Bipolar Disorder And Sexual Health: How Does It Affect Me?
Bipolar disorder, or mood disorder, is a state wherein people experience extreme shifts in mood and energy, potentially impacting their daily lives.
Bipolar disorder can show itself by three distinct states of mind: mania, hypomania, and depression. The episodes of mania and depression for each person may vary. These three states of mind can last from several days to several months, affecting your sexuality and sexual health as well.
Consequently, while discussing sexual health, both manic and depressive episodes of a person with bipolar disorder must be taken into consideration. During a manic or depressive episode, people may experience an extreme increase or decrease in interest in sexual activities.
This, in turn, affects the confidence and self-esteem of an individual diagnosed with bipolar disorder and further creates tensions in their relationships. However, there are ways to tackle bipolar disorder and its effect on the victim’s sexual health.
If you or your loved ones are fighting against this disorder, then keep reading further to learn everything about bipolar disorder, sexual health, how these two are connected, and ways to tackle them.
What Is Bipolar Disorder?
Bipolar disorder is a mental illness in which a person experiences severe episodes of mood swings varying from high to low. The exact causes of bipolar disorder remain unknown, but the factors involved may be biological differences or genetics.
Continuous changes in energy levels, moods, and behaviour may impact an individual’s work and relationships immensely.
Each and everyone has mood swings at some point. But, mood swings associated with people having bipolar disorder are more acute than regular mood swings, along with some other bipolar symptoms.
Based on the symptoms, the diagnosis of a person changes from bipolar I or bipolar II.
For example, if a person starts with a depressive state, it may take years until he experiences his first manic or hypomanic episode. From there on, that person’s diagnosis changes from either bipolar I or bipolar II.
Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder
Keep in mind, symptoms may differ from person to person, and symptoms may vary over time. The symptoms of a person with bipolar disorder are based upon their manic and depressive episodes.
Following are the common symptoms for a manic episode of bipolar disorder:
- Increased energy levels and physical activity
- Reduced need for sleep
- Unusually talkative
- Unusually upbeat or jumpy
- Poor decision-making ability
- Hypersexuality (highly increased libido)
On the other hand, the symptoms for a depressive episode are:
- Depressed (feeling of emptiness, hopelessness, or sadness)
- Less interest in everything
- Significant weight loss or weight gain
- Insomnia or oversleeping
- Feeling exhausted throughout the day
- Unnecessary feeling of worthlessness or guilt
- Suicidal thoughts or attempts
- Hyposexuality (low libido)
These are some signs of bipolar disorder that indicate the need for either treatment or therapy.
What Is Sexual Health?
Sexual health is an affirmative approach towards sexuality and sexual relationships. In addition, it is about embracing your sexuality and having healthy, pleasurable, and safe sexual encounters to enrich your relationships. Additionally, it also means exercising autonomy over your sexuality, body, and keeping your body free of diseases.
How To Maintain Good Sexual Health?
To maintain good sexual health, you need to maintain your physical, mental, and emotional well-being in connection with sexuality. When you balance these aspects of life, you can lead a good and healthy sex life.
However, achieving good sexual health is not only about you. Your partner has an equal and important role to play in this regard. Even though you have pleasurable and fulfilling sex, you must ensure that you have good sexual health.
To ensure and maintain good sexual health, you can start with these simple tips:
- Exercise regularly
- Eat the right food
- Communicate with your partner about sex
- Practice protected sex to avoid sexually transmitted infections, also known as STIs
- Avoid alcohol consumption
However, maintaining a healthy sexual relationship when one of the partners struggles with bipolar disorder can be as complex as the disorder itself.
Relation Between Bipolar Disorder And Sexual Health
People who suffer from bipolar disorder bring about significant changes affecting their sexuality and sexual health.
However, depending upon the symptoms of bipolar disorder, the sexual responses change. These people have been observed to exhibit severe mood shifts such as hyposexuality or hypersexuality during a depressive or manic episode, respectively.
This high degree of variability can hinder an individual’s ability to establish or sustain a long-term relationship. On one hand, manic episodes can lead to unhealthy and hurtful behaviours. On the other hand, depressive episodes can exhaust and wear out even the committed relationships.
Effects Of Bipolar Disorder And Sexual Health
People with bipolar disorder may have a difficult time managing their sexual relationship with their partner due to the extreme mood shifts. It is also difficult and challenging for the partner to understand their partner’s behaviour, mood swings, and unusual fluctuation in their sex drives.
For instance, a female who suffers from bipolar disorder might have a high prevalence of sexual discomfort and dissatisfaction. Whereas, in males, there is a high possibility of developing symptoms of erectile dysfunction.
People exhibit different sexual responses in different episodes. Let’s take a look at sexuality during a manic and depressive episode.
Sexuality During a Manic Episode
A person with bipolar disorder and experiencing a manic episode might have to deal with hypersexuality. Hypersexuality is influenced by an intense increase in sex drive.
While an increase in sexual gratification is common in a manic episode, it becomes difficult and serious when impaired with impulsiveness, risk-taking, and lack of judgment. Manic episodes are as challenging as for the person experiencing it and their partner. It is tough for them to anticipate their partner’s unusual and abnormal behaviour and sexual responses.
Features of manic episodes in a person with bipolar disorder are:
- Multiple sex partners: A person tends to have anonymous sex with multiple partners to satisfy his/her sexual needs. This, in turn, creates tensions between their relationships.
- Excessive masturbation: Excessive or continuous masturbation may negatively affect a person’s sexual health
- Multiple affairs: There are chances of having multiple affairs outside the committed relationships in a person under a manic episode.
- Sexual thoughts: Having sexual thoughts isn’t bad. However, a person’s brain that is continuously preoccupied with sexual thoughts can create problems.
- Pornography: There is an increased viewership of porn by people having manic episodes.
Sexuality During a Depressive Episode
Unlike mania, depression might almost kill the sex drive. In a depressive episode, a person might feel extremely low, insecure, anxious, or hopeless. Apart from that, he/she may also experience hyposexuality i.e., low libido or poor sex drive.
Moreover, it is not just the bipolar disorder that contributes to poor sex drive; the very medicines used to treat depression may smother a person’s libido and ability to function sexually. This results in less sexual activity and highly stifles your and your partner’s sexual health.
Bipolar disorder challenges sexual health in many ways, and some of them are:
- Exhaustion: Exhaustion or lack of sleep can drain the pursuit of sex both physically and emotionally.
- Medicines: Various drugs used to treat bipolar disorder or depression particularly decrease the ability to achieve orgasm or erection. Especially medicines such as Selective Serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRIs.
- Less sexual activity: The less sex a person has, the more he/she may feel guilty or develop self-doubt.
- Lack of self-care: Unhygienic or unhealthy habits can develop depressive feelings in a person.
- Self-esteem: Lack of confidence and self-esteem can often impact a person’s sexual life and health.
Tips To Maintain Sexual Health Despite Bipolar Disorder
After learning the harm that bipolar disorder can cause relationships, a person might try and get out of that relationship, making the situation even worse.
However, there are ways to maintain sexual health despite having bipolar disorder. Keep in mind to involve your partner while treating your bipolar disorder and improving your sexual health.
Managing the sexual side effects of bipolar disorder involves multiple modalities such as lifestyle changes, psychotherapy, and having a support system.
Following are some things you can try to achieve good sexual health:
Recognize Your Symptoms
Try and be aware of the situations or events that might trigger your mood swings in order to avoid those situations as and when possible. Most importantly, avoid stress and alcohol consumption as it might trigger a depressive episode.
Consult a Doctor
Working with a physician and mental health specialist can assist in developing a combination of medications and treatments to manage symptoms of bipolar disorder. Support groups can be helpful as well.
Know the Side Effects
If you are taking treatment for bipolar disorder, ensure that you learn the side effects it might cause to your general health and sex life.
Behavioural therapy or psychotherapy may be quite beneficial to manage sexual health issues. Additionally, you can try couples therapy for you and your partner to maintain good sexual health.
Talk to Your Partner
Talking to your partner and making them aware of your situation can be highly effective because the partner can understand your mood swings and take you through them.
Quit Unhealthy Habits
Unhealthy habits in your daily life can affect your sex life. Incorporate healthy habits to improve and maintain good sexual health.
In conclusion, it is challenging to manage bipolar disorder and sexual health at the same time. But, it is possible. You just need to make necessary changes in your daily habits to make a difference in your sex life, such as incorporating a healthy lifestyle, opting for therapy, and having support from your partner.
There are people who do have a happy and satisfying sex life despite being victims of bipolar disorder. The important thing to know is that you’re not alone, and with the right treatment and therapy, you can achieve a healthy sexual life with your partner.
August 18, 2021 Sam Bell