Sex is a basic human drive. We want to eat. We want to sleep. And we want to have sex. These are the things that bring us pleasure in life. Almost everything boils down to those three things.
But unfortunately, bipolar disorder and bipolar medication can affect all three. Bipolar disorder and its associated medication can make you eat. Or make you not eat. It can make you sleep. Or it can make you not sleep. And it can affect your sex life the same way.
But for some reason, doctors often take the effect on your sex life least seriously.
I Want Too Much Sex
Sex is fun. It’s pleasurable. Which is great. But unfortunately this intense pleasure is something that can be overly sought in a hypomanic or manic state. This is known as hypersexuality.
And when I say “overly sought” I don’t mean “preferring to have sex.” I mean writhing, clawing, howling kind of need for sexual contact, the kind of feelings that cause reckless sexual behaviors and sometimes costs relationships and marriages.
Hypersexuality is a concern that quite a few people have confidentially asked me about because they’re scared to admit to it. They’re scared to admit that their mood drives them to desires that they don’t want to have and that can ruin their lives.
I Don’t Want Sex
And depression can do just the opposite. While a mania can fuel a desire, depression can squash all interest in sexual activity. While it can be hard for some people to imagine, sexual thoughts just vanish. It’s like seeing pictures of your grandmother in your head all the time. You just can’t get turned on. And often the very idea of sex is notably unappealing.
Medication and Sex
Perhaps worse is that the medication used to treat mental illness can also affect sex drive and while it’s possible that the medication could make you want more sex, it’s more likely medication will in some way hinder your sex life.
Typically either the desire for sex or the ability to climax is gone. Either one can be very distressing and can easily happen to men or women.
Concerns about Sex
And unfortunately, sex is often one of the very last priorities for doctors. In fact, doctor don’t ask about it and many patients don’t consider it part of the health equation. But staying on a medication long-term means being able to live with side effects and if one of those side effects in an inability to have sex with your lover, this may not be something you find acceptable.
Which is OK.
It’s OK to say that sex matters and that your sex life is important to you. It’s OK to say to a doctor that you’re concerned about your sex life. It’s OK to admit that sex is a part of being a healthy adult and that you want it! It’s not about being “slutty” (which is a judgement some women may find) or “frigid” (another unfair judgement), it’s just about asking for what you want and what you need.
Similarly, if hypersexuality is an issue for you, it’s important to address it with your doctor. Hypersexuality is literally something that can destroy your relationships, your physical health and your life. It’s not something to just ignore because discussing it is uncomfortable.
Can Sexual Concerns be Addressed?
Sexual issues may be something with which therapy can help, or a change in medication – but you can’t know that if you never talk about it.