Bipolar Disorder and the Sex Drive Conundrum
Like many with bipolar, I have experienced how both depression and mania can affect one’s sex drive.
Just like the ups and downs of our moods, people that have bipolar disorder experience the highs and lows of sexual desire.
As a woman, it’s not easy to disclose that I have had some of these symptoms that we will talk about in this post.
However, those that are experiencing hypersexuality and/or low sexual desire or have a partner that is experiencing one of these shifts needs to know what is going on and how to treat it.
Many of us experience it, and it is time to be proactive about our sexual challenges and educate those around us.
Hypersexuality is a term that means someone is excessively interested or involved in sexual activity.
It is not unusual to have a heightened sense of sexuality during a manic episode.
An increased interest in sex in itself is not the inherent cause for concern, rather, the risk lies in the accompanied gregariousness, poor judgment, and impulsivity that, in combination with enhanced sex drive, creates lasting consequences.
When someone is in a manic episode, they can feel indestructible, not concerned with the consequences of their actions.
This allows for some extreme symptoms.
Some of the symptoms of hypersexuality include:
- A sex drive that seems out of control
- Never feeling sexually satisfied, even when one has engaged in a lot of sexual activity
- Poor sexual impulse control
- Having sex with multiple partners
- Having sex with strangers
- Excessive masturbation
- Extra-marital affairs
- Inappropriate and risky sexual behaviors
- Sex used to numb aspects of human relationships that are feared, such as emotional intimacy
- No emotional satisfiaction from sex
- Preoccupation with sexual thoughts
- Increase in use of pornography
Not everyone with hypersexuality experiences all of these symptoms, and this is not a comprehensive list.
However, it is intended to give you an idea of what hypersexuality is and what to look out for.
It is important that you know that not all people with bipolar disorder experience hypersexuality.
We need it talk about it, though, because for those that do, it can be a major problem.
Hypersexuality might seem like a pleasure cruise, but it’s not.
To me, it’s agitating, and it stirs up trouble. Although hypersexuality hasn’t been an issue for me lately, in the past, it has done more harm for me than good.
For people with bipolar disorder, hypersexuality is one of the most challenging issues to deal with.
Young people with bipolar disorder might act out inappropriately with older persons.
Adults may ruin their marriage or relationship because they are not able to control the urge to have sex with someone else.
It is not clear why, but research indicates women experience hypersexuality more than men.
Loss of Sex Drive (Depression)
Depression often destroys the sex drive.
Some people with bipolar disorder go months or even years with very little interest in sex.
If you or your partner is experiencing loss of interest in sex due to depression, it might be because:
- They feel unattractive and undesirable
- They feel vulnerable or fragile and can’t handle intimacy right now
- They are not paying attention to their grooming and don’t feel comfortable being intimate
- Their medication side effects may be contributing to loss of sex drive or inability to experience erection or orgasm.
- They are exhausted due to depression and don’t feel they have the energy to engage in sexual activity
- They feel withdrawn and want to be left alone for the time being
- They can’t experience pleasure from anything—including sex.
Often, these symptoms can cause a vicious cycle—depression can lead to lack of interest in sex, and lack of interest in sex can lead to more depression.
This is particularly true when depression and lack of intimacy is causing a strain in one’s relationship.
When someone with bipolar goes from hypersexual to having little to no interest in sex, their partner to feel confused, frustrated, and rejected.
What Can We Do About It?
- Talk to your doctor candidly about your sexual issues, whether it be hyperseuxality or lack of interest in sex. These issues may cause the need for a medication adjustment or other intervention.
- Talk honestly about your sex life with your partner. Make note of any issues of intimacy.
- If you think you may be having sexual issues due to medication side effects, use this resource.
Finding the right combination of medications and talking over issues with your partner and treatment team can help create a healthy sexual environment for someone that lives with bipolar disorder.
Have you experienced the negative effects of low sex drive or hypersexuality? Do they still affect you, or have you been able to do something about it?
If you are the partner of someone with bipolar disorder and sexual issues, how do you cope?
Connell, K. Sexuality and bipolar disorder. Retrieved from http://www.healthline.com/health/bipolar-disorder/guide-sexual-health
Read, K. The impact of bipolar disorder on sex. Retrieved from http://bipolar.about.com/od/socialissues/a/impact_on_sex.htm
Dawkins, K. (2013). Bipolar Disorder and the Sex Drive Conundrum. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 30, 2015, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/bipolar-life/2013/06/bipolar-disorder-and-the-sex-drive-conundrum/