How Do You Treat Hypersexuality?
Hypersexuality with bipolar disorder isn’t a separate condition or problem that needs its own treatment — it’s a symptom of bipolar disorder. Once the condition is successfully treated and mood swings and symptoms are under control, those hypersexual feelings will dissipate.
“When bipolar disorder is not being treated effectively, hypersexuality is often a symptom that can wreak havoc in a person’s personal life and lead to poor decisions with possible serious and negative consequences. Treating the bipolar symptoms and getting hypomania and mania under control will often target and help hypersexuality as well,” explains Viguera.
“You treat the disease, not the symptom,” she adds. “Treatments usually involve medications such as mood stabilizers or antipsychotics, as well as psychotherapy such as cognitive-behavioral therapy or interpersonal social rhythm therapy,” she says.
Once the disease is under control, people with bipolar disorder often react differently to sex and their past behaviors.
“You often see a lot of regret for the past behavior, because they put themselves in very bad situations,” says Viguera. “When they’re well, they reflect on that, and there can be a lot of regret and remorse. It’s just another clue that shows you that it was not their normal state.”
In addition, hypersexuality can be one of the most difficult and challenging symptoms both for people living with the condition and for those close to them.
Sometimes the inability to control sexual urges leads to broken marriages and relationships. Both people in a relationship can suffer if these urges result in infidelity: The partner with bipolar disorder may feel distraught over having hurt the other partner, who in turn feels confused and angry for having been cheated on.
Bipolar Behavior, Hypersexuality, and Related Conditions
The study found substance abuse disorders to be quite common in people with bipolar disorder. The disorders with the highest prevalence in conjunction with bipolar disorder were alcohol use (42 percent), followed by cannabis use (20 percent) and other illicit drug use (17 percent).
Stimulants in particular can be problematic: The study authors point out that if stimulants are being used or abused, they could mimic symptoms of mania. In addition, alcohol and cannabis use can be linked to poor judgment, which may further contribute to hypersexual behavior.
Different Treatments for Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder is usually treated with:
- Mood-stabilizing medications
- Antipsychotic medications
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy
- Other forms of therapy and counseling that may include family members
- Electroconvulsive therapy, which involves using small electrical waves to treat the brain
The right combination of these various therapies can reduce or eliminate bipolar mood changes between mania and depression, as well as prevent or reduce symptoms, including hypersexuality.
Those symptoms of hypersexuality may be a red flag for some people with bipolar disorder indicating that they are slipping into a manic episode. If a person with bipolar disorder starts to notice themselves thinking more about sex or engaging in promiscuous behavior, they should notify their doctor of this onset of symptoms.
Resources We Love
Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA)
This organization supports people with depression and bipolar disorder. Learn more about treatment options for bipolar disorder, and check out the DBSA Wellness Toolbox.
A top U.S. hospital, Mayo Clinic has educational information about bipolar disorder on its website and also offers care for bipolar disorder at its four locations in the United States. Learn more about how to schedule an appointment.
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
NIMH is a part of the National Institutes of Health, which is the world’s largest biomedical research agency. If you’re interested, consider participating in a research trial to help researchers discover more about potential treatments for bipolar disorder.
Additional reporting by Barbara Kean.