Hypersexuality is a common symptom of bipolar manic episodes, affecting men and women, single and married. What are your experiences with hypersexuality?
My husband and I adopted our daughter when she was a year old; she is now 15. She was diagnosed with bipolar at 11 after going through all the normal ADD and ADHD diagnoses. Our daughter is hypersexual and has to be supervised and monitored at all times. She has a birth control implant in her arm for her own protection. The key for us is the supervision and not putting her in harm’s way—no cell phone, no Internet, and limited interaction with boys. She has had four hospitalizations in one year, but is now stable. It’s a constant struggle, but she is loved and feels secure. As her parents, it is our job to help her as much as we can for as long as we can.
Prior to knowing that I was bipolar, I always thought that I was going through a phase in life that allowed me to behave in such a way that I would hurt the ones I love. This euphoria of manic episodes heightened my energy of lust and sexuality to a level I would never have imagined. I would feel bad after each encounter. But when the energy came back, I wanted more. I have hurt a lot of people in the process and also hurt the one I love—my wife. As I take my medication and [have] my Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT), I sometimes feel the need to let go and let my manic episode happen. But thanks to the medications [I have] been able to control these episodes.
Hypersexuality is a word I wish I had known when I was in high school and college. If only I had been diagnosed bipolar back then—the pain it could have saved me. I flirted with everyone. I went home with anyone, every night. I had boyfriends and there were one-night stands. I don’t remember names, but that really isn’t important. Hypersexuality—my brain—ruled my sex life, not my heart. Backwards right?
I have experienced the feeling of hypersexuality, but have never acted on it. My dad, who is also bipolar, has acted on it many times—because he chooses to go unmedicated—and has been cheating on my mother for 35 years. It has destroyed so much of our family’s dynamic, yet my mother refuses to leave him. And philanderers have twice cheated on me. In retrospect, it is almost certainly because I never grew up watching the proper treatment of women. I made sure when I was diagnosed to always take my medication, because I did not want to become like [my father].
In 1972, I was diagnosed with manic-depressive illness. Hypersexuality was the most dangerous part of eight manic episodes. Provocative to promiscuous to “nonprofit” prostitution describes my life-threatening road. I wore a “shroud of shame” until I studied my illness, becoming its owner, not its slave. My manic episodes have stayed in remission 24 years. I am now 59 and have shed the shroud from “hypersexuality.”
When I was in the midst of suffering from my illness, I behaved and acted out in a very negative way. That included reaching out sexually to other men and women to try and make myself feel better. Inevitably, it made me feel worse. This usually occurred during my worst depressions and was a desperate attempt to feel better. Now that I understand how my illness affects me, I can make better decisions and live a happy and monogamous life with my husband of 20 years.
It was hellish for me before I was diagnosed. My behavior just didn’t match up with my view of myself and it was dangerous in a number of ways. I’ve been on meds for 25 years and they have helped a great deal. Most importantly, I have come to understand the “hyper” part as an aspect of my illness and to manage it in an appropriate way. My therapist has helped me laugh at myself and put the hell in the past, where, thank God, it lies.
—North Salem, NY
I found the hypersexuality to be highly enjoyable. The only problem I can see is if you are in a committed relationship and venture outside your commitment for sex. Otherwise, manic sex can be the absolute best! Let’s put it this way, I am 56 years old and even [while] medicated, I continue to generate lots of smiles from my lady!
At 17, I began having episodes of mania. One of the manifestations—and a total mystery—was my sudden and uncontrollable need for sex. For many years, I sought some sort of satisfaction from sex, not just the act itself, but the insatiability of “the hunt.” I put myself in many unfortunate and sometimes dangerous situations. Today, with my illness stabilized, I am able to have a happy, healthy relationship with my husband.
Before I was diagnosed with bipolar in August 2008, I experienced hypersexuality. Thank goodness, I went to the emergency [room] at the hospital before I made drastic mistakes of sleeping with someone. I am now taking medications, which is making an immense difference in my life.
Wow, this topic is especially embarrassing to me. My interest was in a man who was not my husband. The experience lasted less than two weeks, but it broke up two marriages. My interest seemed so genuine and intense that the man wanted to marry me. I came down from this “up” and wanted to fix my marriage. Neither thing happened. I’m much more careful now.
Early into my 11-year voyage with bipolar, I discovered a manic phase with hypersexuality. Everything I learned regarding safe sex and the evil ways of promiscuity suddenly didn’t matter to me any more. I had thoughts that I was truly a reincarnated Adonis sent to please women. The fact that I had an irresistible charisma only further fed my mania. I walked away from that battle wounded with an STD (though thankfully nothing permanent). It was a wake-up call.
I definitely experience hypersexuality when I am hypomanic, and also when I have had full-blown mania. Once, I decided that I wanted to have another baby and was propositioning every good-looking male whom I encountered. Luckily, there hasn’t been a bad outcome (STD, etc.) and my bipolar is currently under control with medication, exercise, and a healthy diet.
—San Diego, CA
I stopped counting sex partners after passing 100. Why count? Because I loved each one completely during the time we were together. [Having] hypomania, being a survivor of incest? Both [were] undiagnosed. This was normal and there was no stopping a pattern I couldn’t recognize. Getting herpes II was a blessing in disguise, even though I’ve lived with frequent breakouts. An antidepressant has stopped the desire and an anticonvulsant takes care of the worst swings. Hypersexuality is a symptom, not a character defect.
I have been fired from two jobs [for reasons] directly related to hypersexuality. While I am in this state, nothing else matters. Family, work, food, sleep—all are ignored so that I can feed my appetite. As a teenager, before I was diagnosed with bipolar, I was labeled a “slut” and I was never able to shake that reputation throughout high school. After I read that [hypersexuality] is a common symptom of bipolar, I was more comfortable with this part of myself. I’m not really sure I would want to lose that part of my personality, however. The sex is like a drug that can calm me at times when my brain is in high gear. It can also give me the adrenaline rush that I need when I’m depressed. Would I really want medication that would take this symptom away? I’m not sure I know the answer to that question.
I used to be overcome by hypersexuality during my manic phases. I would pick up prostitutes, complete strangers off the street, and just about any female whom I could get, whether I was attracted to them or not. After fighting with this for over 13 years, I have finally gained control of it by not smoking (marijuana), not drinking, learning to block out sexual thoughts, and most of all by finding my spiritual self. I have become a Christian for the past six months and I now have full control.
Before my initial diagnosis of bipolar, I had an experience with hypersexuality. I was married and had an affair. At the time, I felt like I was 10 ft. tall and bulletproof. It hurt my marriage badly. However, after counseling and a diagnosis, my husband is more aware when the hypersexuality starts. In [some] ways, it has helped the sexual part of our relationship, because he is more understanding of my needs.
My desire to have sex has been extremely intense at times, but I also have an equally intense desire to be moral. This has created an internal war of immense proportions. To cope, I would overindulge in masturbation. Now with age and God’s help, this internal war is less intense, giving me more control of my hypersexual drives.
For many years, hypersexuality has been the most prominent and recurring symptom of my bipolar disorder. During a manic episode, I would feel overwhelming sexual impulses and urges to the point that it felt as though I had to have immediate “release,” or that I was not in control of my body. This led to inappropriate relationships with men, infidelity, and situations that could have been harmful or have negative consequences (i.e., meeting men in bars and going home with them, hooking up with coworkers at the work- place). Being on medications and talking with a therapist have helped curb the impulses, but at times I still struggle with maintaining control.
Printed as “SOUNDOFF! Hypersexuality”, Spring 2009