When someone tells you that you are a sex addict, they mean that you have seven or more sex releases in a week on average over a long duration of time. By sex release, I mean orgasms which can be with a partner or through masturbation. Multiple partners are the order of the day in sex addiction since one partner may not cope with the high demands of a sex addict. These thoughts crossed my mind as Norah narrated to me the case of her husband, Jared.
“He is spending all his money chasing after women,” she lamented, “I have learnt over time that he has at least three active sex partners at any given time, I have given up on helping him; I need a divorce.”
Norah was 35 and a trained accountant but opted to run a salon business for a living. Her husband Jared was 40 and a communications consultant. The couple had been married for seven years and had two children. In those seven years, there had been drama after another concerning Jared’s sexual escapades: three women had sued him for support. DNA proved that he was the father of the children and the courts ordered him to pay for child support; a neighbour threatened to kill him for dating his wife; his wife caught him having sex with a housemaid, and she also caught him watching porn on his phone several times.
“He masturbates quite often too, and I have caught him in the act twice,” Norah explained.
The mind of a sex addict is preoccupied with sexual thoughts to the extent that it interferes with their daily work and relationships. They look for any opportunity to have a release: masturbation, pornography, extramarital affairs. They feel guilty about it but they are unable to stop. They are remorseful when caught and promise to stop only to relapse.
“What worries me of late is that he has days when he is very low and does not want to leave the house,” Norah said, “about a month ago he locked himself in the house for three days and refused to eat, his mood was bad, and he was quite irritable, I kept off to avoid crossing his path,” she continued.
“Oh, so he has a trend of low and high moods?” I asked to which Norah nodded, “We could we be dealing with a case of bipolar?” I thought aloud trying to fathom what Jared’s problem was. I asked Norah to ask him to come to the clinic before she sought divorce.
Jared was in the clinic the next day. He came alone.
“When Norah threatened to divorce me I got scared,” he said, “if there is anything you can do to help I will appreciate it,” he pleaded.
I had a long chat with Jared, did a full psychological and physical assessment, and ordered tests. My conclusion was that Jared had a bipolar mood disorder. Sex addiction-like behaviour is one of the diagnostic criteria for bipolar mood disorder. In addition to hypersexuality, people with bipolar disorder have extra-happy times when they are elated. In such times they have a lot of energy and drive and do not even want to sleep with the usual people; further, they are happy-go-lucky but also get irritated easily. They talk too much and too fast; have unrealistic ambitions; have poor concentration and can be paranoid. This is the manic phase of the disease. It is in this phase of the disease that they go all out chasing after sex. They easily get sexual stimulation and reach climax and the more they orgasm the more sex they want.
The high times in bipolar alternate with normal times when the person has normal moods and behaviour. A phase of depressed mood may follow immediately or after some time. In the depression phase, they are sad, suffer a lack of energy, and are disinterested and hopeless. Some people may cry easily in this stage. The interest in sex goes and suicidal thoughts may occur.
“Actually, doctor I do not have sex with the women because I love them,” Jared narrates, “I feel bad about it but do it again and again, it is like some power takes control of my body and mind.”
And yes, the sickness in bipolar disorder takes over a person’s brain, more like autopilot. It is traumatising because it can make you do things that you do not really want to do yet you feel helpless and do them again and again.
“Can you tell my wife that?” Jared said beaming with enthusiasm, “Please do and save my family, I do not want to lose her.”
I put Jared on medication for bipolar mood disorder. At the same time, I started the couple on therapy to help them heal from the drama of seven years. It was yet another reminder of the many families that could be breaking up due to undiagnosed bipolar disorder which affects over 30,000 Kenyans at any given time, the majority not diagnosed.