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How Bipolar Disorder Affects Sex Drive

Photo of Dr Katherine Hertlein
Reviewed by Dr Katherine Hertlein,
created by Blueheart
created by Josh Green
created by Sophie Browness
Photo of Dr Katherine Hertlein
Reviewed by Dr Laura Vowels,
created by Blueheart
created by Josh Green
created by Sophie Browness

Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition that is characterized by high levels of euphoria and depression. Although many people may believe that the highs and lows associated with bipolar occur rapidly, that’s not actually the case. The normal cycle for bipolar shifts usually occurs with a period of depression that lasts for one to two years and a period of euphoria that lasts about six months. Individuals who do have more rapid mood swings typically take at least two weeks to make the shift from low to high or vice versa.

During those periods of highs and lows, a person’s will often experience an impact on their sex drive. Bipolar does contribute to libido changes, which can be difficult for sufferers and their partners. Understanding these changes may help bipolar sufferers develop strategies for coping with them. Like many other mental health conditions, bipolar disorder can be managed. Its impact on sex drive can be managed too.

Here, we’ll examine how bipolar affects sex drive, the impacts its effects have on relationships, and what can be done to mitigate those effects. Many individuals are able to manage their bipolar condition and its impact on their sex life effectively. In this article, we’ll discuss how.

Sex and depression

When a person with bipolar experiences depressive episodes, they may lose interest in sex. Part of the reason for this is because the individual feels fatigued, as if their energy is zapped. In fact, when an individual without bipolar experiences depression, they often lose interest in sex too, at least until their depressive symptoms subside or are managed successfully.

Unfortunately, bipolar depression may lead to physiological changes too in both men and women too. Men can suffer from erectile dysfunction, a condition that can further affect their mental state. Women can suffer from sexual distress. They may not feel aroused or their body may simply not function during sex as during periods of euphoria.

Consequently, bipolar depression can seriously impact a couple’s relationship. When an individual is in a depressive phase that lasts for a year or longer, their lack of sex drive is something that their parter, too, must cope with, and that has its challenges. Partners may feel confused about the condition. They may feel rejected or frustrated.

Both the mental and physiological effects of bipolar depression take a toll on partners. Even when they understand what bipolar is and its effects, they still must cope with the impact that their partner’s condition has on their life as well.

Sex and euphoria

After a bipolar sufferer transitions from depression to euphoria, their sex drive can take a dramatic turn. Instead of feeling no energy for sex, they may experience sexual impulses frequently. Some people experience hypersexuality, which may lead to behaviors that are not present at other times.

It’s not uncommon for bipolar sufferers to experience symptoms of hypersexuality during a manic phase that include:

  • Increased masturbation
  • Increased sex drive
  • Urges to have sex with multiple partners
  • Sexual affairs
  • Feeling preoccupied with thoughts of sex
  • Use of pornography
  • High risk behaviors such as having sex without a condom, which can lead to contracting an sexually transmitted disease

Hypersexuality can be difficult for partners to understand and cope with. Medical evidence suggests that more than half of bipolar sufferers experience hypersexuality during their manic episodes. Some research pins that number to 80%. The condition affects both men and women suffering from bipolar disorder.

Issues related to a person’s increased sex drive and hypersexuality can cause many problems for relationships. Partners may not completely be able to understand these sex drive impulses. Not surprisingly, when a partner discovers that affairs or sexual encounters have taken place, they may fear for their own health. They may also feel betrayed and rejected, making maintaining the relationship difficult and, sometimes, impossible.

Bipolar and stigma

Many individuals diagnosed with bipolar disorder feel affected by this condition’s stigma. Consequently, if they’re not in a relationship, they may fear that they will not find a partner who will be able to cope with the impact that the condition may have on their sex drive. This can greatly affect an individual’s self-image and add to feelings of despair during the depressive phase of the condition.

The fact is, people with bipolar disorder do maintain their relationships and can manage the effects that bipolar disorder has on their sex drive. This may require medication or other forms of treatment, but fortunately, there is help.

Managing bipolar’s effects

A person suffering from bipolar disorder can manage their condition, often with medication and therapy. However, their clinician might not provide enough focus on the sexual aspects of the condition. There are things that sufferers can do to manage the sexual impacts associated with bipolar. Here, we’ll highlight a few:

Know your triggers

When a person can identify their triggers, they can take steps to manage them better. For instance, when a person begins to feel their depressive symptoms begin, they can take steps to mitigate them. For instance, during the depressive phase, it’s important to avoid alcohol, which is a depressive substance that can add to their feelings of fatigue and depression.

Stress can substantially worsen depression for bipolar sufferers. During a depressive phase, it’s important to manage stress effectively or attempt to limit exposure to stress. Of course, this isn’t always possible, especially when stress occurs with a person’s job, but understanding how stress can affect the disorder is the first step in mitigating its negative effects.

Focus on consequences

During a euphoric phase, people experiencing hypersexuality often disregard thoughts about the risks of their behaviors. Although their sexual urges may feel like powerful compulsions, they must make an attempt to focus on the effects that their behaviors can have on themselves and their partner.

For instance, having sex without a condom heightens the risk for unplanned pregnancy and the contraction of a sexually transmitted disease. These two results can have life-changing consequences for an individual. By thinking about these consequences before a manic phase, a person may be able to reduce or eliminate their risky behaviors.

Medication side effects

Not all the sexual impact from bipolar disorder comes from the condition itself. Many medications such as antidepressants used to treat the disorder can involve symptoms that impact a person’s sex drive. For instance, it’s not uncommon for people taking antidepressants to feel a lower sex drive or less sexually sensitive.

It’s important to discuss each medication prescribed with a clinician in order to understand its impacts for sexual health and sex drive. Unfortunately, not taking medication can have an extremely negative impact on a person’s mental health and lead to a dramatic worsening of symptoms. However, doctors may be able to change the dose of medications and try different medications in order to alleviate the sexual side effects.

The importance of therapy for couples

Typically, a person with bipolar disorder will meet with their psychiatrist or mental healthcare provider on a routine basis for professional help managing their condition. However, a sufferer’s partner can benefit from therapy too. In fact, couple’s therapy can help partner’s manage the sexual side effects of bipolar together.

It’s important to find a counselor or therapist who has experience helping couples where one of them has this disorder. With professional guidance, couples can get help managing the symptoms of bipolar and their effect on the their sex life.

Therapy is also important in the event that a breach in the relationship occurs because of an affair or sexual urges. A therapist may be able to help couples find a way to repair whatever is broken in the relationship. The partner of a person suffering from bipolar disorder may also wish to participate in individual therapy for support.

Alternate forms of help

The traditional form of face-to-face therapy can be helpful for individuals and couples who are struggling with libido issues related to bipolar disorder. However, there are other avenues to consider as well. For instance, Blueheart offers digital therapy for individuals and couples who experience problems related to their sex life, including mental health conditions like bipolar.

Of course, a person’s sex life and libido can be influenced by all sorts of things, including grief, addiction, stress, a physiological health condition, and more. Digital therapy removes the barrier of distance, which can be extremely conducive for regular therapy.

Summary

The fact is, there is help for people suffering from bipolar disorder. Often, by managing the condition itself, the sexual side effects can be reduced. However, when bipolar episodes impact a person’s sex drive, there are measures that individuals and couples can take to manage that impact.


If you are experiencing changes in your sex drive, you don’t have to struggle alone. Blueheart can help you address these issues with positive measures to manage them. Digital sex therapy can lead to positive changes for couples. Explore the website to learn more about this form of therapy and how it can help you and your partner get back in touch with sex.

We advise you speak to your doctor before using Blueheart if you or your partner has bipolar disorder to see if you may need alternative treatment alongside.

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