#WorldBipolarDay Julie A. Fast Q&A: Bipolar Disorder Hypersexuality vs. Trauma

Julie, I used to look back on some things and simply think they were signs of me acting out because of childhood sexual abuse but, in hindsight, it also looks a lot like manic phases and the risky behaviour associated with that. Is it possible to distinguish between the two or is it more a case of the two colliding and the severity of the episode? N. 

Hi N.  I’m going to get on my soap box here. We talk so much about trauma today- and that is very, very important, but I can’t stress this enough. Bipolar disorder is not and never has been trauma based. Our hyper sexuality is NOT from abuse. There is an enormous difference from acting out due to sexual abuse and the hyper sexuality that comes with bipolar and I am so glad you asked this question in the way you did… it is easy to tell the difference.

Mania is mania. It is not about abuse and it will always look the same. You can’t have mania without a change in energy which means a change in sleep.

Let’s deconstruct this so that the whole trauma vs. bipolar issue can be talked about rationally.

Mania doesn’t change. Yes, a person can be hyper sexual during a mania, but they will always, no exceptions have other signs of mania as well. For example, when I am hyper sexual during a euphoric manic episode, I will always be full of energy without needing to sleep. No exceptions. There is no mania with tiredness. This is not insomnia. This is literally not needing to sleep. This fuels the hyper sexuality. I will talk more rapidly, be goal oriented and I will look manic. My judgement will be off in all areas of life, not just the sexuality. So, I will not be able to deal with my job and be hyper sexual. I will be hyper sexual at my job as well as at da club!

I know a bit about sexual trauma behaviors simply from my past work and can say that acting out sexually from trauma does not look like mania. It looks like acting out sexually. Being overly sexual is not the same thing as manic hyper sexuality.

Young people who are abuse will have changes in sexual behavior, but they will not be manic.

Your question is excellent because yes, you have a dilemma if you don’t deconstruct the past with a knowledge of what mania actually looks like.

If you were hyper sexual due to mania, you would have other signs of mania- climbing out the window at 2 AM to meet someone and then sneaking back home and not being tired the next day is more like mania. Not being guilty at all is mania. NO SHAME is mania.

If you are hyper sexual and are doing this due to abuse, the emotions and fall out of your behavior will be different. You will feel shame and self loathing or defiance or any emotion that might show up from being abused.

We don’t have these emotions when manic and hyper sexual. We are ANIMAL. All amygdala. There is no connection between mania and abuse in my opinion.

Now, if you have mania already and then are sexually abused, can it affect the mania. Of course it can. But then we are talking about triggers and not the origin of hyper sexuality.

Let me know if this helps and feel free to ask me more specific questions if needed!

Bipolar is an illness. Trauma is a situation. They are treated differently. Good luck to you.


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