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 ranging 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.

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 "sex addiction." This is 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, how do you measure how much of a sex drive is too much of a sex drive?

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

What Is Hypersexuality Anyway?

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. Understandably, if someone experiencing a manic episode succumbs to their urges, they can place their relationships at risk.

And there is a physical risk as well. Unrestrained "hypersexuality" can place you at an increased risk of contracting a sexually transmitted infection (STI).

What Are Some Professionals Saying About Sex Addiction?

Jennifer P. Schneider, M.D., Ph.D. states that "addiction to sexual activities can be just as destructive as addiction to chemical substances."1 Patrick Carnes, Ph.D., the researcher who first identified sexual addiction as a condition, has estimated that about eight percent of men and three percent of women in the U.S. are sexually addicted.

This constitutes over 15 million people in this country alone.2

How do these experts determine what constitutes a sexual addiction? According to the Counseling Affiliates, an addiction is at work when sex becomes shameful, secret, or abusive.3 The Mayo Clinic defines sexual addiction as a loss of control and utilizes the word compulsive. "Compulsive sexual behavior refers to spending inordinate amounts of time in sexual-related activity, to the point that one neglects important social, occupational or recreational activities in favor of sexual behavior."4 

What Behaviors Are Associated with Sexual Addiction?

Some of the specific behaviors associated with sexual addiction are:

  • 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.5 

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

So how can this byproduct of bipolar disorder affect other areas of your life?

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 indiscriminate sexual contacts could lead to disease.

If you are 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 are already receiving for bipolar disorder.


1. Society for the Advancement of Sexual Health
2. The Counseling Affiliates - Sexual Addiction
3. The Counseling Affiliates - Ibid.
4. Compulsive Sexual Behavior
6. The Counseling Affiliates - Op. cit.

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