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Sexual Health and Bipolar Disorder

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.

mp9004442841Concerns 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?

Yes.

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.

You can find Natasha Tracy on Facebook or GooglePlus or @Natasha_Tracy on Twitter.

Author: Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is a renowned speaker, award-winning advocate and author of Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar.

Find Natasha Tracy on her blog, Bipolar Burble, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.

17 thoughts on “Sexual Health and Bipolar Disorder”

  1. Hyper sexuality is an issue for me. My ex was a [moderated] who used sex covertly to control me. He would dish it out as reward and punishment like I was a dog and I didn’t realise. He lied about meds he didn’t take causing him erectile dysfunction to make me beg, make me feel guilty and it was humiliating.
    I have not cheated on any partner and maybe the new guy has a chance of keeping me happy sexually (he had a high sex drive)and I’d want to be with him even if I was sexually frustrated because we are wonderful outside the bedroom too.

  2. Additionally, hypersexuality often accompanies other manic behavior which totally exhausts and/or turns off your partner.

    I don’t need to add the job title of concubine to my list of other bipolar caretaker jobs: emotional whipping post, housekeeper, home health aid, nanny, secretary, financial manager and mediator…

    Besides, even if I wanted to have sex with him when he’s ‘like this’, I don’t have it in me physically to satisfy him… because it takes sex multiple times a day to satisfy the bipolar beast with two backs.

  3. before i started taking meds for bipolar disorder i had a healthy libido and the ability to reach great orgasms now though i have a muted libido i fantasize and enjoy the thoughts of sex with a man but am now unable to reach climax even when self stimulating i am single and 48

  4. Hi Tish,

    You don’t mention why your husband is getting testosterone shots, but I assume there is a medical need. If not, then stopping them would seem like the logical course of action.

    If he does need them, then this sounds like the kind of thing that you need to have a conversation about. It’s really hard when one person wants sex significantly more than another and it’ll probably take a little give-and-take on both your parts to come up with a compromise you can both live with.

    One thing I will say is that people often take their partner’s not wanting to have sex with them as a personal affront – like you don’t love them any more. This is likely not anywhere the truth, but it can feel like that. Addressing this needs to be part of the conversation.

    And if you feel like you can’t be honest, try counselling. Sometimes people communicate better when there’s a facilitator.

    In the end, you’re not going to solve this problem talking to me, you’re only going to solve it talking to your partner.

    – Natasha

  5. interesting read. My libido is in the toilet with all the meds I am on. Hubby goes and gets testerone shots!! he is chasing me all over the house and would take it every night if there was a chance. Im feeling I cant relax, go to bed with being fondled, in the pool without being chased around and groped, being in the same room with him, he just wont leave me alone. Love him very much but these shots have created a monster. HEEEEEEEEEELP!!!

  6. The depression caused me to have a low libido to begin with, but then the medication really finished it off. My interest in sex with my partner, rare as it is, is mental. I like him as much as I love him and enjoy pleasuring him when I’m able to feel my feelings.

    The weight gain from the medication and lack of activity during so many depressive episodes impacts our sex life greatly as as much as my low libido, due to my self-consciousness as well as his not being very happy with my weight. But we work through it.

    Over the years I’ve been able to educate him about my lowered libido and help him understand that I can enjoy the simple pleasure of warm skin on skin, of massages, of togetherness, of the kind of intimacy only we share with each other, and we add a lot of humour in there too. When I’m hypomanic he gets to enjoy the vixen in me, but elsewise he has had to learn – because he loves me – to enjoy me, the person, his friend, as a gentle, relaxed lover without the sexy panic of frantic lovemaking.

    He has a high libido and it is very hard for him and it is important for me to understand and accept that without feeling guilty for not being different than I am. It’s taken us many years to accept each other and our needs and limitations. We’re okay as long as we keep our promise to each other to never stop trying or being patient regarding our sex life. It is very important.

  7. Aileen,

    Just to let you know, different doctors differ in their opinions about what medication is safe during pregnancy. Of course, being off all medication is always safest, but there are medications that are generally considered safe as well that may be an option for people who can’t go without medication at all.

    – Natasha

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