Healthy Living

Nymphomania: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, and Diagnosis

Nymphomania: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, and Diagnosis

Key Takeaways

  • Nymphomania is a mental disorder in which the person shows compulsive sexual behavior.
  • The uncontrollable sexual urge or desire can be brought under control if treated at the right time.
  • Nymphomania affects relationships, the work life, and the social life of the person.

Nymphomania is a mental disorder. The person shows characteristic compulsive sexual behavior. Compulsive means unwanted actions and rituals. The person repeatedly engages in it without getting any pleasure out of it, or the person is unable to control the behaviors. A person with nymphomania acts out of compulsion. Still, it is debated in the medical community whether or not nymphomania is a mental illness. Evidence suggests that this behavior is a real and serious illness. It is considered to be more common in women and homosexual men, although it can happen with any adult. Anyone engaging in risky compulsive sexual behavior is considered to have nymphomania, but this term actually refers to a woman. A person with nymphomania, in addition to showing compulsive sexual behavior, also has problems thinking unwanted repetitive thoughts and feelings of shame or guilt or inadequacy.

Other names for compulsive sexual behavior are hyper sexual disorder, hyper sexuality, sexual addiction, or nymphomania. Feelings and behaviors are affected by the obsession with sexual thoughts. Ultimately, the person’s health, relationships, jobs, and other sectors of life are affected. A normal enjoyable sexual experience may become an obsession. A person with compulsive sexual behavior may perform certain activities that may be outside the boundaries of culturally, morally, or legally accepted sexual behavior.

The exact cause is not known. It is a complicated condition, since it involves the mental and emotional status of the person. The causes could be the same as other mental illness. It may result due to environmental factors, heredity factors, and life events. Also, it may be linked to some imbalance of chemicals in the brain.

To treat nymphomania, psychotherapy and medication may be required. The medication may include antidepressants, as well as antipsychotic or antianxiety medications. These medications are the same for compulsive disorders. Since people with nymphomania show risky compulsive behavior, they are at an increased risk of developing complications such as sexually transmitted diseases.

Causes of nymphomania

Those with nymphomania often experience compulsive behaviors, emotional detachment, and infidelity in relationships. If a person has nymphomania, he/she may not have a healthy libido and may also have an underlying medical condition.

The following are the organic causes of nymphomania:

  • Hyperthyroidism - if the thyroid gland is overactive, it can cause the sexual desires to become out of control.
  • Ovarian cysts - due to the growth being estrogenic, some ovarian cysts can cause hypersensitivity. This causes an increase in the estrogen boost libido, which may rise to unhealthy levels.
  • Parkinson’s medications - dopamine agonist medications can cause compulsive behaviors; it may cause problems that range from gambling to nymphomania. Almost 25 percent of people who are on this medication show some sort of impulsive behavior.
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) - this can go hand in hand with hyper sexuality. In an instance mentioned in one journal, a woman suffering from obsessive compulsive disorder would have intercourse 30 times in 24 hours. The doctors were able to bring down the sexual activity level with the help of medications and therapy.
  • Imbalance of natural chemicals in the brain - higher levels of certain chemicals, such as serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine, can be associated with compulsive sexual behavior. These chemicals also help in regulating the mood of a person.
  • Sex hormone levels - the hormone androgen is a sex hormone that occurs naturally in men and women. Sex hormones play a vital role in sexual desires, but still their role in compulsive sexual behavior is unknown.
  • Conditions affecting the brain - certain parts of the brain may get damaged due to certain diseases or health problems. This may affect the sexual behavior. Diseases associated with compulsive sexual behavior include multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, Huntington’s disease, and dementia.
  • Brain pathway changes - there are networks of nerves that make up the brain's neural circuits. These nerves enable communication between brain cells. Changes can be caused in the brain's neural circuits over a period of time by compulsive sexual behavior due to involvement in sexual behavior. When the behavior is stopped, these changes may cause unpleasant and pleasant reactions.
  • Temporal lobe disorder and epilepsy - conditions in the temporal lobe of the brain have been linked to nymphomania.

Symptoms of Nymphomania

The most common primary symptom is compulsive sexual behavior that also includes promiscuity. This symptom may also occur in combination with other symptoms of obsessive- compulsive disorder or other mental illness or personality disorders. The symptoms are experienced once in a while or daily. In some cases, the symptoms might be very severe. Symptoms include:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Guilt
  • Feelings of shame or inadequacy
  • Compulsive behavior, including repetitive uncontrollable behavior
  • Obsession, including repeated unwanted thoughts
  • Some symptoms can be life threatening, such as being a danger to yourself, as well as others, being threatening, irrational, or showing suicidal behavior and not being able to take care of oneself.
  • Activities performed by the person are usually outside the boundaries of commonly accepted sexual behavior. The behaviors may range form compulsive cross–dressing to having sexual desires toward children. It may also be called paraphilias. The type and severity may vary.

Some signs include:

  • Sexual impulse that may be intense and beyond the control of the person
  • The person is driven to do certain sexual behaviors in which he/she may not find complete satisfaction or pleasure
  • The person is ready to risk sexual behavior despite serious consequences, such as problems at work or loss of job, transmitting STDs, and relationships losses
  • In order to escape from anxiety, stress, loneliness, or depression, the person may use compulsive sexual behavior as a means
  • The person is not able to get emotionally connected to in a relationship or marriage

Risk factors of Nymphomania

The following increases the chances of developing nymphomania, although not all people with the risk factors develop it:

  • Age under 30
  • Family history of mental illness
  • Homosexual orientation
  • Recent traumatic life event
  • Personal history of mental illness
  • Female gender
  • History of physical or sexual abuse
  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • Stress
  • Psychological conditions, such as mental health problems, mood disorder, impulse control disorder, or addiction to gambling

Warning signs include:

  • Extramarital affair
  • Sex with multiple partners
  • Sex with prostitutes or strangers
  • Not getting or avoiding emotional attachment in sexual relationships
  • Sadistic sex
  • Excessive masturbation
  • Pornographic materials used frequently
  • Involvement in commercial phone sex conversations
  • Watching or visiting explicit internet sites or using explicit internet services
  • Exhibitionism

When to seek treatment for Nymphomania

See a doctor if you feel that your sexual behavior and desires are beyond your control.

Over a period of time, this compulsive behavior tends to become more intense, worse, and more difficult to control. If you know there is a problem, then get help. Increasing your willpower to resist sex may not succeed, because the urges are very strong.

Some questions you need to ask yourself before you seek an appointment with the doctor:

  • Can I control my sexual impulses?
  • Is my sexual behavior affecting my work?
  • Is my relationship getting harmed because of my sexual behavior?
  • Am I always thinking about sex?
  • Am I trying to hide my sexual behavior?

Seek treatment if:

  • You feel that with your uncontrollable sexual behavior you may harm yourself and others
  • You have bipolar disorder or are not able to control impulses
  • You are suicidal

Test and diagnosis for Nymphomania

By asking a number of questions, the doctor or mental health provider or psychiatrist will do a psychological evaluation. The questions will involve:

  • Physical and mental health of a person and overall emotional well being
  • The person’s sexual thoughts, behavior, and compulsions
  • Whether the person is using drugs or alcohol
  • The person’s relationship, social life, and family
  • Family and friends might be asked for additional input

Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM) of mental disorders is used by the mental health provider. DSM is basically a guide that helps in the diagnosis of mental disorders. Since sexual behavior does not have any specific diagnostic category in the DSM, it is diagnosed as a subcategory. Generally, compulsive sexual behaviors are those behaviors that have crossed the boundaries of normal accepted sexual activities. Compulsive sexual behavior may be diagnosed as a subcategory of another mental condition, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Paraphilia diagnosis

Paraphilia is an unhealthy sexual behavior. Behavior that is considered harmful and socially unacceptable or illegal are is involved with paraphilia. The categories are:

  • Exhibitionism - sexually arousing fantasies, sexual urges, or exposing genitals to a stranger
  • Fetishism - sexually arousing fantasies, sexual urges, or sexual behavior with the use of some objects
  • Frotteurism - sexual urges or behavior that involves touching or rubbing others without the person’s consent
  • Pedophilia - sexually arousing fantasies or behavior that involves sexual activity with children
  • Sexual sadism - sexually arousing fantasies or behavior in which the physical or psychological suffering of the person is sexually exciting
  • Sexual masochism - sexually arousing fantasies or behavior that involves being beaten, bound, humiliated, or made to suffer
  • Transvestic fetishism - sexually arousing fantasies or behavior involving cross-dressing in a heterosexual male
  • Voyeurism - sexually arousing fantasies or behavior in which observing another person naked or disrobing, or engaging in sexual activity

The following do not meet the criteria of paraphilia: obscene calls, exclusive focus on a body part, animal’s enemas, feces, or urine.

Treatments for Nymphomania

There is no such cure for this condition; however, like other mental illness, nymphomania may be treated with the help of medications, psychotherapy, or both may be combined. If treatment is started, then it is possible to control compulsive sexual behavior.

Just as other compulsive disorders are treated, in a similar manner nymphomania is treated. The treatments include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Family therapy
  • Social therapy
  • Talk therapy
  • Medications such as antianxiety medications, antidepressants, and antipsychotic medications.

In psychodynamic psychotherapy, the awareness of unconscious thoughts and behavior is increased. This helps to resolve conflicts. The negative behaviors can be identified by cognitive behavior therapy, and these negative behaviors are replaced by positive ones. Group therapy involves meeting a group of people under the guidance of a mental health professional. In this group therapy, relationships and exemptions are explored. Due to compulsive sexual behavior, entire families, especially the partner, are affected. Family therapy or marriage counseling is thus helpful and essential.

Medications

  • Antidepressants, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) - This includes paroxetine (Paxil), fluoxetine (Prozac), sertraline (Zoloft), and others.
  • Naltrexone (ReVia) - It blocks the brain parts that feel pleasure due to certain addiction. This medication is actually used to treat alcoholism.
  • Mood stabilizers, such as lithium (Lithobid) - They are usually used to treat bipolar disorders, but they also help in reducing uncontrolled sexual urges.
  • Anti-androgens, such as medroxyprogesterone - in men, they help reduce the effects of sex hormones.
  • Luteinizing hormones, releasing hormones (LHRH) - by reducing the testosterone production, they reduce the obsessive sexual thoughts.

Care to be taken

  • To self-manage nymphomania
  • Eat a diet that is balanced and healthy
  • Engage in social activity and activities that you enjoy
  • Regular exercise and sleep
  • Participate in a support group
  • Seek support from friends and family

Complementary treatments are alternative treatments that can be used in combination with traditional medication treatments. However, complementary treatments cannot substitute for traditional treatment. Make sure you inform your doctor if you are taking any supplements, homeopathic, or non prescription medications, since they may interact with the prescribed medications.

Complementary treatments include:

Complications

Nymphomanias that cause compulsive sexual behavior are very risky. Nymphomania not only affects social life, but it also can cause sexually transmitted diseases. Hence, it is important to seek treatment as well as prevent complications. If nymphomanias are untreated or poorly treated, it can result in serious complications. Complications can be minimized by following the treatment plan. The complications are:

  • Depression, anxiety, and extreme stress
  • The person may undergo loss of relationship due to lying or cheating on his/her partner
  • The person may find it difficult to perform normal activities
  • The person may be at an increased risk of contracting or passing sexually transmitted diseases
  • The person may either be at a risk of losing a job or may lose the job due to lack of focus or involvement in sexual activity at work
  • Problems in social life
  • The person may experience guilt and/or shame
  • The person may have a low self esteem
  • The person may be arrested for sexual offense
  • In order to purchase pornography and for using sexual services, the person may accumulate financial debts
  • Getting involved in alcohol or drug abuse
  • Unwanted pregnancy in the case of women