Archive for ‘nymphomania’

22 January 2012

Nymphomania or female hypersexuality Part 2

This is Part 2 of an article about hypersexual women. These days, we hear more and more about women with hypersexual disorders. This is a reminder  to be careful in the assessment and not to confuse women who have a strong sex drive from those who suffer from hypersexual disorder. This article give some information on these differences. Sexual desire is fragile and women with strong sexual desire must remain free from random bias.

Kaplan multimodal approach(1)  (1995)
Kaplan described hypersexuality as «dysfunction or a lack of control over the sexual  motivation ». The hypersexual women have sex frequently and they often have several orgasms a day. They have fantasies, sexual thoughts to the point where they can interfere with their functioning at work or in their relationships. They meet with a wide range of stimuli.  This sexual urge  can be felt at any time, even in the absence of a partner or  external stimulus.
People with a sexual hyperactivity disorder consider sex as extremely pleasant and sexual activity provides in itself a betterment of the mood. The presence of their sexual desire is so strong that they will seek to satisfy it. Due to their inability to control their desire and their imperative need, they will find the gratification of their hyper desire without any consideration to their work, family or health. When trying to stop their behavior, they become tense, anxious, and dysphoric.  Hypersexual  can be demanding to their partner which can become, in the long run, a problem in the couple.

The continuum of sexual desire by Kaplan provides an idea of the difference between a hyperactive sexual desire and a high-normal sexual desire.
High-normal sexual desires: sexual needs and sexual fantasies are intense and spontaneous. They manifest a proactive sexual behavior by initiating sexual intercourse. The frequency of sexual intercourse is high.
Hyperactive sexual desire: sexual needs are intense and spontaneous. Fantasies and  sexual behavior is compulsive. There is a high frequency of sexual activity, the impulses sex are inadequate and people live in distress.

The control of sexual motivation

Men and women who have no sexual conflict handle instinctively psychosexual stimuli to prepare for an erotic encounter. A person tends to accentuate the positive aspects of the partner, to idealize him or her when it’s the right person, the right place and at the right time. They put aside thoughts that tends to diminish or kill sexual desire. The lover is anticipating the erotic pleasures that will follow creating a sexual script that enhance and maintain the sexual desire.
On the opposite side, people who struggle with hyposexual disorder would tend to put the emphasis on the negatives aspects of an erotic encounter. Unless there is a clinical disorder, people with a  lack of sexual desire  tend to only see the negative aspects in the other which contributes to prevent an exciting and inviting vision of the partner. The erotic encounter is then perceived as a disadvantage, a threat to the well-being. This psychosomatic vision shows that the mechanisms of sexual desire are sensitive both to biological factors and  psychological stressors.

People who have high sexual desires have a proactive attitude to sexual pleasure. They have sexual activities similar to the hypersexuals in terms of frequency, amount of difficulty to concentrate when the desire is rising  but also in terms of frustration when they cannot find  an outlet to their desire. However, they are able to make the difference when sexual activity is inappropriate or would be to their disadvantage.  She does not live distress to her condition and her spouse neither. The intense sexual life they have tends to be a source of enrichment for their relationship and to their love life.

Sexual addiction according to Carnes (2) (2001)

Sexual addiction is defined as any sexually-related, compulsive behavior that interferes with normal living and causes severe stress on family, friends, loved ones, and one’s work environment.

Sexual addiction has also been called hypersexuality, sexual dependency and sexual compulsivity. By any name, it is a compulsive behavior that completely dominates the addict’s life. Sexual addicts make sex a priority over family, friends, and work. Sex becomes the governing principle of an addict’s life. They are willing to sacrifice what they cherish most in order to preserve and continue their unhealthy behavior.

No single behavior pattern defines sexual addiction. These behaviors can take control of addicts’ lives and become unmanageable.  Common behaviors include, but are not limited to compulsive masturbation, compulsive heterosexual and homosexual relationships, pornography, prostitution, exhibitionism, voyeurism, indecent phone calls, and anonymous sexual encounters. Even the healthiest forms of human sexual expression can turn into self-defeating behaviors.

Carnes reminds us to be careful in the assessment by not mistakenly confuse sexual addiction with hypersexual episodes. Indeed, periods of change can cause a temporary hypersexual episode like: being newly single; the beginning of adulthood, compulsive masturbation in adolescence, periods of intense stress, etc. Some people will engage in compulsive sexual activities during a short period in their life and life their sex life in a more balance way afterwards.

With all the pleasurable sensations involved in sexuality, we can say that it  has an impact on the mood. Some masturbates when they are stressed out, others to help fall asleep, to release tensions, because one wants to be sexual , etc.  Sexual addiction is a way the person uses to escape unpleasant moods, affects or situations.  After some time, sexuality betrays the person, where she once had the appeasement, pleasure and comfort, it leaves shame and guilt. Pain becomes stronger than the expected relief. The addict then consider themselves harshly. They recognize the problem, but they believe that if someone knew who they really were, they would be quickly rejected and abandoned. The fear is legitimate.  To disclose the problem would imply to reveal previous situations they’ve lied about. When the secret identity becomes more important than the public identity, family, friends, colleagues know a false identity. To reveal it can mean losses and social judgment. For the hypersexual, the  relationship is with sex and not with the person and the secret serves as a strong stimulant.

Where are the hypersexual women ?

Ferree (3) (2001) noted that female sexual addiction is not recognized because of several myths about women like:
(a)  Generally, women are not dependent on sex, they lack sexual desire.
(b) Women are emotional or romantic, not sex addict.
This distorted view (romantic and idealized) of women would blind several clinicians to consider the possibility of sexual addiction among female consultants and not to address the issue. However, when women are clinically sex addict, judgments are strict. To deny the reality of hypersexual women is a sexist attitude which does not recognize the despair and the need for help for hypersexuals. many years ago, this double standard was identical with the alcoholic woman and/or drug addict wife. The latter was still considered more depraved than the alcoholic man. In equal conditions, women is found to be judge more severely than men. As mentioned in Coleman(4)  (1988)a man will leave his alcoholic wife more often than a woman will leave her alcoholic husband. Schneider and Schneider(5)  (1991) made the same observation in a relationship where the woman is hypersexual.

According to Carnes(6) (2006) during several years, sexual addiction was seen as a phenomenon typical to male behavior. While there was the same man/woman ratio in drug rehabilitation facilities (3 men /1 woman), the latter notes that in recent years, the number of women in therapy  equals men and sometimes exceeds men in therapy. We are far from the finding made by Kaplan(7) (1995) when she mentioned that out of 2336 women evaluated, only 2 women could be classified as sexually addicted. Fortunately, the new version of the DSM-V expected  in 2013 will include this new diagnosis of hypersexuality. If you want to look at it, here it is: Hypersexual disorder.

This is only a small overview of how hypersexuality is describe by some clinicians in the field of sexual addiction. Several authors present characteristics of hypersexuality that are easy to identify but the most  important warning is to be aware of our own bias as clinicians.

Female sexual addiction is a reality and more women start to seek help. After a few years of active sex addiction, many are unable to develop a committed intimate relationship or they are close to loose a long term one because  of  unstopable infidelities or seductive behaviors.

When women seek help, don’t expect them to disclose the situation right away. They will start by testing whether they can speak up or not. They are very sensitive to shame and judgmental remarks.

The clinician who receives hypersexual women should remember that  seduction and sexual behavior are automatic  mechanisms that won’t go away when she passes through the door. If the attraction is too high, if the clinician begins to fantasize about the client, he-she must recognize it and refer the woman to a colleague before it becomes unhealthy to both.

Breaking  codes of ethic, losing neutrality or victimize the hypersexual women by having sex with her are possible situations that one must be aware of. As a counselor,  seek help if the attraction is too high.

1. Kaplan, Helen S. The sexual desire disorders. New York, 1995, p. 332
2. http://www.sexhelp.com/sex-education/what-is-sex-addiction-faqs
3. Carnes, Patrick. Out of the Shadows: Understanding Sexual Addiction (3rd Ed) Hazelden, 2001, 219 p
4. Ferree, Marnie, C. Female and sex addiction: Myths and diagnostic implications. Sexual addiction and compulsivity. 8287-300. 2001
5. Coleman, Eli. Chemical Dependency and Intimacy Dysfunction. Coleman, Eli Ed NY: The Hawthorn Press, 1988, 268p.
6. Schneider, J., & Schneider, B. Women sex addicts and Their Husbands: Problems and recovery issues. American Journal of Preventive Psychiatry & Neurology, 3, 1-5, 1991.
7. Carnes, Patrick. Women and Sex Addiction. Counselor, The Magazine for Addiction Professionals, June 2006, v.7, n.3, pp.34-39.
8. Kaplan, Helen S. The sexual desire disorders. New York, 1995, p. 332
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13 January 2012

Nymphomania or female hypersexuality Part 1

On October 21, 2011, an article signed Silvia Galipeau in the french cyber magazine Cyberpresse made me react negatively. Femmes avides de porno (Women eager for porn). It shocked me because I realized that hypersexual women do not exist in the media,  they are  invisible. They don’t exist because a woman cannot be hypersexual, she can only be a whore, a B*tch, a mentally ill person or a victim. Victim of a far away past or victim of whomever you want.  Hypersexual women do not seek help? Who would want to ask for help with that in mind?  According to the article, there ain’t really many hypersexual women. Big news, female sexual addict exist, just open your eyes, push your fantasies out of the way and open your mind and your definition of sexual addiction.  Female sex addiction is not better than men sex addiction. Shame, guilt, self-loathing and temporary relief is female hypersexual dynamics.

If men can express with pride their sexual explorations and conquests, a woman knows early in her life that she better  be discreet if she enjoys it a lot.  This article explains the view society had on  women sex life through different periods of time and the way hypersexuality is explain by a few experts.

Nymphomania:  Part 1

Female hypersexuality or nymphomania is a social phenomenon difficult to identify because of double standards attached to women for centuries. Often defined by the rules and standards of an era or religious dictates, it is still difficult today to recognize a woman who lives a real disorder related to sexual obsessions and compulsions from another one with a high sexual drive.

Part 1 of this article is an overview of the various definitions and explanations of female sexual desire and female sexual addiction through time.  It also presents the definition of female sex addiction according to Albert Ellis.

What is important in any work in sex therapy is to understand the client and to be able to propose a model where they can identify themselves and with whom we can  built a therapeutic plan together. A plan that will respect their values, beliefs and their intelligence to act  towards a solution.
The more someone can identify with a model, the lesser the resistance. Sexual desire is fragile. A clear definition of sex addiction is definitely a must. Professionals need a standard definition of sex addiction to assess this growing phenomenon and to protect the public from personalized definitions.

In the Middle Ages, a woman with exaggerated sexual desire was seen as possessed by the devil. If the exorcisms prove ineffective, they would burn her alive. Described by De Bienville D.T. (1) in 1772,

Nymphomania is a real disease of sex, uterine fury, bringing those who were living in the yoke imposing and glorious of decency and to seek from anyone their insatiable desires. Nymphomania is an exaggeration of female sexual desire, an attitudes leading to seduction and provocation that do not conform to the female role as is generally expected in society.

At the time of Queen Victoria (1819-1901), it is clear that no woman considered normal must have felt no desire and no sexual pleasure. More recently, in 1930, Magnus Hirshfeld(2)  described nymphomania as the result of excessive masturbation

Nymphomania develops on the ground of neurasthenia and serious brain disease and mental illness.

Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy,  Albert Ellis(3)  (1962)
According to Ellis, the addiction is:

A substance or activity that seems to be necessary to face conflicts or discomfort. In the case of female sexual addiction, it is easy to confuse a woman for whom sex takes a prominent place in its activities. It is in the cause and effect that we can distinguish the two. A woman may have several lovers, correctly select them and be able to control carefully the times when she will live her sexuality. Her sexuality is experienced in a balanced mode, it is a pleasure of life and if she were a man, she would be judged as normal or lucky.

Nymphomania is defined by four characteristics:
1)    Loss of control: The nymphomaniac desires are uncontrollable; she refuses to live according to a rational mode where sexuality is sought and lived in a sensible pattern. When desire takes hold her, she must quickly satisfy them, without regard for the consequences: job loss, loss friendships, broken family ties, etc.
2)    The constant need: An insatiable desire. Repeat the experience of orgasm. Even when it is experienced many times, she remains unsatisfied. The need to repeat the experience when tensions reappear.
3)    The compulsivity: The woman is driven to action or to seek to have relationships in spite of her desire to stop. Even when the compulsion leads to the act, she remains unsatisfied for reasons that remain obscure even to her. There is an absence of choice.
4)    Self-contempt: Because women’s sexuality has long been stigmatized in Western society, the nymphomaniac is judge severely by those around her. As a result, she is judging her conduct harshly.
The nymphomaniac seeks to escape the anxieties generate by her sexual activities not only because they are disturbing or demonstrate a serious emotional problem but because they lead her to feel even more self-contempt. She is caught in a vicious circle in which her conduct deeply affect her and lead her to denigrate  even herself more. These tensions again led her to seek sex. It may result that the judgment  she holds against herself becomes more important than the original sexual disorder.

Because of the double standard that characterize women’s sexuality, a significant number of them can feel troubled to seek sexual activity with a higher frequency then other women around or she might be label as such when her libido is higher than her partners. Being led to believe she is hypersexual when she is not. What characterizes the nymphomaniac is compulsion and self-loathing.

Still according to Ellis(4) (1992), a sexual addiction disorder starts in irrational ideas that are maintained by the people. Thoughts creates emotions which in turn causes the action. In transforming the beliefs that contribute to the addictive act, the person is given the power to move away from its destructive pattern. Once they removed the irrational thoughts, they can work on problems more efficiently.

The client learns to put into perspective the benefits and losses associated with his irrational beliefs and disruptive behaviors and the losses and gains associated with change. REBT promotes long-term autonomy for patients actively involved in their therapy because the gains are transferable to all other areas of life.

Part2 will continue with the definitions of  nymphomania according to Helen Singer Kaplan and finally according to Patrick Carnes.
  1. De Bienville, D.T. La nymphomanie ou traité de fureur utérine. 1772
  2. Gellman, Charles & Gellman, Josette. Les thérapies sexuelles. Les éditions ESF, Paris, 1983, 130 p.
  3. Ellis, Albert. Sagarin Edward, Nymphomania, a study of oversexed women. New-York, 1962.
  4. Ellis, Albert. Harper, R.A. L’approche émotivo-rationnelle. Edition de l’homme, 1992.
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