The Connection Between Bipolar Disorder and Hypersexuality

How mania can affect your sex life

Manic Hypersexuality
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Bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression, is a diagnosis bestowed upon those who experience sweeping mood swings that range from depressive lows to manic highs. It's a disorder that can have a variety of adverse effects on your life, including irritability, psychosis, sadness, low energy, low motivation, or loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities.

How Bipolar Disorder Can Affect Your Sex Life

In addition to these more general symptoms, however, bipolar disorder can also affect your sex life, leading to a drastically increased libido during periods of mania.

Some who experience this heightened sexuality may receive a diagnosis of hypersexuality or sexual addiction, a diagnosis that still carries a lot of controversy within the fields of both psychology and sexuality. There are those who hesitate to pathologize sexuality in this way. After all, it's difficult to measure how much of a sex drive is too much.

No matter what you choose to call it, however, if these symptoms become disruptive to your life, it's worth seeking out help.

Understanding Hypersexuality

Hypersexuality is defined as an increased need or pressure for sexual gratification. It can often be a symptom of mania, and may also include decreased inhibitions or a need for "forbidden" sex. Hypersexuality is listed as one of the diagnostic criteria for bipolar disorder, so it's a common part of bipolar disorder.

Understandably, if you're experiencing a manic episode and you succumb to your urges, you're putting your relationships at risk, as well as yourself.

Unrestrained hypersexuality can place you at an increased risk of contracting a sexually transmitted infection (STI).

Understanding Sexual Addiction

Sexual addiction, also known as compulsive sexual behavior, is thinking about and engaging in sexual behavior so often that it interferes with your relationships, your health, your job, or other aspects of your life.

It can damage many aspects of your life if it's left untreated.

Sexual addiction can be just as destructive as being addicted to chemical substances. An estimated three to six percent of adults in the United States, predominantly male, are sexually addicted. Although sexual addiction is not listed as a disorder in the current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), it can be diagnosed as an impulse-control disorder in the current International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10), which is the international standard for diagnosis.

Behaviors Associated With Sexual Addiction

Some of the specific behaviors associated with sexual addiction include:

  • Compulsive masturbation
  • Compulsive sex with sex workers
  • Anonymous sex with multiple partners (including one night stands)
  • Multiple affairs outside a committed relationship
  • Frequent patronizing of sexually-oriented establishments
  • Habitual exhibitionism
  • Habitual voyeurism
  • Inappropriate sexual touching
  • Sexual abuse of children
  • Rape

It's important to note here that any one of these behaviors in and of itself does not constitute an addiction.

Consequences of Compulsive Sexual Behavior

These compulsive sexual behaviors can carry a high price.

Financially, they can lead to outrageous charges from prostitutes or phone sex lines. Professionally, your behavior may cause you to lose your job. Personally, your relationships, intimate and otherwise, could be damaged. Health-wise, if you're indiscriminate, sexual contacts could lead to disease.

If you're concerned about your own behavior, talk to your doctor, or to another sexuality professional. You may require additional sexual counseling/therapy in addition to the treatment you're already receiving for bipolar disorder.

Sources:

Kraus SW, Voon V, Potenza MN. Neurobiology of Compulsive Sexual Behavior: Emerging ScienceNeuropsychopharmacology. 2016;41(1):385-386. doi:10.1038/npp.2015.300.

Mayo Clinic Staff. Compulsive Sexual Behavior. Mayo Clinic. Updated October 5, 2017.