Hypersexuality is the state of having constant sexual desires and engaging in frequent sexual activity. This mindset and behavior can develop to the point of interference with daily life, with some medical professionals consider it an addiction. Historically, hypersexual behavior has been referred to as nymphomania and was first recognized in the 1800s. Its exact causes have yet to be determined by modern science. The development of hypersexual activity in individuals has been linked to a number of preexisting medical conditions and medications.
Determining the cause of hypersexuality is complicated by the lack of consensus on whether it is a disorder and how the disorder should be classified. Several theories have been devised to classify and treat hypersexual behavior. These include addiction, compulsivity, and impulsivity theories. Some psychiatrists do not consider hypersexuality to be a disorder and believe that the problem reflects a conflict between an individual's mental and biological state and the societal norms imposed on him or her. They believe that a hypersexual state is a biological occurrence but not a biological problem and that such behavior is natural to humans.
Hypersexual behavior goes beyond what most would consider a healthy, biologically driven sex drive. The hypersexual individual begins to focus most of his or her concentration on sexual pursuits. These sexual pursuits range from an increase in masturbation, regardless of place, time, or surroundings, to pursuing multiple sexual partners simultaneously to fulfill one's need for sexual satisfaction. The key feature of hypersexuality is the lack of attention or care for nearly all other activities. As sexual pursuits begin to take hold of the person's life, former priorities, such as family and friends, are forgotten or pushed aside.
Some sexologists view hypersexuality as an addiction akin to alcoholism, labeling it sexual addiction. A conclusion as to the validity of this classification has yet to be reached. Those who believe it to be an addiction consider it a disorder that results from psychological factors. Proponents believe that individuals with hypersexual disorders seek out multiple sexual partners to fulfill what they believe is a necessary task — sex.
Other experts attribute hypersexuality to obsessive compulsive disorder. Repetitive and frequent sexual behavior is viewed as a coping mechanism for anxiety. These experts believe that hypersexual individuals are obsessed with the idea of sex. It permeates their thoughts at every moment of the day and develops into a compulsion that demands satisfaction through sexual behavior. Sex is either a simple need or a way to cope with the anxiety that accompanies the obsession.
Hypersexuality has also been described as an impulse control disorder, in which the impulse to have sex cannot be consciously resisted. Impulsive outbursts are characterized by favoring the immediate and brief satisfaction of fulfilling the activity over the benefits of not refraining, which are not immediately realized. Some psychiatrists claim that these urges can be actively resisted with a considerable amount of effort.