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What’s a Normal Sex Life with Bipolar?

I get asked about the sex life of the bipolar on a regular basis. People want to know what’s “normal” or can they have that mythical “normal” sex life. Some of these people are partners of people with bipolar and others are the people with bipolar themselves. It seems we’re all a bit mystified as to how this mental illness affects our sex lives.

Well, I can’t say what is normal for you, but I can tell you what I know about bipolar and sex.

Are Bipolars Sexually Weird?

Well now. If I were to tell you about what it’s like to have sex with me it would probably involve more panting, smacking, scratching, screaming, gnawing and clawing than your average person. But that’s me. That’s just how I roll. It’s not necessarily indicative of the bipolar population as a whole.

What I will say about the bipolar population, from my tiny perspective, is it seems that:

  • People with bipolar are more sexually adventurous than the average
  • People with bipolar are more likely to have had sex with both genders
  • People with bipolar may or may not identify as bisexual, regardless

Keep in mind, none of this is to suggest that people with bipolar are any less capable of monogamy than others. Some people have issues with it while others don’t.

(Mind you, I have no stats to back any of that up. To the best of my knowledge no such research has been carried out.)

Hypersexuality and Bipolar

Part of this may be the hypersexuality that many people with bipolar disorder experience. Hypersexuality tends to occur during mania or hypomania and it creates the need for sex such that it seems you could claw through a wall if it meant getting to the sex on the other side. Picture being turned ravenously on by a dish towel. Or a floor lamp. Or a piece of tuna fish. And then needing to sate that need with the nearest warm body. Hypersexuality sort of like that.

(Of course, the opposite phenomenon also occurs. When in a depressed phase a person with bipolar may want nothing to do with sex at all.)

Bipolar Medication and Sex

Some people find that taking medication for bipolar dulls their desire for sex. This is a common problem, actually. But, believe me, many people with bipolar disorder still have healthy, fulfilling sex lives while taking their medication. And if your sex life is an issue for you, I recommend discussing it with your doctor as there are things that can be done to address that need. After all, sex is a part of life and it’s a part you don’t want, or need, to hang up just because you have a mental illness.

Having a “Normal” Sex Life with Bipolar

Look, I can’t tell you what is normal for you. It might be having sex every day, every week or every month. It might involve whips and chains or it might involve beaches and sunsets. That’s something only you can decide. What I can tell you is that it’s entirely possible for most people with bipolar to achieve the sex life that they want. There are therapeutic techniques that can deal with hypersexuality or low sex drive, and, of course, there are always medical options as well.

And remember, no matter what is happening with your sex life, it’s important to be open about it with your partner. If something is amiss your partner likely feels it too and it’s by dealing with it out in the open, and by getting help, that you can make it better.

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

This entry was posted in Coping, How Others See Bipolar, Hypomania, Impact of Bipolar, Medication Side-Effects. Bookmark the permalink.

29 Responses to What’s a Normal Sex Life with Bipolar?

  1. Sarah says:

    Hypersexuality is only an issue if it causes you to behave in such a way that is inconsistent with your values and your aims in life. So for example if a Christian was saving themselves for marriage but became disinhibited. Or somebody was impulsive and didn’t use protection. Or somebody in an official position did something embarassing which came out in the press.

    A low libido can be destructive to relationships, if there is not an understanding that the cause is medical and not personal.

  2. ysraal says:

    I am dx schizo affective/bipolar type and even though I am old, I still try to get it on as much as I can safely.

  3. Stephen says:

    At soon to be 54 and both HIV and Bipolar dating; let alone sex is hard, I have given up trying, not even into the new year two full months yet and I’m giving up alot lately.

    I like what you write, keep up the excellent work.

    Stephen

  4. Kaitlin Panda says:

    I agree that people with Bipolar seem to be more sexually adventurous.

    My issue is that I’ll complain it’s never enough, and then get depressed and say I don’t want it. My poor partner…

  5. Kathy Shannon says:

    I have been living with BP for so long I can’t remember when I first realized things were not normal in my life. Over the years, especially when I was single, the need for sex was a constant. As I have gotten older, now in my early 50′s, I have realized that the problem with the need was not for the sex but for the orgasm. I have only had one partner in my life who was able to accomplish this. For the past 10 years since I have been with my husband sex is not an issue. I prefer not to have sex as I am not satisfied and has become very uncomfortable (hurts to do.) Not being satisfied means I get depressed, I get angry, and feelings other than my own get hurt. So I no longer have sex to avoid these problems. Any suggestions to help me have an active sex life again?

  6. Jacie says:

    I am hoping to get some advise..my husband of 16 years never like holding hands, being intimate, just doing his own thing about 2 months into our marriage. I brought a son in from a previous and they seemed to hit it off. He was Dx’ed with Bipolar 2 and he lost interest in the kids and i and just went out after his job *which he had long before i met him. It has been such a lonely life for the kids and myself. He hasn’t been hospitalize since i have been with him and seems very stable. Now kids are older my son moved out and my 16 year old can get him to do anything for her. Rides anytime of the night, borrowing large sums of money and he will never yell at her.
    But with me he yells and rants and makes me cry and he just goes down the hall screaming shut up, shup up shut-up and puts another hole in the wall like last night. I don’t know what to do anymore i have lost so much weight and wear a size 0 i look so ugly but he scares me with his moods and won’t see a therapist, he said only one time that is it.
    He also wants us to a marriage therapist but i do not think he is stable, I am really scare:( Jacie

  7. Sarah says:

    Hi Jacie,
    When I am not well it is very hard to function properly in any respect. It’s also hard for others to understand that. When people put pressure on me, when I’m not well, to perform, even when it’s done with love, I am stuck between a rock and a hard place.

    I have two options then. My favourite option is to run away and cry. But, if I’m trapped in a corner, I will snap like a wounded animal. I hate doing this because I can see how much it hurts my loved ones. But sometimes I have no choice. I need time and patience for treatment to work, so I can get back to doing the things I love, and being the person I am.

    Now your husband is a different person to me, so my insights may not apply here, but it’s something to think about.

  8. Sarah says:

    Jacie the main point I am trying to make here is that his behaviour has everything to do with his illness and nothing to do with his feelings about you.

  9. Catherine says:

    Thank you so much for this! I have been dealing with the effects of mania-driven hypersexuality my entire life, though it was only after recent career change that I was afforded the opportunity to really be sexually free. Once I found that freedom, the bouts of hypersexuality/mania left me in a chaotic mess!

    I had a therapist attempt to send me to an AA-like group for my promiscuous behavior, yet I took great offense to being labeled a “sex addict” when, clearly, my extreme sexual activities were related to mania and episodic in nature.

    When I read you description of how it feels to be hypersexual, that it feels like you would “break through a wall to get to the sex on the other side,” or what you said about being “aroused by a fishbowl.” That is EXACTLY how I feel! I’m glad I am not alone.

    I keep a blog related to my sexual exploration, much of which has been driven through bouts of mania. This exploration has had both positive and negative affects. My issue is that I think most people just cannot comprehend the feeling. I think most of the people subscribed to my blog think that I must be lying or exaggerating. How many people can relate to having multiple, anonymous partners for eighteen hours straight? How many people can relate the almost hellish experience of never having that refractory period following orgasm, which means nothing can truly get at that “itch” that takes over your mind and body? How many people experience going at it until their body just quits… and then still having the ravenous urge for it! I think you can, and I appreciate that so much!

    Sorry to ramble, but I am happy that I discovered your page! Thank you for writing it.

    -Kate

  10. marie says:

    Just a quick question,I met a guy 8 month’s ago,I didn’t want to rush anything,he had mentioned he had bipolar,but I didn’t take much notice,he rushed to tell me he loved me put the relationship tag on us and then 5 months later said it was to much pressure and wanted to take the relationship tag off us,so I agreed and left it at that,he was very sexually guy,but recently has said he isn’t in the mood for it and now says he doesn’t know how he feels about anything,could it b bipolar or is it him letting me down gently really unsure advice would b grate

  11. bob carter says:

    Natasha Tracy, you are a moron!!! Not only that: You are irresponsible! You write, “It seems we’re all a bit mystified as to how this mental illness affects our sex lives.” THIS IS NOT A MENTAL ILLNESS!!! How dare this topic be written about by you! A bipolar disorder is a physical illness that affects the chemicals in your body! At NO time does any intelligent person (in the last thirty plus years) rate this as a mental illness! The U.S. Courts even classify this as the only disease of this type that can be addressed by the Courts as it CAN BE measured and dealt with in a physical way! PLEASE – NEVER, EVER PUT YOUR NAME TO AN ARTICLE FOR OTHERS TO READ AGAIN on this subject (and probably any others if you show such stupidity in this field – you must be a complete idiot on any subject!!!!!!!!!!!!).

  12. Julia says:

    Um, who is this Bob person? . . .

    Most mental illnesses are physical in nature (i.e. brain-based). IE. bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, clinical major depression . . .to name the most obvious.

  13. Rachel Blackwell says:

    I’m guessing he’s just some random idiot Julia. I wonder where he gets his info from… Natasha is clearly a reliable, wonderful and helpful person in dedicating her time to this blog. Personally, I have found it a godsend.

  14. Liz says:

    I have been with a guy who has bipolar but now he wants to take a brake from me. I really like him. Should I give him space like he said? Is he never going to call me again? I don’t know what to do. He does get mean at times too telling me he never wanted me. Should I just let him go?

  15. george says:

    liz,i would let him go for now ,give it a break ,i don”t know how much you are attached right now, but it might be a good time to give it a break ,and then you can decide for yourself what is best for you, what i have learned as much as we want to help, we still need to put ourselves first, i know its not easy, but it will work out, as long as you keep the focus on yourself,

  16. Liz says:

    Thanks George for the advice. I am attached to him very much and honestly I don’t know why. Maybe deep down in me I want to help and save him. It is very hard not calling him it is only day three. I know time will go by and I will be okay.

  17. george says:

    Your welcome Liz,actually i am on day three of not calling friend with bipolar, i read natasha”s blog here to help me understand a friend, i know they have an illness, and it helps to learn all you can, i am told or learned here its not about me,in other words the pushing away has nothing to do with me, and that i should detach lovelingly and take care of myself, and when they come back, if i want to, i can be there for them, and that deep down they really do appreciate it,you sound very positive i think you will be ok too,

  18. Geoffrey says:

    Perhaps someone could shed some light on a question that I have. I’ve been married for ten years to my BP wife. She was diagnosed five years ago. After our third child she had what we now refer to as her “mom gone wild” period, after which she hit rock bottom. She and I have been working together and are now on good ground. During her extended manic phase her hypersexuality manifested itself mainly outside of our marriage; however; within that time frame our sex life became much more open, experimental and exciting than ever before. This leads me to my question. Do the sexual desires still reside within my wife now that she is level. She is much more reserved and seems to hide some of those sexual behaviors that I enjoyed. She made the comment once that I don’t get one without the other. Does anybody have any thoughts on this. Also, our marriage has survived and we are stronger now than we ever were before because of our experience, work and love.

  19. CC says:

    My husband is bipolar. We have been married for 2 months. He is stable and takes medication but I have definitely noticed changes in his mood if we are not having sex regularly. He started to sink into a really low and irritable mood that he was having a hard time pulling out of but we started having sex on a regular basis again and he has gotten back to “normal” almost immediately. This is all new to me but I’m gathering as much information as possible about my husband and BD. Is this normal?

  20. Isabelle says:

    Geoffrey,

    Well done for making the commitment and the effort to support your wife and your family! I respect where you are coming from and I understand the questions you have. Unfortunately, I’m sorry to say that what your wife says is true – you are unlikely to get one without the other. I have been happily married 10yrs (+2 kids) to an awesome man. I also have BP and experience hyper sexuality in the up cycles but then find it hard to get going when I’m “normal” (which is most of the time). We still have a good sex life, but I get what you mean, it’s not the wild exhilarating sex that I hunt him down for in an up cycle! ;-) I bet your wife wishes she could turn it on as much as you do. But I’m sorry they are not dormant desires that are “trapped” inside her, it is just something that is isolated to the up phase of BP. Of course, that’s not to say you can’t or won’t experience that sex again. We have, but we both accept that it won’t always be that way. Enjoy the memories. ;-)

  21. Suzan says:

    Does anyone ever experienced hypersexuality when their not hypomanic or manic

  22. Jessica says:

    Hi all,

    I am a 31 year old married bipolar on Lithium and Quetiapine for 1.5 years and struggling with my sex life: I hardly get any desire at all and as reaching climax is so complicated I don’t want it and it gets more and more painful everytime we try.
    I’ve tried to find information on alternative medication or therapy that could help me improve but data on this is really limited.
    Do you have similar experiences and?or have found treatment that helped?

    Many thanks

  23. Mark says:

    Hi all. I enjed and appreciated your comments. I am a 50 year old male BP2. I have always had an insatiable sexual desire. The thing is with mem it actually seems to increase as my mood heads south, like I need the high of orgasm to make me feel alive and validated for a few moments. Can any one else relate to this. Ive never been able to personally comprehend losing desire due to depression. It is compounded by the fact that my wife of 30 years has no interest in sex. I love her but find her disinterest very hard to deal with. It is often the trigger that sends me into a downward spiral. Due to my Christian beliefs seperation is not an option, besides, I really love her, I just wish she desired me physically. Its not that we dont have sex however what amounts to vaginal masturbation is less than fulfilling. At times i’m ravenouse and envy those who satisfy the super powerful urges through pormiscuity during the highs and seem to get away with it. Ive only ever had the one partner. So often wonder what it would be like to share intimacy with someone else, someone who actually wanted to satisfied sexually. I often feel if my wife would only make some effort to understand and accomodaye my needs then my life would be a lot more balanced. Ive tried to speak to her about it again and again over the years. All I get is empty promises that are forgotten ad soon as theyre made and nothing changes. Sorry if Ive rambled a bit, but thanks for letting me share. Can any ine else relaye to my frustrations?

  24. John says:

    My girlfriend and I have been together for almost 8 yrs. We first got togather we had sex everyday and last year she was diagnosed with bi polarism. I always knew she had it, but she was never diagnosed. Now she says she doesn’t like sex and we sleep in separate beds. We have 2 little girls; she is highly abusive verbally; not physical and I feel she is not on the right meds. She feels like she is and will not be truthful with her docter, but we all suffer everyday in this home because of this diorder. I hope she would not cheat on me and feel no normality will ever come to this family if something is not done. Can someone pls. help give some advice on what to do ? ?

  25. Joe says:

    I am 34 and my wife and I have been together for 16 years. We have sex maybe once a month she was diagnosed with bipolar about 5 years ago we struggle everyday with how her mood is. She can be very verbally abusive towards me and our two sons. When we do have sex it is awesome but it is very rare. I will try to have a good evening and set the mood but rarely ever works. We have tried to plan it that don’t work we have went to the therapist and done marriage counseling and it seems to help understand the issues that we are having but definitely does not fix them.I am a very patient man and love my wife more than anything in the world I just wish that we could have sex more than once or twice a month. We have even went six to seven months with no sex. And I get discouraged because she wont have sex and she gets discouraged because I want sex. I can’t tell when she is in the mood or not and when I tried to talk to her she wants nothing to do with it. Can anybody with bipolar please help me figure out what I should do? thank you very much.

  26. Danya says:

    Joe, I am a three time divorcee. I am hypersexual and impulsive and gravitate to assholes. I have had my moments where i can rip another asshole in someone because I have had enough. I wasn’t diagnosed until this last marriage. That was probably the worst thing possible because my husband looked for things to blame on my diagnosis. Come to think about it before i was ever diagnosed and right after we got married he turned over after sex, looked at me straight in the eyes, and said that married people don’t have sex everyday. Truth is your wife’s medication could easily affect her labido. I have a friend who is diagnosed Bi-polar and rarely ever wants sex. I wish more women would realize how much intimacy and sex release the endorphins that are needed to better function. Unfortunately, my hypersexuality has put me in places and relationship that were not healthy. You both need a support group. I have a support system in place. It is nearly impossible to get through most days without them.

  27. srah says:

    I have had bipolar(didn’t know till this year) since i was 10, environmental and genetic. Mom depression, dad bipolar narcissistic, grandpa too, and too many more in family. I used to be verbally abusive to family, and overly compensating to friends, but shame shame and shame and people hating/avoiding me have forced me to be more compassionate to people and myself so yay but i feel i don’t really love my significant other, but i thought i did.. I hate sex and am shamed by it. I have twisted thoughts about it too. It sucks. I like someone else but i don’t think i am good for anyone. I love too many people and new people but not sex. Just emotion. Idk why its kind of ass backwards. I don’t want to hurt anyone but i end up hurting everyone.

  28. srah says:

    Joe i think she feels like a caged and misunderstood bird. She needs new experiences to feel satisfied with her routine life, she is bipolar and has the need of consuming new information and experiences.we feel superhuman when we are manic and have no one at all to tell our secret desires too. Responsibility kills our souls. Its not what we would prefer but our brains are natural drugs. Is she an artist? Is she so bad she cant work? Its a paradox, but i cant work in regular jobs i go apeshit but i need to feel like i give back, like im valuable to others. Too much shame kills ego, and we are severely confused of all action and emotion. Are we doing the right thing, for us or them, at any given moment? At least this is how my bipolar brain behaves.

  29. questions says:

    Hey, a few questions:
    1) can someone be only hypomanic? or does this fluctuate from different stages of highs and lows also, but with lesser then highs and lows?
    2)if the above answer is a yes then does the hypersexuality moment change for them as well? Such as last longer, or always be on.
    3) this may be posted but I have not found yet but and again if hypomanic only is possible, does this change things for meds.?

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