When most people think of bipolar disorder, the number one thing most people think about is having mood swings. Mood swings are periods of emotional highs, (feelings of extreme excitement, euphoria, racing thoughts, etc.) mixed with emotional lows (feelings of depression or extreme sadness). In addition to experiencing mood swings, people with bipolar disorder also often deal with a number of other symptoms. Common symptoms include: Agitation, risk taking behaviors, disorganization, irritability, and the two symptoms I want to specifically focus on: Lying and hypersexuality.
Lying and Bipolar Disorder
Everyone stretches the truth from time to time, even if it’s a small white lie. A white lie is defined as “a harmless or trivial lie, especially one told to avoid hurting one’s feelings”. A common example – telling your spouse that you enjoy their cooking, even when you really don’t. It’s still a lie, but it doesn’t come from a place of malicious intent. When someone with bipolar disorder lies, it too usually isn’t coming from a place of ill will, but rather it’s used as an escape route. Although lying isn’t a clinical symptom of bipolar disorder, people with the illness often will express trouble with telling the truth. Well known symptoms that are thought to trigger lying in a bipolar person include: Impulsiveness, irritability, memory lapse, racing thoughts and rapid speech (www.healthline.com).
Personally speaking, my trouble with lying was usually due to rapid thoughts and/or impulsivity. Often times when questioned about something, such as a recent decision I made, I try to gauge if the other person may be upset with me for some reason, and lie to try and appease them. While being asked a question, my mind starts working a thousand miles a minute – aka racing thoughts. As a result, this leads to the impulsiveness of wanting to blurt out whatever response comes to mind first. Another symptom responsible in aiding my lies, is frequent lapses in memory. Memory loss is a cognitive symptom of bipolar disorder, and my memory has always been the WORST. So say I was talking with a friend about what I did over the weekend, but I just couldn’t remember. Instead of responding with “I don’t know”, I would make something up. Again, not a major lie but a lie nonetheless, and a very insignificant one at that.
Hypersexuality and Bipolar Disorder
Now lets address the elephant in the room. As mentioned above, people with bipolar disorder experience a mix of emotional highs and lows. The “high” a person experiences is known as mania, or having a manic episode. A person that is manic typically encounters feelings of grandiosity, euphoria, excitability, hyperactivity and restlessness.
Now let’s have a quick vocabulary lesson:
- Grandiose: More complicated or elaborate than necessary.
- Euphoria: An exaggerated feeling of happiness, confidence and well being.
As you can see, a person experiencing mania will usually say they feel on top of the world. This feeling of invincibility can often lead to risky or reckless behavior, as there is no worry or concern about consequences. A very common, but not commonly discussed symptom of mania is hypersexuality. While there is no clear criteria or strict definition for hypersexuality, it’s essentially an intensified desire in sex that can’t be easily controlled. For someone with bipolar disorder, this typically means engaging in risky sexual activities that are otherwise not normal for them. These activities could include: Having unprotected sex, having multiple partners, constantly thinking about sex, partaking in one night stands, and engaging in extramarital affairs (sexhealthmatters.org).
If and when someone with bipolar disorder begins to have these uncontrollable sexual urges, it’s usually an indicator that a manic phase is on the horizon. Sometimes however, it’s too late to realize that mania has set in before the damage has been done – as was the case with me. I had been put in contact with someone that expressed interest in me, and we soon started a friendship. Soon after we began talking – and I literally mean like 5 days – we had sex. Not only did we have sex, but we didn’t use protection. We didn’t discuss our STD or HIV status, and I really didn’t know this man from a can of paint…I should also mention that I was in a long term, committed relationship at the time. In addition to risking losing my relationship, I also risked my life.
All of these risky behaviors I participated in was definitely out of my character, but I wasn’t able to recognize how careless I was being in those moments. First of all, I have never EVER been intimate with someone I didn’t extensively know, or had some type of history with. Yet in this instance, I gave in to temptation effortlessly. Secondly, I’ve always been privy to the dangers of having unprotected sex, mama didn’t raise no fool. But still, I allowed this man to enter my temple without any form of protection. And finally, I don’t support infidelity in any way, shape, form or fashion. But yet here I was, disrespecting my partner, and disregarding his heart and feelings completely…Luckily for me, I have the most supportive and loving spouse, who was able to recognize that I wasn’t myself, and was determined to aid me in seeking more extensive treatment.
All in all, bipolar disorder is a wicked beast that can take you on a roller coaster of emotions, and sometimes will serve as a conduit to the dark thoughts and feelings that can’t always be controlled. Lying and hypersexuality are symptoms of this mental illness, and should be treated just like any other symptom. Take your meds, talk to your therapist, and lean on the support of your family and friends when you feel a shift in mood coming on. Please remember: We’re all #PerfectlyImperfect and #MentallyStrong just the way we are. Keep fighting the good fight Dreamers, we got this.
– Jasmine JeNay ✨