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Nymphomania

 

Nymphomania is a mental disorder marked by compulsive sexual behavior. Compulsions are unwanted actions, or rituals, that a person engages in repeatedly without getting pleasure from them or being able to control them. In the case of nymphomania, people act out their compulsions by engaging in risky behaviors such as promiscuity. Whether or not nymphomania qualifies as a true mental illness is often debated in the medical community, but evidence suggests that compulsive sexual behavior is a real and serious illness.

Nymphomania can happen to any adult, though it is thought that it may be more common in women and homosexual men. Technically, the term “nymphomaniac” refers to a woman, though that definition has expanded to include anyone who engages in risky compulsive sexual behavior. In addition to compulsive sexual behavior, nymphomania may include problems thinking, unwanted repetitive thoughts (obsession), and feelings of guilt, shame or inadequacy.

The underlying cause of nymphomania is not known. Nymphomania is a mental and emotional condition, and, like other such conditions, is complicated. Like other mental illnesses, nymphomania may arise as a result of environment, heredity, and life events. It may also be linked to a chemical imbalance in the brain.

Treatment for nymphomania may involve psychotherapy and medication. Medications for nymphomania may include antidepressants or antianxiety or antipsychotic medications, similar to the medications used for other compulsive disorders. Because compulsive sexual behavior is risky, people with nymphomania are at increased risk for developing complications such as sexually transmitted diseases.

Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you have compulsive behaviors along with other symptoms of serious, uncontrollable mental illness or brain damage, including bizarre behavior or behavior that endangers yourself or others, including threatening, irrational or suicidal behavior.

Seek prompt medical care if you are being treated for nymphomania or other compulsions, but compulsions persist or cause you concern.

The concept of nymphomania dates back to Victorian times. It was then described as a “female pathology of over-stimulated genitals” and an “illness of sexual energy levels gone awry, as well as the loss of control of the mind over the body.” Some of the behaviors that lead to this classification, such as women taking of their clothes in public or grabbing at the first man who came into sight, are consistent with the manic states of bipolar disorder, among many other pathologies. In fact, in those days, women run the risk of being treated for nymphomania if they bore children out of wedlock or were discovered masturbating. Historians and medical researchers today argue that the concept of nymphomania was largely derived from the tension of Victorian gender oppression, and it might have had little to do with an actual medical condition.

Popular culture has embraced the concept of nymphomania, and the description of the symptoms in the collective consciousness today doesn’t much differ from that of Victorian times: a nymphomaniac is a woman who constantly wants to have sex with any man that crosses her path, more or less. Many films and books in popular culture have helped maintain this tradition; for example, the best-selling novel “Diary of a nymphomaniac,” the autobiography of a rather contented prostitute.

From Sex Addiction to Hypersexual Disorder

Reality is much more complex than both Victorian diagnoses and popular belief. Even today, there is much argument as to what constitutes pathological sexual behavior, namely, where to draw the line between personal preferences and habits and an illness that truly affects the individual’s well-being. There is also an issue of comorbidity; namely, research has shown a clear tendency for hindering sexual compulsive behaviors to coexist with bipolar disorder, anxiety, depression and substance abuse, among a variety of other problems and pathologies. This makes sexual compulsions even harder to pin down.

While the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition DSM IV describes sex addiction as “distress about a pattern of repeated sexual relationships involving a succession of lovers who are experienced by the individual only as things to be used,” the proposed revision for DSM V includes the creation of a new category called hypersexual disorder.

The traits of hypersexual disorder are much broader and encompassing than the descriptions in the current DSM. First of all, the proposed category establishes that the symptoms must have been observed consistently for at least six months. These symptoms include experiencing, “recurrent and intense sexual fantasies, sexual urges, and sexual behavior,” where excessive time is consumed in both fantasies and sexual activity, sometimes in response to stressful life events, and both the physical and emotional risks of such activities for oneself or other are consistently disregarded. It is also established that these sexual behaviors shouldn’t have been caused by substance abuse or a manic episode.

The behaviors and practices used in this category definition include masturbation, pornography, sexual behavior with consenting adults, cybersex, telephone sex, and frequenting strip clubs. Interestingly enough, some of those wouldn’t have made one qualify as a nymphomaniac during Victorian times, but, alas, times have indeed changed.

In the Virtual World

An educational set of guidelines for assessment of sexual addiction presented during the 2011 US Psychiatric Health Congress focuses largely on some of the behavioral patterns mentioned in the proposed DSM V categorization. Actually, the protocole largely addresses a masculine population who conceal their use of Internet pornography, prostitutes, cybersex and the like from their female partners. Again, it points to the instant gratification of orgasm, appearing in a vicious cycle in moments of distress, and consequentially begetting more distress.

The internet has created a whole new arena for people to express their unfulfilled urges and desires, sometimes with dramatically negative consequences for their daily lives, creating a dissociation that further estranges them from their partners.

The Death of the Myth

Current research on hypersexual disorder focus largely on men. It would seem that, for all the talk about nymphomania, contemporary men are doing much more to fit the description than women.

Although conclusive research has not yet been published, regarding the nature, diagnosis and treatment of hypersexual disorder, and in spite of the fact that the “sexual addiction” term has been rejected by the scientific community, there is no doubt that several complex stand-alone and comorbid disorders exist, involving compulsive behaviors associated with both actual and simulated or imaginary sexuality, which can greatly hinder an individual’s psychological and even physical well-being. As of the present moment, the diagnosis of some of these elusive conditions remains at the discretion of the therapist, while their prevalence seems to be perpetually on the rise.

What are the symptoms of nymphomania?

The primary symptom of nymphomania is compulsive sexual behavior, including promiscuity. It may occur with other symptoms of obsessive compulsive disorder or other mental illnesses or personality disorders.

Common symptoms of nymphomania

You may experience nymphomania symptoms daily or just once in a while. At times any of these nymphomania symptoms can be severe:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Feelings of shame or inadequacy
  • Guilt
  • Repeated, uncontrollable behaviors (compulsion)
  • Repeated, unwanted thoughts (obsession)

Serious symptoms that might indicate a life-threatening condition

In some cases, compulsive disorders or mental illness that occurs with nymphomania can be life threatening. Call the emergency lines in your locale if you, or someone you are with, have any of these life-threatening symptoms including:

  • Being a danger to yourself or others, including threatening, irrational or suicidal behavior
  • Inability to care for yourself

 

Causes

The exact cause of nymphomania is not known. Nymphomania is a type of compulsive disorder marked by mental and emotional imbalance. It is thought that certain life events may trigger people who are predisposed to nymphomania (for hereditary or environmental reasons) to engage in compulsive sexual behavior. Like many other mental illnesses, nymphomania may be linked to an imbalance in chemicals in the brain (neurotransmitters).

What are the risk factors for nymphomania?

A number of factors increase the risk of developing nymphomania. Not all people with risk factors will get nymphomania. Risk factors for nymphomania include:

  • Age under 30
  • Family history of mental illness
  • Female gender
  • Homosexual orientation
  • Personal history of mental illness
  • Recent traumatic life event
  • Stress

 

How is nymphomania treated?

There is no cure for nymphomania. Like many other mental illnesses, nymphomania may be treated with medication, psychotherapy, or a combination of the two. With treatment, it is possible to manage compulsive sexual behavior.

Treatments for nymphomania

Treatments for nymphomania are similar to treatment for other compulsive disorders, and may include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy(to help you cope with triggers)
  • Family or social therapy
  • Medications, including antianxiety medications, antidepressant medications, and antipsychotic medications
  • Talk therapy

 

What you can do to improve your nymphomania

In addition to following the treatment plan developed by your health care providers, you may be able to help self-manage your nymphomania by:

  • Eating a balanced and healthy diet
  • Engaging in social activities and other activities that you find enjoyable
  • Getting regular exercise and sleep
  • Participating in a support group
  • Seeking support from family and friends

 

Complementary treatments

Some complementary treatments may help some people to better deal with nymphomania. These treatments, sometimes referred to as alternative therapies, are used in conjunction with traditional medical treatments. Complementary treatments are not meant to substitute for traditional medical care. Be sure to notify your doctor if you are consuming nutritional supplements or homeopathic (nonprescription) remedies as they may interact with the prescribed medical therapy.

Complementary treatments may include:

  • Acupuncture
  • Massage therapy
  • Nutritional dietary supplements, herbal remedies, tea beverages, and similar products
  • Yoga

 

What are the potential complications of nymphomania?

The compulsive sexual behavior of nymphomania is very risky. In addition to causing social problems, it can lead to the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. It is important to seek treatment for nymphomania to prevent complications for yourself and others.

Complications of untreated or poorly controlled nymphomania can be serious. You can help minimize your risk of serious complications by following the treatment plan you and your health care professional design specifically for you. Complications of nymphomania include:

 

Sources:

http://www.brainblogger.com/2012/04/20/from-nymphomania-to-hypersexuality/

Goldberg, A. Sex, Religion, and the Making of Modern Madness. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.

Grant JE, Potenza MN. The Oxford Handbook of Impulse Control Disorders. Oxford University Press; 2011. DSM V Proposed revisions section

Kingston, D., & Firestone, P. (2008). Problematic Hypersexuality: A Review of Conceptualization and Diagnosis Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity, 15 (4), 284-310 DOI: 10.1080/10720160802289249

Levine, S. Sexual Excess Syndromes or Sexual Addiction. Presentation from the US PSYCHIATRIC AND MENTAL HEALTH CONGRESS 2011.

https://www.healthgrades.com/right-care/mental-health-and-behavior/nymphomania

 

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