As the rates of a multitude of different addictions, including drugs, alcohol, sex, and gambling, continue to climb in the United States, and around the entire world, it is worth examining the root cause of several of these addictions. In many cases, there is a co-occurring mental health disorder that creates the conditions for these addictions to thrive, which sets up a self-sustaining cycle of addiction and mental health issues. In terms of sex addiction, which roughly 6-8% of Americans suffer from, research shows that bipolar disorder is a common co-occurring disorder. Here are some of the ways that bipolar disorder enables sex addiction…
Everyone knows that bipolar disorder can lead to extreme emotions that are highlighted by polar mood swings. While one side of these mood swings is a severe depression, the other side of the coin is what is called “mania.” Bipolar mania is what happens when a bipolar individual’s brain is hyperactive. During this time, they will have an intense amount of energy, and their thoughts will move at lightning speed. They will also experience senses at a higher intensity than normal. Mania also tends to lead to more risk taking behavior. This concoction of brain activity can lead to conditions where sex addiction can flourish.
One frequent factor that is associated with bipolar mania is hypersexuality. Hypersexuality means that a person’s mind is obsessively focused on sexually-related activities. This can manifest in an increased intake of pornographic material, as well as a ramped-up sex drive. Oftentimes, hypersexuality leads to sexual behavior that is outside of what a person would normally desire. When you consider the risk-taking personality that comes forward during bipolar mania, this hypersexuality can manifest itself in risky sexual activity. This doesn’t necessarily mean that a person with hypersexuality experiences sex addiction, but it can foster conditions where sex addiction becomes prevalent.
Again, it is important to note that there is a distinction between hypersexuality and sex addiction. Hypersexuality merely means that a person is extremely focused on sexual activities. Sex addiction, on the other hand, has to do with a specific reward process in the brain that makes a person feel like they “need” to engage in sexual activity. In this way, although sex addiction isn’t physically addictive, it is mentally so. However, through the vein of hypersexuality, bipolar disorders can set up the mental conditions where sex addiction may occur, which is why it is such a common dual diagnosis.