Bipolar Disorder Hypersexuality

People often ask me: “Julie, isn’t bipolar disorder hyper sexuality just an excuse for someone to have a wild sex life and cheat whenever they want? It seems that when people say they can’t help how they act because hyper sexuality a part of a mania mood swing they are lying and making excuses!”

I can give an opinion from both sides of this situation- actually, three sides! I have bipolar disorder. I had a partner for ten years who has bipolar disorder and I write books on the topic and coach parents and partners regarding bipolar disorder. 

Real bipolar hypersexuality is not an excuse for a wild sex life. Instead, it’s a symptom of bipolar illness. When manic, our frontal lobes turn off and our ability to make thoughtful decisions is diminished. This naturally leads to really, really poor choices around sexual behavior. 

Bipolar Disorder Mania Basics 

Bipolar is episodic. This means the hyper sexuality associated with mania in bipolar disorder will not be consistent. It will come and go and will always, without exception, be attached to an obvious manic episode.

I’m going to repeat this as it’s the most important fact around this topic. People with bipolar hyper sexuality are not continually cheating. They get manic and their sexual behavior changes greatly as compared to their normal behavior around sex.

Mania mood swing change the way we would normally act in our private lives. The sexual behavior created by hyper sexuality in mania is not a part of our personality and it is not based on what has happened to us in the past. It has nothing at all to do with trauma. 

Hyper sexuality is the result of a chemical change in our brain that takes away our inhibitions and ability to make smart decisions. I call it the animal mood swing. When I’m hyper sexual, I  am a predator. I only want what I want and the feelings of others don’t matter to me. This is a mood swing. My regular self would never act or think the way I do when mania is raging. 


Bipolar Hypersexuality Leads to Personal Pain

People with bipolar disorder are usually very upset and confused about hypersexual manic mood swings. They ruin our relationships and cause great stress in our lives. STDs and unplanned pregnancies are common. These episodes have a very clear beginning, middle and end and when the mood swing is gone, we go back to our baseline behavior around sexuality and are often so shocked, embarrassed and are upset by what happened. There is one exception to this- and that is euphoric mania hypersexuality that is seen as a positive- a personal, sexual revolution that we believe changes our lives for the better! This is simply a lack of insight- and will often cause problems with our partners, but it’s hard for us to see this!

If the sexual behavior is truly due to bipolar disorder, medications and a good management plan help the person manage the mania that creates the hypersexuality.  They keep people with bipolar on track. And yes, it’s can be VERY difficult to give up manic hyper sexuality. Very difficult. 

I have to be very careful about hyper sexuality as it ruled my life for many years. I now manage it by managing my mania. I shared a link below about my own struggles with the symptom.

Avoid the Bipolar Hyper Sexual Conversation 

All of my books teach you to avoid The Bipolar Conversation. (If you’re new to my work, this is a full chapter in both Take Charge of Bipolar Disorder and Loving Someone with Bipolar Disorder).  The way your partner talks about sexuality will sound very different when a mood swing is raging. The behaviors will be more sexual and the words will be different – such as changing the way he or she refers to a certain body part.  If you try to talk to someone who is hyper sexual about their sexual behavior and they ignore you or tell you that it’s all in your head and they are fine, etc. you have to compare this behavior to regular behavior to know if what they are saying has anything to do with mania. If you have the Health Cards, creating a hyper sexuality card is very helpful.  Many partners meet each other when the person with bipolar is manic and hyper sexual, so it might take some time to figure out symptoms so that you can learn to avoid The Bipolar Conversation. 

Reader Question about Hypersexuality 

I recently had a reader ask me about the difference between sexuality in general and hyper sexuality in bipolar. She said, “My boyfriend told me he wants to see other people. He still wants to be with me, but isn’t interested in staying monogamous as this is not how he wants to live his life. He told me that it was my choice if I wanted to stay with him. He was not out to hurt me. This was how he talked at the beginning of our relationship, but then he agreed to move in with me and I thought he had changed and wanted to be monogamous, but now it has come back.  I went through our mania check list- like in Loving and to be honest, he is sleeping and work is ok right now.  He’s not staying out late and he doesn’t have another girlfriend at this time. He said he just wanted to be honest and he was sorry it wasn’t working out like I hoped. Is he secretly manic and just doesn’t know it! How do I tell the difference!?” 

This is not hyper sexuality. It’s too calm and it is words only. Hyperseuxality is mania and mania is always active. The words will be accompanied by fast talking, changes in the eyes, movements and behaviors associated with hyper sexuality such as suddenly getting on line for a hook up and meeting someone that night. The way the reader describes her boyfriend above simply sounds like he is telling her what he wants and needs.  There is no great angst and he is clear in what he’s saying. It’s not mania. 

Bipolar hyper sexuality will always be active. It will be filled with energy and purpose. It is goal driven and in many cases quite predatory. Sex outside the relationship is common. Hyper sexuality often feels GREAT to the person with bipolar and is devastating to the partner who doesn’t know what is going on in the relationship.

Hyper sexuality symptoms need to be listed on a symptom list and prevented just as you would prevent any bipolar disorder symptoms. 

Hyper sexuality ruled my life for many years. I no longer allow it to be in my life.  I write about this in my Psychology Today blog Bipolar, Hypersexual and Celibate. 

As a partner of someone with bipolar disorder, it’s essential that mania is discussed openly so that the manic symptom of hypersexiuality can be prevented. 







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