Bipolar disorder manifests itself in one college student’s “need” to sexually expose himself on campus.…
What Is Hypersexual Behavior?
Everyone has sexual urges, desires and fantasies. They are a normal part of being human. But when these urges and thoughts turn into preoccupations and compulsions that interfere with daily life, they enter the zone of hypersexual disorders and sex addiction.
Hypersexual behavior can manifest in both men and women in a number of ways. In sex addiction treatment, it’s typically defined as a preoccupation with intense sexual fantasies and urges that can lead to plotting, planning and actually partaking in the fulfillment of those urges.
Some of the hallmarks of this behavior include:
- Excessive sexual drive
- Preoccupations with sexual fantasy
- Pursuit of non-intimate and sometimes illegal sex
- Excessive use of pornography
- Compulsive masturbation in lieu of relationships
- Sexual objectification of partners
- Repetitive engagement in pursuing sexual fantasies, despite risks to self or others
- Risky sexual behavior with no regard for well-being of self or others
What Causes People to Sexualize Everything?
Understanding the reason for these behaviors is as important as understanding the behaviors themselves.
Hollywood and the music business glamorize hypersexual behavior and many stars embody a ready-for-sex persona that makes it seem normal to live life through sexual conquests or as an object of fantasy. In sex addiction treatment, people must often distinguish their real lives from fantasies that are not meant to be acted upon. And they must search for the underlying reason for hypersexual behavior.
It may start out as a pleasurable pursuit that satisfies sexual curiosity as it relieves anxiety, depression, boredom or irritability. It may satisfy a desire for excitement, novelty and variety. It may take someone’s mind off of stress and unhappiness. It may allow them to escape, cope or avoid emotional experiences and help them forget their problems, for a while. But when the behavior becomes repetitive and out of control, a sense of despair and shame take over.
There is often an underlying trauma that, once discovered, can offer a key to understanding this behavior. It is often related to an attachment disorder ― caregivers who could not show affection or give a child much-needed love and security ―or it can be due to early childhood trauma, including sex abuse, physical abuse and neglect.
Medication Can Be the Cause
Because hypersexual behavior may not be obvious in a person’s life ― in the way loved ones can notice someone coming home drunk or gambling away money ― it can be kept a secret for some time. But eventually the impulse control disorder can destroy lives, marriages and families.
Substance use or abuse can lead to a lack of sexual impulse control. For example, cocaine and methamphetamine are known to increase sex drive and decrease inhibitions, a combination that can lead to compulsive, hypersexual behaviors.
There are also cases in which hypersexual behavior is a symptom of a medical condition or neurological disorder, or when it may be caused by medications used to treat a disorder.
Some stroke patients and people with epilepsy have reported hypersexual behavior. The dopamine agonists in some Parkinson’s medicines have been cited as a cause in recent research. In some cases, the behaviors are quite noticeable but loved ones and caregivers are not always aware of the cause.
One woman was perplexed when her 80-year-old mother, who was suffering from Parkinson’s, started “dating” a man in her assisted living complex. Her mother’s comments about the relationship were often couched in excessive sexual demands, such as “bring us condoms” or “l want him to sleep here tonight to have sex.” The daughter discussed the situation with a doctor who figured out that her mother’s Parkinson’s medication was likely causing the impulse control disorder.
More research is needed into the effects of medication in adding to, or creating, hypersexual behavior. For people suffering with compulsions that have gotten out of control, sex addiction treatment is an important step toward healing.
Reliability, Validity, and Psychometric Development of the Hypersexual Behavior Inventory in an Outpatient Sample of Men
Pathological hypersexuality predominantly linked to adjuvant dopamine agonist therapy in Parkinson’s disease and multiple system atrophy
Self-Reported Differences on Measures of Executive Function and Hypersexual Behavior in a Patient and Community Sample of Men
Assessing psychological symptom patterns of patients seeking help for hypersexual behavior
Report of Findings in a DSM-5 Field Trial for Hypersexual Disorder
The paraphilia-related disorders: an empirical investigation of nonparaphilic hypersexuality disorders in outpatient males.
Hypersexual Desire in Males: An Operational Definition and Clinical Implications for Males with Paraphilias and Paraphilia-Related Disorders
Hypersexuality and Neurological Disease