Warning, the following is for mature audiences only…
Hypersexuality is a topic that makes many people uncomfortable. Heck, mention sex, and everyone starts to fidget in their seats. You know what I’m talking about, right?
I do not know where the aversion to talking about sex came from. I do know my parents and their parents come from a more conservative background. Maybe that is it.
Personally, I do not remember ever talking to my parents about sex. In fact, everything I learned about the taboo topic came from my ex-boyfriends and friends. I am not saying there is anything wrong with this. It is just the reality of the world we live in.
Bipolar mania comes in many different flavors. Some people gamble. Some people shop. Some people travel. There are others, however, that sexually act out. In fact, anywhere from 25 to 80 percent of all people with bipolar disorder have what’s called hypersexuality. This symptom of bipolar mania is essentially an overindulgence and compulsive obsession with sexual content and interactions.
I’ve experienced hypersexuality as part of bipolar disorder. Now, I’m not one to run about and have sex with everything that moves (but it’s okay if you are), so, luckily, this symptom of bipolar has not hurt me (although it has affected me). That said, hypersexuality is a real bipolar symptom with real consequences for people.
One of the problems with hypersexuality, though, is that it is about sex. People have issues talking openly about sex, particularly in a sex-positive way. But this isn’t helpful to those who have experienced hypersexuality. So, for a moment, let’s openly talk about hypersexuality — just another bipolar symptom.
What Is Hypersexuality in Bipolar Disorder?
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, hypersexuality is defined as:
Exhibiting unusual or excessive concern with or indulgence in sexual activity.
Hypersexuality is not easy to talk about since most would assume just a high libido, or a person just likes to have a fun time or even have “free” love. It is easy to discuss going on unchecked shopping sprees and decreased need for sleep. Sex drive and sexual impulses during bipolar mania can lead to sexual behavior that is not typical for you when you are not experiencing mania. It can include
- greatly increased sexual activity, without a feeling of sexual satisfaction
- sex with multiple partners, including strangers
- continuous sexual affairs, despite the risk to relationships
- inappropriate and risky behavior
- preoccupation with sexual thoughts
- increased use of pornography
- cybersex and telephone sex, and visiting strip clubs, dance bars, and so on
Generally speaking, when a person edges toward the manic side of things, the individual starts flirting more than they normally do. Want for a sexual connection drives this increase in flirting. A once innocent hug or comment now has a deeper sexually rooted meaning.
Many individuals change what they enjoy sexually and their personal preferences, as well. I am talking about a 180-degree turn here. For example, a person may be completely monogamous when they are stabilized and managing from day-to-day. However, this same person may be interested in bringing a third person into the bedroom when they become manic and experiment in new ways. See what I mean?
I am nothing if not open about living with bipolar disorder. I am explaining to you what it feels like to be hypersexual.
Hypersexuality, to me, is overwhelming and almost uncontrollable. I can feel it on my skin. It’s palpable. When I’m manic, I feel like a different person. All I care about is myself. Nothing else matters. All I care about is the thrill. I have no control over my actions. The part of my brain that makes rational safe decisions has been hijacked by the bipolar.
The urge to be wanted despite being an emotional wreck is overpowering. It demands that I forget everything sensible. It’s something I can’t understand and can’t control. But when the urges have passed or been satisfied it just makes me feel worse. And the regret lasts.
Hypersexuality Can Change Your Morals and Values
A person’s morals and values can completely change when they become manic. This can go as far as to change a person’s sexual orientation. Sexual satisfaction can be seen in new and exciting ways. Again, these examples do not relate to everyone. They are to give you an idea of what it is like to deal with hypersexuality in regard to bipolar disorder.
If you are in a monogamous relationship and live with bipolar disorder, it is imperative to be open and honest with your partner. Open and honest communication is not solely for those with bipolar disorder, but it is for everyone!
You should have a frank conversation with your partner about what your symptoms look like when you are manic before you become manic. It is a good idea to have a plan in place to protect yourself, your partner, and your relationship. Plan for the best, but expect the worst.
Bipolar disorder is an illness, not a choice. I am not saying that bipolar disorder is a hall pass to do whatever you want. It should give you a clearer light into how bipolar disorder is really an illness – a mental illness.
It is not okay to blame poor decision-making on your illness. If you travel that road, you adopt the victim mentality, and you will never live life to the best of your ability. That is why it is important to be proactive in managing your bipolar disorder. You need to have these conversations before anyone gets hurt.
You should create a treatment and crisis plan to help you manage your bipolar disorder, including daily and long-term. Add something to your crisis plan that states what your loved ones and medical team should do in case you become manic. The whole premise of a plan like this is to set roadblocks in place to reduce the fallout from a manic episode.
You should have a discussion with your partner about what you want to happen in case you become manic. Your partner needs to feel free to say what they want, as well. Do not shame each other for your particular thoughts or feelings. Make sure to write down your conclusions, and put them in your crisis plan. You can also videotape yourself. This is a great tool for your partner to show you in case you do become manic.
Do you see the common theme? It is communication. Communication is absolutely essential to travel the road of bipolar disorder.
Do not wait for an issue to pop up. Plan and prepare beforehand by writing up a treatment and crisis plan. Bipolar disorder is full of uncertainty and surprises.
Hypersexuality is one of the many symptoms that define bipolar disorder. Do not feel shame for your thoughts and feelings. What I am into, you may not be, and vice versa.
Never shame someone else for how they feel or for their thoughts. It should mean something special to you if they trust you to divulge their feelings. It is a way to increase the intimacy between you and your partner.
Don’t let a bipolar symptom barge in a ruin your life. Take control. Be open about the issue. Get treatment. Get therapy. Make a plan for how to handle it ahead of time. And know that the symptom is not your fault, but handling it is your responsibility.