Sex And The Manic Mind

What is this incessant need you have to prove to yourself and others that you’re sexy and desirable? It’s not good enough that you go out and flirt with other women or engage with them on social media, you have to tell me about it too. Is this a male thing? A bipolar thing? Or are you just an asshole?” Diary, Mrs.Bipolar.

One of the most difficult symptoms of mania for spouses/partners is the hypersexuality in bipolar disorder. Even amongst all the chaos, hostility and upheaval that can occur during a manic episode, I can remain calm, cool and collected most of the time but cheating…that would bring all of my understanding and sympathy to a screeching halt. I don’t think I’m alone here.

Every new manic episode seems to bring something new to the table. Yay!

Just when I thought I knew what to expect, my husband’s last relapse had feelings and urges that both myself and my husband didn’t know how to handle or how to address. He thought everyone wanted him and he revelled in the thought. It consumed his every waking moment and believe me, he didn’t sleep much. Absolutely every person he came in contact with was seen as a sexual object or conquest, even his psychiatrist. Yes, apparently she was flirting with him too. She wasn’t. Trust me, I was at every appointment.

He wanted sex. All. The Time. That is all he thought about. While I was trying to keep to our children and families shielded from his mania and a semblance of normalcy in our day-to-day lives, he carried on with his own thoughts and agenda. It is important to understand how strong and uncontrollable these feelings are to the person with bipolar disorder. For a glimpse into the mind of what it is truly like, I love this article by Gabe Howard, Hypersexuality in Bipolar Disorder . He equates the deep urges to a drug addiction.

Luckily, my husband, his pdoc and myself stayed on top of it, no pun intended. My husband was very open and honest with his psychiatrist and she was able help us both understand and deal with my husband’s feelings, emotions and needs.

Here are a few of the things we implemented:

  • Set clear and firm boundaries. My husband knew that if he crossed the line of infidelity, there would be no turning back. Even if, to quote Ross, “we were on a break”.
  • Limit time out of the house and/or unsupervised. This one was easy. My husband’s pdoc had already had his driving license temporarily revoked because of dangerous driving so he couldn’t go anywhere without me driving him anyway.
  • Limit interaction on-line. Obviously I can not stop him completely from chatting online, however, I did contact most of his Facebook friends (some had contacted me first) and advised them to ignore or un-friend him temporarily. After the mania subsided and all his friendships resumed, he was thankful that I did this. He has lost many friendships during manias by saying stupid, inappropriate or aggressive things that are not so easy to forgive or forget.
  • Talk it out. We had open conversations with each other and with his pdoc. It is so important not to ignore this symptom. Talking it through made it easier for my husband to control. Keeping it as a dirty little secret only makes the need stronger.
  • Being physically available. This was very difficult considering the hate and anger my husband spewed at me the rest of the time. But I obliged, often and usually the middle of the night! (Keep in mind, he did not sleep, I tried.) But manic sex is awesome! Yeah I said it.

Though one can never be 100% positive, we dodged a bullet there. Other couples are not so lucky. I know that. I hear the pain in their voices. Not only for the spouse feeling betrayed but for the one with bipolar disorder. I can’t even imagine the shame and embarrassment or having to deal with the grief they feel they have caused their loved ones.

Only the two of you should decide for yourselves how you will move forward, together or apart. Either way, get individual counselling. If you decide to work it out, make sure you set a plan and boundaries for the next time mania rears it’s ugly head. Cause it will, that’s a definite. Talk to each other. Talk to your psychiatrist. Talk when things are stable.

Words can be forgotten, finances can be fixed, but infidelity is a wound that may never close.

Disclaimer: I am not a therapist or a doctor. This post is based solely on my personal experiences and should not be deemed as advice or counsel. Please seek appropriate medical attention from a licensed professional.
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18 thoughts on “Sex And The Manic Mind

  1. This hit me hard. My husband of nine years was diagnosed with bipolar in August ( though I believed years ago he was bipolar) he had an affair in June then started relationships online with anyone person willing to respond. He was seeking attention from literally anyone. I was completely blindsided by this in October…simply had no idea he was capable of cheating. For one he had no sex drive at all. We are now in marriage counseling, individual counseling and he’s on lithium as well as antipsychotics. I can forgive years of wrecking our fiance’s, depressions, aggressive behavior. The cheating…I just don’t know.

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    1. I am so sorry to hear that Nicole. It is hard and a very difficult thing to get over. Know that it is completely up to you but counselling should help you figure it all out. The manic cycles are life altering and wreak havoc on everyone. I hope you find resolve and peace.

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  2. I have to say my husband likes the hypersexuality that comes with my manic episodes but it’s the pre-mania and post-mania that scares him, literally. I am aggressive (I drive aggressively, start arguments, etc.), angry, talkative, and do lots of things that I don’t remember afterwards. I once had at least 100 new “friends” on Facebook that I have no idea who they are. I’ve learned the signs and symptoms that tell me when it’s coming on. I have to say that at the peak it’s an awesome ride. No pun intended. 🙂

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  3. Just found your videos on youtube. Such a blessing.
    My husband is returning home this week from a crisis facility and this hypersexuality is something I am NOT looking forward to. Bevause it’s directed toward old girl friends and my daughter’s friends. Ugggg.

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  4. I am currently living with a spouse yet to be diagnosed after several bouts of infidelity. You may say why did I stay? Because I KNOW this is not my spouse. We have way too much to lose by divorcing. I see the engagement with family and know that this has to be a mental disorder but until I actually was able to listen in on conversations either the other “person” did I realize the need for admiration and esteem. I am now making an ultimatum- counseling or the marriage is over. Suucide “threats” have been made if I leave. I’m only hoping and praying I can make a difference. I would hope my spouse would do this for me if I was in this situation.
    Our priest and counselor have suggested bipolar counseling. I’m glad I found this blog because most people do not understand. (Including myself). I feel like I have been through hell and back. After 35 years of marriage, I’m going to give just one more chance to see if this devastating situation can be resolved. It’s good to be able to share with people who understand and can advise.

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    1. Everyone has to set their own limits and I think people should talk about it. It is a reality. If people know about the symptoms, they can handle the situations better.

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    1. Thank you for reading Lizzy. As you can see, I am waaaaayyyy behind. I think it is a topic we should discuss. It shouldn’t be an embarrassment for those that have to deal with a very real symptom they do not have control over.

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  5. Nice article. It might be helpful to note that a percentage I believe is in the 90% range (sorry I don’t have the bipolar bok infornt of me) of bipolars who stay on their meds, usually lithium, do NOT experience this. I have some cross transference reading your article because it is such a broad brush. “pdocs” as you refer to them, and many do, give prescriptions. Therapists are the ones who help bipolars do the actual work. In fact, before being released from a 51/50 there is usually a mandate from the psychiatrist to be in psychotherapy fro a given period of time in order for the meds to be renewed. It’s not like bipolars are on the edge of their seat to cheat on their spouse. On the other hand, if a person wants to cheat, they’re going to do it biolar or not. The meds are the most important thing to staying stabil. It’s crucial and helpful also if the spouse is caring and understandin about hypersexuality. I’d be more worries that my spouse wasn’t on the meds if this behavior came up. Thans for the article, very nicely done.

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