Sex During Mania
Mania is a period lasting a week where you will feel in an elated mood, have increased energy, less need for sleep and will be more likely to make poor choices. Hypomania only needs to last for four days and represents the same symptoms to a lesser degree.
Bipolar disorder is one the of the few mental health disorders that actually discusses sex in the criteria for diagnosis. This is because, when manic, people tend to be more interested in goal-directed behaviors, including sex. You will be more interested in having sex, having sex multiple times per day and having sex with people that you may not have sex with otherwise. This is called hypersexuality or being hypersexual.
You may be asking yourself, “What’s so bad about that?” Remember, impulsivity is a cornerstone of mania so birth control is often disregarded. The truth is that people are less cautious in regards to sex are more likely to contract a sexually transmitted disease or have a relationship that ends with an unplanned pregnancy. Additionally, the increase drive for sex can disrupt long-term relationships as infidelity is common.
The risks of sex during mania must be managed to lessen further issues. Here’s how:
- Monitor. Self-monitoring means that you pay attention to yourself and your reactions to the world around you. If you wish to limit the negative influence of sex in your life, you must first notice it. Along the way, be sure to track your symptoms. If you note increased manic symptoms, you can prepare. Keep in mind that your monitoring will likely diminish as mania increases. Because of this, you may benefit from recruiting a trusted friend to monitor your symptoms and behaviors as well.
- Identify triggers. What increases your compulsion to have sex? Is it drinking alcohol, going to a strip club or watching provocative material at home that boosts your desire to have sex? Or maybe it is something completely counterintuitive and unexpected. Again, attention and memory can be impaired during mania so take notes and rely on information from others.
- Gain separation. Now that you have identified your triggers, avoid them. During mania, sex behaves much like an addictive behavior. If you were trying to stop drinking, would you go to the bar? If you were trying to stop spending money, would you head to the mall with your full arsenal of credit cards? Hopefully not. Avoiding the triggers helps keep you safe until the period of mania subsides.
- Manage urges. Improving symptoms looks differently for different people. Some people may need to abstain from sex because the history of negative repercussions is simply too great. Others may find success with controlled moderation. Finding sexual release through intercourse with a consenting partner or through masturbation may reduce your symptoms while preventing you from engaging in riskier choices. This will take experience and experimentation to find the process that works best for you and those in your life.
- Address emotions. This is an appropriate skill to pursue when symptoms are lower. Why is hypersexuality the way your mania presents? Working with a therapist to uncover and understand your motivations in relationship to your past may limit future symptoms. Not everyone that experiences hypersexuality in mania will have some type of unwanted sexual past, but if you do, addressing it with a professional will be valuable.