What is Nymphomania?
Nymphomania is a mental and emotional condition in women characterized by a sudden increase or extreme frequency of sexual urges or activity. To differentiate this from promiscuity and lust, the condition features a preoccupation with sex-related thoughts, feelings, or even actions that disrupt and interfere with the person’s day-to-day activities, her ability to maintain normal relationships, retain a job, or stay physically and mentally healthy. This behavior is compulsive, which means that the person engages in these activities without being able to control them and without getting pleasure from them.
Sex is very pleasurable and people may crave it all the time because of that. However, this does not make them a nymphomaniac, because people with this condition crave sex without necessarily getting pleasure out of the experience. To understand this better, imagine being hungry, so you eat and eat and eat, but you never get full.
Nymphomania is a term used only for women; the same affliction in men is called satyriasis. “Hypersexuality” is the gender-neutral term used by medical healthcare providers and researchers for clinical diagnoses. It may also be referred to as compulsive sexual behavior, compulsive masturbation, sexual compulsivity, sexual dependency, sexual addiction, sexual impulsivity, erotomania, hyperphilia, and paraphilia-related disorder.
Nymphomania is defined by Merriam-Webster as “excessive sexual desire by a female”.
The Online Etymology Dictionary dates the term back to 1775 in the English translation of a study entitled “Nymphomania, or a Dissertation Concerning the Furor Uterinus” by French doctor M.D.T. Bienville. The term was coined from the words “nymphae” and “mania”. “Nymphae” has Greek and Latin origins and can mean “bride”, “young wife”, “beautiful young woman”, “demigoddess”, “mistress”, and “beautiful maiden”. “Mania” has Latin and Greek origins as well, meaning “insanity”, “madness”, “frenzy”, and “enthusiasm”.
Symptoms of Nymphomania
Mental illness can be very difficult to detect and diagnose. It is important to regularly check in with ourselves so we can recognize and accept when we need help. Some signs and symptoms of nymphomania are:
- Uncontrollable sexual impulses, behaviors (compulsion), or thoughts (obsession)
- Difficulty concentrating
- Participation in sexual activities that do not give you pleasure
- Difficulty initiating and sustaining emotional intimacy
- Use of sex to avoid uncomfortable emotional situations
- Feelings of inadequacy, shame, guilt, etc.
- Abrupt personality change
- Loss of employment
- Ending of long-term relationships or repeated unsuccessful relationships
- Engagement in illegal activities related to compulsive sexuality (e.g. pedophilia, voyeurism, exhibitionism, etc.)
Nymphomania may be the primary condition of a patient. However, acceptance of nymphomania as a true mental illness is still a subject for debate in the medical community. This limits the amount of research done on it and the information available. It is believed that nymphomania may be brought about by various factors, like environment, life events, heredity, and chemical imbalance in the brain. It may develop as a coping strategy for extreme, chronic stress or anxiety.
Personal or family history of mental illness, homosexuality, trauma, and stress are all factors that can contribute to the onset of nymphomania. Women under the age of 30 are also more likely to develop the condition.
It may also be one symptom of another condition: patients with Klüver–Bucy syndrome and bipolar disorder show indications of nymphomania as one of their symptoms.
It may also be a side effect of certain medications; hormone therapy and Parkinson’s disease medications can trigger nymphomania as a side effect.
Ultimately, these factors create changes in brain chemistry, leading to long-term alterations in brain function. This translates to a clinical addiction that bears some resemblance to behavioral addictions, like gambling and shopping.
Keeping up sexually with a nymphomaniac may be difficult, as your partner will have a stronger sex drive than you. To cope with this, here are some suggestions:
- Open communication:The first and most important thing is to establish a strong and open communication line between you and your partner so you both understand each other’s needs. Make it known to your partner that although you appreciate the affection, you cannot always keep up with her, and although you have to say no, this does not mean, in any way, that you love her less. If you suspect your partner may have nymphomania, discuss it with her. Encourage her to seek help from a medical professional, and even offer to go with her. For many mental health specialists, marriage and couple counseling is a recommended treatment option for nymphomaniacs.
- Masturbation:Acknowledge that you may not be able to satisfy all of your partner’s needs every time. Propose that, instead of sex, she may engage in masturbation a couple times a day or week to satisfy her sexual cravings. Some people go into a relationship thinking it is unnatural, unacceptable, or even a form of cheating to masturbate, so it is important that you discuss your options with your partner.
In the quest to better understand nymphomaniacs, here are a few stories that offer a mere glimpse into their lives:
Along with the publication of his book Electroboy: A Memoir of Mania, Andy Behrman became the spokesperson and poster boy for bipolar disorder. He says, “Am I having sex with strangers? Yes. Constantly masturbating? Yes. Can I get myself to a place where I’m fully satisfied sexually? No. As much as I want to shop, buy, and make money, that’s as much as I want to have sex.” [Source]
Nessa Jay, from Cromer, Norfolk, is a nymphomaniac. She discovered her sexual appetite at 16, after her first experience. She describes her craving as, “I get sweaty palms, I feel angry and I need to satisfy myself if I don't get at least five orgasms a day through sex.” At some point, she started having sex with strangers, up to about thirty men in a month. Now, she goes through therapy. “I do not believe in sex addiction or nymphomania. My sex drive may be higher than some but it's healthy because I'm positive about it and I'm also a trained sex educator so I always make sure I have incredibly safe sex and get tested regularly. I'm perfectly healthy. I can't change who I am or how I act and I wouldn't want to.” She also says that it’s not all about sex. She is still able to have a romantic relationship and abstain from sex with men for months. She goes on regular dates like dinner and movies. [Source]
18-year-old Cerise started having sexual feelings at 10; she used to make her dolls have sex together. She was embarrassed by these secrets. At 16, she confided in her mom. She was lucky to have a good and open relationship with her mother, who suggested counseling and sex toys. She was embarrassed to consider counseling, but the sex toys did help her. “I want sex up to 20 times a day - it's the first thing I think about when I wake up. If I don't have it, I get grumpy and I feel low and depressed. It's like smoking, it relieves tension.” [Source]
There are a lot of treatment options for nymphomaniacs. The most important thing is for them to seek help. Once they are diagnosed, they will be better equipped to deal with their compulsions and finally get a chance to improve their quality of life.
The various options include:
- Psychotherapy:This comes in various forms, usually as social or family therapy. It is important to get others involved. This way, the patient will not feel alone and will get the necessary support for the illness. Marriage counseling is also a viable option.
- Psychodynamic psychotherapy:This promotes self-awareness.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy:Through this method, patients are encouraged to learn new behaviors for stressful situations. This applies to patients whose sexual compulsions are the default coping mechanisms for stress. This way, they acquire new habits that will help them veer away from their sexual compulsions.
- Medication:In order to correct chemical or hormonal imbalances in the brain, doctors may prescribe medication. Commonly-used medicines are: mood stabilizers, antidepressants, particularly selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), lithium, and naltrexone, an anti-alcoholism drug.
- Self-care: Taking good care of one’s self, physically, mentally and emotionally, is also very important. This primes the body to be in the best condition for recovery.
- Balanced diet: Eat lots of fruits and vegetables; take your meals on time and, if possible, eat home-cooked meals; and avoid eating junk food, be it chips, sweets, fast food, etc.
- Have fun:Engaging in social activities will help distract you. Go out with your friends or enroll in a cooking class. Surround yourself with good energy. This will be especially helpful if stress and anxiety trigger your compulsions.
- Exercise:Get physical, maximize your energy, and put your body to work. Go to the gym or sign up for a yoga class. It’s all part of taking good care of yourself.
- Sleep:In this fast-paced world, sleep is probably the most neglected health practice. It is just as vital to maintaining good health. It allows the body to heal and prepare itself for the coming day. Make sure you get plenty of sleep, eight hours a day, at the right time; sleeping eight hours a day from 2 A.M. to 10 A.M., for example, isn’t considered healthy.
- Alternative healing:Look into yoga and massage therapy as possible treatment methods. They will not only make you feel good, but have also shown tremendous benefits to the restoration of good health in the body and returning it to top working condition.
Nymphomania can be a difficult condition to deal with. In our society, compulsive sexual behavior is often viewed as natural for men, but in women, there is much discrimination and even disgrace regarding it. Talking about a woman’s sexual needs, preferences, and sexual health is still pretty taboo. This poses potential social harms; because society is less accepting of the condition, women who suffer from it are less open to seeking help.
Ironically, treatment and acceptance are more important for women. A question, doubt, or call for help should never be dismissed or brushed under the rug. The condition has graver repercussions for the fairer sex, including increased exposure to violence, unwanted pregnancy, abortion, and sexually transmitted diseases.
In order to cope, consider seeking self-help groups like Sexaholics Anonymous, Sexual Recovery Anonymous, and Sex Addicts Anonymous. Even if you are not sure or have not been diagnosed with nymphomania, surrounding yourself with people who are and who are open to this kind of conversation can be tremendously beneficial. Having the opportunity to talk and discuss your triggers and habits without fear of judgment will help you better understand your condition. Hopefully, this will also help you bolster your courage to get checked out and referred to doctors who can actually help you.