Guest Post #7: How hypersexuality plays a role in Bipolar disorder

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I’m honored to introduce my 7th guest blogger, Jess Melancholia from The Bipolar Compass, a blog about her experiences living with the manic-depressive form of Bipolar Disorder. In her post, she will be discussing how hypersexuality can be a symptom of the manic (or in Jess’s case, hypomanic) phase of this disorder. I applaud Jess for her courage in openly sharing this delicate but surprisingly common symptom of the manic phase of Bipolar disorder.

From her About Page:

Jess Melancholia is a bpHope Magazine blogger who resides in San Diego, California with her husband and cat. She was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder 2 in May 2014 after suffering a 6 month bipolar depression triggered by extreme family medical stresses. Through medication and a strong support system, she works tirelessly to live a “normal” life and keep her hypomanic and depressive episodes under control. Her hobbies include playing horror video games and wine tasting. Her daytime profession is a molecular biologist at a biotechnology company.

HOW HYPERSEXUALITY PLAYS A ROLE IN BIPOLAR DISORDER
By Jess Melancholia, The Bipolar Compass

I know what you’re thinking; if I’m writing about bipolar 2 disorder, then why am I talking specifically about sex? No one in their right mind would talk about sex to promote their mental illness blog. Why risk chasing away followers? Why not make it easy on myself and just talk about the other bipolar symptoms of mania such as anxiety, overspending, and feelings of grandiosity? Because that’s what everyone else talks about. And while those are important to me, the one that impacts my life the most is what I want to focus on. And if that makes you uncomfortable then stop reading. But I think that we are all adults here and that things like this need to be addressed. There are countless people out there that want me to talk about this. That need me to be their voice. And I want to be there for them, because they deserve to have their story told.

What in the world is hypersexuality?
That would definitely be my first question if I was reading this post. Well I’m glad you asked. I’m actually very excited to talk about such a delicate subject with you. Please be aware that this is not a joke and that I’m being completely serious about this. If you need more information, please refer to the links in the article and my personal blog for more details. If you are experiencing bipolar hypersexuality, then please contact your doctor immediately to get some help. I’ll start off by giving a little bit of background on this topic.

Hypersexuality is essentially, from my personal experience, an overwhelming desire and obsessive preoccupation with sex and sexual content caused by the presence of a manic episode. In the DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition), it’s listed as a primary symptom of bipolar under the category of “sexual indiscretions.” bpHope.com is a fantastic resource when it comes to articles and expert advice on what the symptoms look like as well as professional opinions from leading experts in bipolar disorder. The technical content I relate to in this post is accredited to them.

According to some studies, hypersexuality can occur between the range of 25 to 80 percent of all patients with mania! Recent studies suggest around 57 percent! For something that prevalent, it’s amazing that such a subject is rarely if ever talked about.

There are varying opinions as to the cause of the symptom. One such opinion pioneered by Louis J. Cozolino, PhD, a professor of psychology at Pepperdine University in southern California, and leading bipolar disorder guru, says that it’s akin to sexual addiction. He goes on to say that people who are manic with this symptom display “vulnerability to a ‘disinhibition’ of social restraints during manic periods.” In fact, there are studies to suggest that there is more blood flow to the left part of the amygdala (almond-shaped part of the brain that deals with fear and panic) in bipolar patients than in other people. Furthermore, feelings of pleasure and arousal are related to a sort of calming effect. Sort of like taking painkillers.

For me, it IS essentially a painkiller. Whenever I’m hypersexual, I stress the need for sexual satisfaction as a top priority. With being happily married to a wonderful husband, this kind of symptom tends to get me in serious trouble. Last year, I had a terribly bad manic episode that lasted several months. During that time period, I lost complete control of myself and acted out sexually towards some stupid college kid I met chatting online. He seduced me into cybersex and phone sex with him along with eventually meeting up a few times. As many times as I told myself and him no, that I can’t and won’t do this, he always managed to get inside my head and change my mind. Under normal circumstance, none of his tricks would’ve worked on me. However, when I was manic, all I did was focus nonstop on sexual satisfaction. The worst part was nothing was ever enough. I needed more and more. Nothing would satiate me. It took over my entire brain and wouldn’t let go until the mania finally died. Despite the fact that I fought fervently against my overwhelming urges, I still was constantly unable to stop myself from falling into temptation.

Now that the clouds have parted and the dust has settled, I can think clearly and work around the triggers that caused me to lose control. My husband and I educated ourselves thoroughly on hypersexuality and he has now forgiven me for my actions. Whereas I was and am still responsible for all actions I take, I understand now that my behavior was a symptom of an illness. A common symptom of bipolar mania. Armed with this information, him, my best friends, and my healthcare professionals have all agreed on a strategic prevention plan to help minimize my triggers and prevent any future mistakes.

Although I do feel guilty everyday for what I did, I no longer feel ashamed of myself. What happened was a terrible mistake but I’ve learned considerable information from it. With knowledge comes power and I’m trying every single day to bring that power back into my own hands. Hopefully I’ll regain it fully one day.

Don’t be ashamed of your actions. Learn from them and grow.

Please visit The Bipolar Compass:
http://bipolarcompass.com/

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NPD mood cycles can mimic Bipolar disorder.

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I remembered something about my NPD ex tonight. He used to have mood swings that seemed in many ways reminiscent of Bipolar disorder. It was only later I realized what they really were–cycles of of grandiose entitlement and dejected self-pity. Whenever supply was abundant–such as when he was promoted at work–he became puffed up with pride and this resulted in an attitude of entitlement and grandiosity which he lorded over his subjects, namely me. He also seemed somewhat manic when he was in one of these grandiose phases.  These were the times he was the most likely to become overtly abusive, both emotionally and physically. Instead of being happy the way a normal person might when thingsa are going well for them, my ex became hostile and prone to pick fights. I learned to dread the times in which good things happened to him, because that was when his narcissism seemed to go into overdrive.

When his supply was running low, he sank into deep depressions, in which he lost all his motivation and energy and spent most of his time staring dejectedly into space or sleeping (or pacing the house frantically at night). His “manic” behavior disappeared and he talked very little when he talked at all. When he did speak, it was to moan endlessly about how terrible his life was and how everyone had it in for him (nothing was ever his fault, and he was still assigning himself Center of the Universe status).  He acted helpless and needy, and wallowed in self pity like a pig in mud. He sometimes threatened suicide (but never attempted it–narcissists generally don’t). As annoying as his depressed moods were, I preferred him that way because he was less overtly abusive (though still abusive in a covert, manipulative way). He acted a lot “crazier” in his depressive states and suffered terrible panic attacks on a regular basis. This actually fits with an NPD diagnosis: when a narcissist isn’t getting any supply and their victims aren’t cooperating, they begin to feel like they don’t exist, and can become very depressed and dissociated. The dissociation can lead to severe panic attacks and even psychotic episodes.

The terms “covert narcissism” and “overt narcissism” aren’t mutually exclusive. A covert narcissist (the depressed, “fragile” type) will usually become more overt (grandiose) when supply is high. A grandiose (overt) type will sink to a more covert form of narcissism when supply is low. The two types of narcissism are really just two halves of the same personality disorder. Grandiose narcissists are thought of as being high achievers, but that may be because since they get more positive supply to begin with, they have more reason to act grandiose.

Before I put two and two together and realized my ex’s bizarre mood swings were in direct proportion to how much praise and recognition from others he was getting, I was sure he had Bipolar disorder. Unlike most narcissists, he did see a psychiatrist (mainly to get meds for his depressions and anxiety; there was little to no desire on his part to improve himself), who actually gave my ex a Bipolar diagnosis.

The most common type of Bipolar disorder is what used to be called Manic Depression. During a manic phase, the patient is likely to be extremely hyper, grandiose, testy, and quick to anger. They have an unrealistic sense of their own invincibility that doesn’t line up with reality. This is very similar to the grandiose phase of someone with NPD.

The covert (depressed) phase of NPD can look extremely similar to the depressive phase of Bipolar disorder. The main difference is, a narcissist will generally not follow through on suicide threats (because they are intended to manipulate and garner sympathy, a form of supply) while someone who is Bipolar is in grave danger of suicide. A bipolar patient can also be helped by medication, while there is no effective medication for NPD (although antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs can help with some of the symptoms).

Further reading:

The Relationship Between Narcissism and Bipolar Disorder