Americans contract up to 20 million new sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This amounts to more than $15.9 billion in health care costs to treat STDs.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, mental illness may be a contributing factor to the STD epidemic. Mania and hypomania, which are symptomatic episodes of bipolar disorder, have the potential to increase the spread of STDs.
Mania and Hypersexuality
The symptoms of mania vary from person to person. A manic person may act impulsively and experience an acutely increased interest in sex as well as an increase in sexual urges, which is called hypersexuality. Manic patients often engage in high-risk activities, including high-risk sex with multiple partners, which increase their risk for unplanned pregnancy and transmission of STDs.
Although minimal research exists on the topic of bipolar disorder and hypersexuality, some studies have identified hypersexuality as affecting up to 80 percent of patients in a manic episode, according to the Sexual Medicine Society of North America.
Hypersexuality can be identified by recognizing the following symptoms:
- Inability to become sexually satisfied regardless of high amounts of sexual activity
- Increased and unlimited sexual drive
- Engaging in sex with multiple partners
- Excessive masturbation
- Engaging in infidelity without respect for existing relationships
- Inappropriate sexual behaviors, such as having sex with minors or becoming sexually aggressive
- Experiencing a lack of an emotional connection during sex
- Preoccupation with sexual thoughts
- Increased viewing of pornography
Treatments for Mania
Preventing the spread of STDs due to hypersexuality requires treatment for the underlying bipolar disorder. Medications, inpatient hospitalization, outpatient treatment and psychotherapy may be used to help alleviate the symptoms of the disorder and stabilize mood.
Treatment for hypersexuality is often left out when receiving treatment for bipolar disorder. People who have experienced hypersexuality must divulge their sexual behaviors and activities to their mental health professionals when receiving treatment.
Reducing the risk of STD transmission can also be achieved in the short-term by taking a few proactive approaches to sexual health. Purchasing condoms for a loved one with bipolar disorder can help reduce the incidence of unprotected sexual encounters. Avoiding drugs and alcohol is critical to preventing risky behaviors. Engaging in regular physical activity can also help reduce some of the symptoms of mania, such as impulsivity and irritability.
Preventative measures such as these can help patients with manic episodes of hypersexuality reduce their risk of STD infection, but they will not solve the root of the problem. Only by seeking out treatment for bipolar disorder can patients overcome their symptoms and achieve a lasting recovery.