounded criticism has little to do with reality.

If criticism is an active strategy, the intimacy anorexic will be much faster at making a list of what’s wrong, defective, or weak about their spouse more than what is amazing.

Example: “I would define criticism as belittling behavior, verbal or physical, toward the other spouse.  It is usually very personal and intended to wound, harm, discourage, control, beat down, and destroy my spouse’s spirit.

Anger / Silence - An intimacy anorexic can use anger or silence to control their spouse.

My experience with intimacy anorexics is that not all use silence or anger as a characteristic of their intimacy anorexia. However, those who use anger or silence as a characteristic use it with a vengeance. This intimacy anorexia characteristic can be described as any use of anger or silence to push away, punish, or control the spouse.

Some examples are extreme, including times when the intimacy anorexic will not talk to his or her spouse for days or weeks while living in the same house. The anger explosion is often over something minor and is a great tool to push the spouse away and avoid giving their hearts to them.

Example: “Anger is always my spouses primary expression.  They occasionally work to get over it, but more often than not, they look for excuses to get/stay angry.  Anger is his security blanket.

Money - This is the least common feature of intimacy anorexia, but when it’s present, it is really strong. The intimacy anorexic will use money to control or shame the spouse.

The characteristic of controlling or shaming the spouse about money issues is probably the least common among intimacy anorexics. Those that employ it use it with an iron fist. Most of the anorexics who control or shame with money do so by keeping the spouse ignorant of the finances, give their spouse an allowance, make the spouse ask for money, and won’t allow the spouse to have a credit card or checkbook.

Shaming the spouse about money can also be a part of this intimacy anorexic characteristic.  In this case, it’s perfectly okay for the intimacy anorexic to spend money on whatever they like, but the spouse has to account for everything or is put down for purchases, even legitimate ones.

Example: “We eventually had to have separate checking accounts and divided the bills and paid them on our own.  It was the only way we could function.  We could never discuss and come to an agreement on any money issue.  It was always me having to submit to them.

Roommate - The spouse of the intimacy anorexic feels as if they are a roommate rather than a spouse. This is common with intimacy anorexics because they avoid connecting emotionally.

The characteristic I have seen in a vast majority of intimacy anorexics’ marriage relationships can be summed up with the keyword “roommate.” The spouse of the anorexic feels less like a spouse and more like a roommate.

Example: “My relationship with my spouse is not a marriage, it functions more like we are roommates than lovers.

Are You Struggling With Intimacy Anorexia?

Answer the above characteristics as questions. How would your spouse answer them about you? If you or your spouse have five or more of these characteristics mentioned, you may want treatment to heal from Intimacy Anorexia.