According to Sexual Health Matters, hypersexuality is found among an estimated 25 to 80 percent of all bipolar patients experiencing mania. That's not trivial. There are approximately 5.7 million adult Americans, or about 2.6% of the U.S. population age 18 and older, who suffer from bipolar disorder.
With that statistic, we can presume that millions of people suffer with it. This symptom is one of the most destructive and devastating yet many people don't realize they have it or even that it has a name. While the symptoms of bipolar disorder are highly characterized, there seems to be very little discussion on this particular topic. Why is that?
With Suzy Favor Hamilton's latest book Fast Girl: A Life Spent Running from Madness out in bookstores across the country, there has been an increased amount of discussion regarding bipolar mania. More specifically, its focus on the symptom of hypersexuality. She says,
Being bipolar means being insatiable. The high of the mania is never high enough. There is always a desire—a need—to push the high to the next level, in the same way that a drug addict constantly requires more and stronger drugs. For a person with bipolar disorder, risky behavior can be the best drug of all.
Robert Weiss, LCSW, CSAT-S, Founding Director of The Sexual Recovery Institute, Los Angeles and Director of Sexual Disorders Services at The Ranch Treatment Center in Nunnelly, Tennessee explains,
Sexual addiction or hypersexuality is defined as a dysfunctional preoccupation with sexual fantasy, often in combination with the obsessive pursuit of casual or non-intimate sex; pornography; compulsive masturbation; romantic intensity and objectified partner sex for a period of at least six months.
Hypersexuality is, from my personal experience, an overwhelming compulsion and addiction to sex and sexual content. When I’m hypersexual, I get intense cravings for sex. It's similar to the sort of “butterflies in your stomach” feeling when you fall in love. It's an intense high that gives me a massive boost in self-confidence. The temptation to act out is so strong I can practically feel it on my skin and taste it on my tongue. The worst part about hypersexuality is that I'm never satisfied. I have to actively resist what my body is essentially trying to do on autopilot. If I'm not careful, I’ll do something I’ll regret.
As a writer for them, I encourage you to look at bpHope Magazine for more insightful information on the topic. They are a fantastic resource when it comes to articles and expert advice on what the symptoms look like as well as professional opinions from leading experts in bipolar disorder.
With being happily married to a wonderful husband, this kind of symptom tends to get me in serious trouble. Last year, I had a terribly bad manic episode that lasted several months.
During that time period, I lost complete control of myself and acted out sexually towards some stupid college kid I met chatting online. He seduced me into cybersex and phone sex with him along with eventually meeting up a few times. As many times as I told myself and him no, he always managed to get inside my head and change my mind.
Under normal circumstances, none of his tricks would've worked on me. However, when I was manic, all I did was focus nonstop on sexual satisfaction. The worst part was nothing was ever enough. I needed more and more. Nothing would satiate me. It took over my entire brain and wouldn't let go until the mania finally died. Despite the fact that I fought fervently against my overwhelming urges, I still was constantly unable to stop myself from falling into temptation.
Now that the clouds have parted and the dust has settled, I can think clearly and work around the triggers that caused me to lose control. My husband and I educated ourselves thoroughly on hypersexuality and he has now forgiven me for my actions. Whereas I was and am still responsible for all actions I take, I understand now that my behavior was a symptom of an illness. A common symptom of bipolar mania. Armed with this information, he, my best friends, and my healthcare professionals have all agreed on a strategic prevention plan to help minimize my triggers and prevent any future mistakes.
Although I do feel guilty every day for what I did, I no longer feel ashamed of myself. What happened was a terrible mistake but I've learned considerable information from it. With knowledge comes power and I'm trying every single day to bring that power back into my own hands. Hopefully I'll regain it fully one day.
Don't be ashamed of your actions. Learn from them and grow.
If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of hypersexuality, or any other symptoms of mania, please contact your doctor.
If you — or someone you know — need help, please call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. If you are outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of international resources.