Sexual disorders and their exact definitions are among the most hotly debated topics among experts. In general, it is understood that hypersexuality may come on its own or be a life-changing symptom of other disorders. Those who suffer from bipolar disorder or Kluver-Bucy syndrome often display symptoms of promiscuous behavior.
But as mentioned in the previous paragraph, nymphomania (or compulsive sexual behavior) does not necessarily have to be a part of some other mental disorder. In addition, the diagnoses of and treatments for this particular disorder have changed drastically since it first appeared in the literature in the 18th century.
This is why it pays to have a closer look at the history of the condition and its symptoms.
Nymphomania – A Brief History of Disagreement
Although the term nymphomaniac first appeared in the 18th century, it reached the psychiatric practice in the late 19th century. At that time, the term loosely referred to an overly sexual woman. To make matters worse, it did not actually reflect any real medical condition but rather the prevalent societal norms regarding female sexual behavior.
In keeping with the 19th century Zeitgeist that disregarded any liberation of the female spirit and rights, the treatments for nymphomania were brutal. Not to mention the gruesome surgical procedures and remedies which included the vaginal application of cocaine or borax. Luckily, most of the developed societies have a completely different view of female sexuality today.
A few hundred years and liberation movements later, there is now a completely different understanding of nymphomania. In fact, nymphomania was removed from the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder back in 1980. To put things in perspective, masturbation, homosexuality, and oral sex were also removed at the same time.
However, the question of how to define nymphomania in the 21st century still lingers. Admittedly, there are much clearer boundaries and symptoms that might be defined as a nymphomaniac.
Nymphomaniac Definition – Are You Classified? Or Is It Something Else?
Nowadays, nymphomania may be defined as a mental disorder that is associated with compulsive sexual behavior. To have an understanding of who can be regarded as a nymphomaniac, you should have a clear idea of compulsions.
By definition, compulsive behavior includes rituals or deliberate actions people repeatedly engage in without any control over them. Sometimes compulsions can be related to unreasonable fears and anxiety, but this is not always the case.
Compulsions are associated with a broad spectrum of mental disorders. However, in relation to nymphomania, they refer to an insatiable drive to engage in a sexually promiscuous behavior. An excessive appetite for pornography, obsessive erotic thoughts, and an abnormal impulse to masturbate can also be regarded as nymphomaniac.
On the other hand, scientists still disagree about whether this kind of promiscuous behavior should be regarded as a singular disorder. Adding to the overall confusion is that none of the 12 listed sexual disorders include nymphomania or other hypersexuality conditions.
To answer the question, a respectable psychiatrist or therapist would find it hard to classify a patient as a nymphomaniac. The debates continue in the medical community as to whether it should be accepted as a sexual disorder. But this disagreement doesn’t mean that hypersexuality does not exist in one form or another.
What Causes Nymphomania or Hypersexual Behavior?
Unfortunately, the exact causes that lead to abnormal promiscuity and obsessive sexual behavior are still largely unknown. And like other mental disorders, nymphomania should probably be viewed as a complex emotional and mental condition that can be triggered by various factors.
There are some indications that nymphomania is connected to brain chemical imbalance or even comes as a hereditary disorder. The fact that illicit drugs such as methamphetamine and cocaine induce an increased sexual drive goes in the favor of the chemical imbalance theory. However, more research is needed to confirm either of the claims.
Some Alzheimer’s patients also show no sexual inhibitions due to changes in the frontal and temporal lobe. Of course, those who are unfortunate to be afflicted by this debilitating condition aren’t labeled as nymphomaniac by any means.
On the other hand, hypersexuality or nymphomania might also be caused by the environment and psychological trauma. In those cases, it would be viewed as a part of other mental disorders rather than a singular condition.
Is There a Treatment for Nymphomania?
If you accept nymphomania as an unofficial term for hypersexual behavior then it is safe to assume there is a way to cure it. Before the treatment for hypersexual behavior begins, all other neurological and medical disorders that can cause hypersexuality need to be ruled out.
Once they are ruled out, there are three different ways to treat nymphomania:
1. Psychological Treatment
Those who struggle with compulsive sexual behavior show some improvement after psychodynamic and cognitive behavioral therapy. However, the study groups were relatively small to draw any conclusive scientific evidence, though the patients did show improvement.
Another psychological approach that is beneficial to those who suffer from compulsive hypersexual behavior is group therapy. This approach helps the patients feel less shameful and isolated due to their condition. And since the patient’s promiscuity may affect the whole family, couples and family therapies might also be included.
2. Pharmacological Treatment
A limited research study has shown that some prescription drugs can have a positive effect on hypersexual behavior. Patients who took citalopram, for example, experienced an inhibited sexual desire and less compulsion to masturbate and watch pornography. However, the drug didn’t seem to affect the number of partners the recipients engaged with.
Naltrexone – used for other compulsive conditions like kleptomania – was also effective in reducing compulsive sexual behavior. The bottom line is that there is still more research to be done before experts define the most successful pharmacological treatment.
3. Anonymous Groups
Support groups like Sex Addicts Anonymous (SAA) and Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous (SLAA) provide aid and comfort to those who struggle with compulsive sexual behavior. The Twelve Step program of Alcoholics Anonymous fame can be adapted to lead the afflicted to recovery. However, the effectiveness and rebound rate data are still very limited.
As you may assume, it might be hard to give a definitive nymphomaniac definition. Are you classified as a sex addict, obsessive-compulsive, or just overreacting? Either way, if you feel that your sexual behavior is far beyond what is considered acceptable, you should seek counseling, to begin with.