The classic indicators of bipolar disorder are distinct mood swings that alternate between depression and mania. This mood disorder causes the patient to experience episodes of feeling disinterested and sad or energetic, risky, and elated. Some people suffering from this disorder have less drastic mood swings, encountering less distinct elated and depressive states.
The sex life of people who have been diagnosed with this disorder is affected differently, depending on whether they are experiencing mania or depression.
What's Sex Like with Bipolar Disorder?
Bipolar and Sex: Hypersexuality
When experiencing hypersexuality, the individual is more interested in sex than normal or engages in more sexual activity than usual to the point where it appears to be out of control. Other characteristics include:
overactive sex drive
inability to feel sexually gratified or satisfied after extensive sexual activity
taking multiple sex partners, including strangers
having affairs and risking personal relationships
engaging in risky and inappropriate sexual behaviour
inability to achieve emotional satisfaction from sex
using sex to avoid aspects of relationships, such as intimacy
thinking of sex excessively
using pornography more often
Hypersexually can often be the most difficult and challenging symptom to overcome in people with bipolar disorder. Children and adolescents may initiate inappropriate sexual behaviour with people who are older. Adults may put their relationships in jeopardy by having sex with someone else. Health may also be at risk due to having sex without protection or with strangers. Women who have bipolar disorder tend to experience hypersexuality more often than men.
Bipolar and Sex: Low libido
When having a depressive episode, people with bipolar disorder experience the opposite symptoms from hypersexuality. They often have lowered sex drive, known as hyposexuality, or no sex drive at all. Since lack of sex drive can lead to depression and depression can lead to low sex drive, bipolar sufferers can find themselves in an unending cycle. This is especially troublesome when the individual’s partner has a difficult time understanding why their partner is not interested in engaging in sexual activity. This can be further detrimental to the relationship
Further difficulties with the relationship can occur when the partner experiences feelings of rejection, confusion and frustration when the individual with bipolar, who had been exhibiting hypersexual behaviour, suddenly has little or no interest in sex.
Medication prescribed as treatment for bipolar disorder may also cause low libido as a side effect. Because of this, some people may stop taking it. This can cause them to experience either a manic or a depressive episode. Men with bipolar disorder can also experience erectile dysfunction or other sexual problems as part of the depressive side of the disorder.
Bipolar and Sex & Relationship: What to Do
Be sure to pay attention to and recognize any triggers or symptoms, including those concerning sexual behaviour. Once you are aware of these, you can communicate them to your partner so that they can keep an eye out for signs of low sex drive or hypersexuality.
If you find that your medications make you suffer from sexually related side effects, talk to your doctor about whether there are others you can try that do not impact your sex drive.
Since people who are suffering from bipolar disorder may exhibit high risk sexual behaviour, including having sex with more than one partner, it is important that partners communication and steps be taken to reduce consequences, including unplanned pregnancies or sexually transmitted diseases.
It is also important that couples discuss openly the impact that bipolar disorder may have on their sex life. Communication can help to stop any negative sexual problems from interfering with the relationship.
Getting help from a therapist in addition to medical care is important for the patient and the partner in order to resolve sex related issues in the relationship. Couple and individual therapy may both be beneficial.
In order to enjoy a healthy sex life with your partner, it is important that your bipolar disorder is treated and under control. Stabilizing bipolar mood swings will help both parties.
When bipolar disorder is not being treated effectively, the patient’s sex life can become unstable. With proper treatment and control, people who have bipolar disorder can enjoy normal, healthy relationships and sex lives. It is important not to give up, communicate regularly with your partner, and seek help from professionals when needed.
More Tips for Managing Bipolar
Eat a healthy diet
To help keep your mood at its healthiest, choose whole grains, vegetables and fresh fruits. Sugar intake and fat should be limited. It is important to make sure your blood sugar doesn’t drop too low so be sure that your mealtimes are spaced out. Stay away from foods that are high in carbohydrates as they can cause your mood to crash. Other foods that can affect your mood and should be avoided include processed foods, chocolate and caffeine.
Get your omega-3s
Mood swings caused by bipolar disorder can be decreased by taking in omega-3 fatty acids. Foods containing omega-3 include canola oil, flaxseeds, soybeans, walnuts, and pumpkin seeds as well as cold water fish such as sardines, halibut, and salmon. Omega-3 can also be found as a nutritional supplement.
Avoid drugs and alcohol
Illicit drugs such as amphetamines, ecstasy and cocaine can cause manic episodes. Tranquilizers and alcohol can bring on depressive states. These substances should be avoided as even drinking alcohol socially can affect your mood. Alcohol and drugs can also interact negatively with bipolar medications and can interfere with your sleep.
Be cautious when taking any medication
Some over the counter and prescription medications can cause issues for people who have bipolar disorder. For instance, antidepressants, cold medications, caffeine, appetite suppressants, thyroid medications and corticosteroids can contribute to causing manic episodes.
Join support group
Another recommendation to help those living with bipolar disorder is to join a support group. This allows you to talk to others who are suffering from the same symptoms and get advice from people who have been there, such as sex and bipolar disorder.