There is a symptom of Bipolar Disorder or specifically a symptom sometimes synonymous with Mania that many suffer from, a challenging, difficult and perhaps embarrassing symptom that often does not get the recognition or attention it deserves. Sometimes we ourselves may be reluctant to speak about it for a variety of reasons, perhaps because of our religious beliefs, our values and principles or simply because it is so frightfully awkward to talk about or alternatively sometimes it is the professionals who shy away from the subject, perhaps uncomfortable themselves for a variety of reasons in opening up intimate discussions about such matters. Though regardless of one’s perception, this symptom is not going to disappear, it is not going to flutter away conveniently so as to hide ones blushes, it is not going to be forced into submission due to ones ingrained beliefs or values and it certainly is not going to remove itself because ones Psychiatrist is facing an area that makes them cringe, an area that will result in the patient informing them of their deepest desires and fantasies, their overwhelming sexual appetites and the resultant insatiable lust filled escapades that they may have participated in. This symptom exists, it does need discussing and it certainly needs bringing out into the open, if only to raise awareness and allow more research into this area to be completed, which at the moment is fundamentally lacking. What am I talking about? Hypersexuality!
Hypersexuality is the increased need and often pressure for sexual gratification that can arrive with an episode of Mania. Due to this overwhelming desire for sex and the decreased inhibitions that accompany mania, often one will seek out sexual relationships or experiences with other people, sometimes to an excessive degree. It is not uncommon for instance, for happily married individuals to suddenly have affairs, affairs that may come as a complete shock to their partners or for once conservative individuals to suddenly begin having one night stands or random sexual encounters with strangers. One can suddenly find themselves attracted to people who they normally wouldn't associate with or becoming obsessed with the idea of 'forbidden sex'.
Now not everyone who suffers from Bipolar Disorder will suffer with Hypersexuality but I think I would be right in saying that many do. It is a serious issue and a challenging one, for the consequences of hypersexuality, which are not always understood at the time due to the lack of inhibitions accompanying Mania and a lack of awareness with regards to the consequences of ones actions, can result in marriage and relationship difficulties, the breakdown of precious relationships, family problems and not to forget the host of Sexually Transmitted Diseases one can contract and the resultant problems these may pose.
So I suppose the question is do I suffer from Hypersexuality and the answer is a resounding yes! Though I have to say, after my many years of dealing with Bipolar Disorder, I think I can safely say I am more in control of this often problematic symptom these days and I work very hard to channel it, though it isn't always easy.
During my years when I was undiagnosed it was a very different story. I am a naturally quiet, thoughtful person who lives inside her head most of the time, but upon the arrival of a bout of Mania all that changes, which in some ways is a good thing, as people around me can always tell when I am becoming high as there is a marked difference immediately from my usual introverted personality. On top of the euphoria, the energy, feelings of self-importance and the mad ideas that I may have, I also start to begin flirting outrageously with one and all, so assured am I that I am the most beautiful and desirable girl in the world who no one can resist.
My body or should I say certain parts of it, are on fire, the eternal and tormenting ache that nothing and no one can relieve. It's incredibly intense, raw and overwhelming mentally and physically, not just a psychological desire for sex but a bodily desire that leaves each part of your body in a permanent, tortured state of arousal and the only thing one wants; to find someone, anyone even, to relieve the agony. Though sex often doesn't satisfy as it may have once did, nothing serving to satisfy and quell ones eternal desire - so one moves on to the next and the next and the next.
I spent many years acting on these impulses, going out purposefully looking for sexual encounters, going to Pubs and Clubs specifically looking for sex and as is the nature of Mania with the inflated self-importance, stratospheric confidence and my own seemingly magnetic seductive techniques, I rarely left empty handed. At other times I met people in more diverse and random situations, situations that were perhaps even more dangerous but my inhibitions knowing nothing of fear or the concept of safety, led me to act on my sexual compulsions, happily involving myself in these random encounters, the only thing mattering; to satisfy my enormous and plainly out of control sex desire.
Eventually, after many a failed relationship and the mental anguish that ensued, the guilt ridden Terminations resulting from my behaviour and the general pain and heartbreak caused to all, I realized that something had to change. Having the correct diagnosis and beginning to understand more about Hypersexuality, led me to realize that I somehow had to become the one in control, that I had to tame the beast in effect and in doing so, learn to channel the sexual energy in a more appropriate manner.
It is not easy and I don't believe it ever will be - I still have days when I crave sex to such a degree that I find it hard to manage and cope with and concentrating on anything else becomes besides sex becomes unbearable. Though for me it has become about all about damage limitation in effect.
I have over the years become more and more familiar with my moods, knowing for instance when I am becoming depressed and what behaviour to look out for and similarly I know when I am becoming Hypomanic and begin to feel Hypersexual. One of the things that I believe in wholeheartedly is the ability to relieve oneself, self-masturbation for me is imperative when feeling Hypersexual and indeed relieving myself as many times as is required, thus purposefully striving to limit the chance of any risky sexual encounters taking place. I also have become able to rein my mood in, even when experiencing a hypersexual episode through a combination of mindfulness, meditation, finding activities that require deep concentration and a need for me to be methodical such as arranging my extensive Book collection or my Music collection or indeed writing, which is perhaps one of my most treasured pastimes (aside from reading of course), and for me is one of my most greatest and frequently used channels. I also additionally to my normal writing, find it really helpful to write down how I am feeling sexually and perhaps what I am desiring moment by moment when craving sex, it doesn't matter how rude my ramblings may be, how perverse, erotic or different, what matters is getting all my thoughts and fantasies down on paper, which for me acts as a wonderful release but also gives me something to read back to myself, once again trying to satisfy the overwhelming craving for sex. Additionally, Erotic fiction can be very useful and I have certainly benefited myself from a few well-chosen Books. Ultimately I think we all have to be proactive and find an alternative that works for us.
It's not always easy and there are times when I feel that I am losing control, times when I feel that I might lose the battle but it is at these times when we are feeling that control is sliding from our grasp but still have a degree of insight into our behaviour, that we need to ask for help, from our families, from our Professionals. The alternative of leaving it and hoping we can somehow muster through without any repercussions is naïve and the consequences are far too great.
I think essentially we have to try and in doing so, perhaps we can learn to tame the beast!