What Is Nymphomania?

An Overview of Hypersexuality Disorder

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Nymphomania is an outdated term previously used to describe excessive sexual desire in assigned females. Today, healthcare providers refer to hypersexual behavior as hypersexuality disorder, compulsive sexual behavior, or sex addiction.

This article discusses the meaning of nymphomania. It also covers characteristics, causes, and treatment for nymphomania, or hypersexuality.

What Does Satyromaniac Mean?

Satyromaniac is essentially nymphomania for assigned males. Both terms aren't used anymore.

Person's legs crossed while laying on a bed

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Nymphomania Meaning

Nymphomania is a term dating back to the 19th century. Then, society considered assigned females with insatiable sexual desires to be delinquent, and physicians viewed nymphomania as a medical condition.

Over time, research on sexual behavior has led to changes in the language used to describe hypersexual behavior to terms like hypersexuality disorder, compulsive sexual behavior, and sex addiction.

Still, hypersexuality disorder, or compulsive sexual behavior, is not recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). Identifying, treating, and researching hypersexual behavior can be challenging without a formalized list of symptoms and criteria.

Some healthcare providers see hypersexual behavior as a compulsive or impulse control issue, while others approach it like an addiction.

Characteristics

Generally, compulsive sexual behavior is characterized by excessive sexual fantasies, urges, and behaviors, as well as the impulse to act on them with consenting individuals.

Characteristics include:

  • Intrusive and repetitive thoughts or desires
  • Difficulty reducing or stopping behaviors
  • Engaging in fantasies, urges, or behaviors as a means of escaping or coping with challenging emotions or stressful situations
  • Multiple sexual partners 
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Guilt and shame 
  • Continued engagement in behaviors without regard for harm to self or others
  • Preoccupation with or spending excessive amounts of time thinking about or having sexual encounters

These characteristics are often disruptive and can significantly affect a person’s overall quality of life.

Other complications can include the risk of sexually transmitted infections and diminished social support. In some cases, a person may experience suicidal thoughts.

Help Is Available

If you are having suicidal thoughts, contact the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988 for support and assistance from a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911.

Nymphomania Causes

There is no clear cause for nymphomania or compulsive sexual behavior. Every individual case is unique. However, research has shed some light on factors that may contribute to hypersexual behavior, including:

  • Stressful life events
  • Trauma, including sexual abuse
  • Imbalance in brain chemicals, called neurotransmitters
  • Environmental triggers
  • Neurological conditions and medications used to treat them, such as Parkinson’s disease

Some research implicates traits such as poor judgment, impulsivity, and preoccupation with or engagement in excessive sexual fantasies, urges, or behaviors.

Additionally, hypersexual behavior may occur alongside symptoms of mental health conditions. For instance, an individual may become hypersexual and have risky sexual encounters during a manic episode of bipolar disorder.

Identifying Nymphomania

Healthcare providers can get a sense of an individual's concerns by discussing their past and present experiences with:

  • Sexual urges
  • Fantasies
  • Sexual behaviors
  • The impact and consequences of those behaviors

They will also review a person's medical history to rule out other conditions that may contribute to sexual behavior, as well as psychological, and family history.

Healthcare providers can also use instruments such as the Hypersexual Disorder Screening Inventory to assess hypersexual behavior.

While hypersexual behavior is more prevalent in assigned males, assigned females can struggle with this as well.

Treatment

Treatment for hypersexual behavior can involve a variety of methods.

  • Psychoeducation can be beneficial for teaching individuals about hypersexuality and reducing the shame and stigma around it. When individuals can have open conversations in a safe and non-judgmental setting, they can explore healthy and unhealthy behaviors with a mental health professional.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a method that may be used to treat compulsive sexual behavior. Therapists work with individuals to identify triggers, thinking patterns related to themselves and their behavior, coping skills, and lifestyle changes to support healthy behaviors.
  • A healthcare provider may prescribe medication to treat mental health symptoms or conditions related to compulsive sexual behavior. For instance, a psychiatrist may prescribe anti-anxiety medication or antidepressants to treat anxiety and depression.

A thorough assessment with a healthcare provider can help identify symptoms that may require treatment and determine the best medication regimen, if needed. 

Couples and Family Therapy

Couples or family therapy can supplement individual therapy. In these forms of treatment, individuals learn tools to enhance communication, improve relationships, and discuss and deepen intimacy. 

Coping

Using strategies to enhance well-being are essential to day-to-day life and recovery. Ways to cope with hypersexual behavior through self-care can include:

  • Establishing and maintaining a self-care routine that supports daily functioning 
  • Getting regular sleep
  • Eating well-balanced meals
  • Connecting with a support network
  • Being open and honest about thoughts, emotions, and behaviors
  • Seeking professional help
  • Being consistent with treatment
  • Being aware of triggers 
  • Attending support groups

If You're Struggling

If you or a loved one are struggling with hypersexual behavior, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.

If you are having suicidal thoughts, dial 988 to contact the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline and connect with a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

Summary

Nymphomania is a term that was previously used to describe hypersexual behavior in assigned females. It is now known as hypersexuality disorder, compulsive sexual behavior, or sex addiction. These conditions can affect anyone.

Hypersexual behavior can be treated with therapy, personal coping strategies, and, in some cases, medication.

A Word From Verywell

Feelings of guilt, shame, anxiety, and depression may arise due to hypersexual urges and behavior. Ultimately, no one dealing with compulsive sexual behavior is alone. Being honest about your experiences and seeking professional support can help you cope with your desires and behavior.

6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Fifth Edition. American Psychiatric Association; 2013.

  3. Mujawar S, Chaudhury S, Saldanha D, Jafar AK. Nymphomania associated with childhood sexual abuse: a case report. Journal of Psychosexual Health. 2021;3(2):187-190. doi:10.1177/26318318211013615

  4. Klein V, Kaplan MS. CSBD in Women. In: Compulsive Sexual Behavior Disorder: Understanding, Assessment, and Treatment. Balon R, Briken, eds. American Psychiatric Association Publishing; 2021.

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By Geralyn Dexter, LMHC
Geralyn is passionate about empathetic and evidence-based counseling and developing wellness-related content that empowers and equips others to live authentically and healthily.