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The term nymphomania is a hard one to define simply because of the symptoms or causes of nymphomania. Based on the characteristics that will be mentioned later, defining nymphomania is a hard task.
History of Nymphomania
According to an article by J. Bancroft, the term “nymphomania” only applies to women because it comes from the Greek term “nymphs” which are “minor deities that are represented as beautiful maidens” (Bancroft, 2008).
In 1841 a 29 year-old farmer’s daughter was diagnosed with nymphomania. According to the book
Nymphomania: A History
by Carol Groneman, the woman diagnosed with nymphomania, who was referred to as Mrs. T, uttered obscenities and mover her body in ways that were suggestive. When she went to see a doctor he discovered that her uterus was enlarged, her vagina was abundantly moist, but the biggest sign that was something was “abnormal” was her long and tumid clitoris. From of all these things the doctor recognized that she had a disease that was in some way related to her genitals. In the book it said that it was believed back in these times that women’s reproductive organs were responsible for both physical and mental diseases.
The doctors came up with a theory that could explain why she was having such a physical reaction to a disease; this theory was called the reflection action theory and this theory suggested that a disease in the genitals caused a sympathetic response in other organs of the body.
Woman who experienced this type of body response were often placed in asylums.
While in the asylum these women acted in ways that were terrifying for people who were involved; there were “indecent attacks on asylum attendants, lewd and obscene language and violent tearing off of clothes along with incessant, public masturbation” (Groneman, 2000). For women not put in asylums the way they acted was referred to as unladylike. From the way the women in the asylum acted and the way women who expressed concern about their sexual desired that were not in asylums doctors were able to make a connection between the two. Because of these two things, nymphomania is made up of very diverse behaviors. It can range from anything as seductive glances all the way to sexually attacking men.
Characteristics/Causes of Nymphomania
One way nymphomania was recognized was by a “sexual madness which showed an excessive sexual appetite.” According to the book things that could cause nymphomania could include nerves, a brain inflammation, spinal lesions, misshapen head and irritated genitals, as well as an enlarged clitoris. In addition to the physical causes/aspects of nymphomania the book also said that women who are considered nymphomaniacs have a lack of moral restraint and they also have no willpower.
According to the American Psychiatric Association other symptoms of nymphomania include recurrent and intense sexual fantasies, sexual urges and sexual behavior that is associated with at least four of the following five characteristics: “excessive time is consumed by sexual fantasies and urges along with planning to engage in sexual behaviors, repetitively engaging in sexual fantasies, urges and behavior, participate in sexual activity in response to stressful life events, there is an unsuccessful effort to control sexual urges, and engaging in sexual behavior while disregarding the physical and emotional risks.”
In addition to those risks, an article on wrongdiagnosis.com says that compulsive masturbation, promiscuous sexual activity, out of control behavior, personality change, anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, substance abuse alcoholism, repeated, unsuccessful relationships, and an obsession with sexual gratification are all symptoms/characteristics of nymphomania.
This article also said the exact cause of nymphomania is unknown, but it is proposed that certain brain chemicals and sex hormones affect the compulsive sex desire. In another article on by Richard Krueger and Mag Kaplan, term nymphomania is described as having a high sex drive. “For the nymphomaniac, sexual activity is an insatiable need that often interferes with everyday activities” (Krueger & Kaplan, 2010). The article also says that sex that is needed however is often, if not just about always, impersonal with no intimacy and despite reaching an orgasm the sex is often not satisfying.
In a magazine article entitled
Do Nymphos Really Exist
by Paul Gillette he says that sexologist see the women are nymphomaniacs as confused and deeply neurotic. “They will make life for any man unbearable because they cannot achieve sexual gratification and they are equally incapable of satisfying a man” (Gillette, 1972).
According to this magazine article nymphomania became well known in the 19th century and women were considered sick because of their abnormal sex drive which was different from the women who were not “sick.” This was the only article to offer any type of definition for “abnormal sex drive” which, according to Gillette, it means wanting to have sex more frequently than once every 24 hours. A woman has this characteristic along with having a higher sex drive than their partner and/or wanting a variety of partners would be considered a nymphomaniac. A woman having these characteristics is odd, especially in earlier times, because women are not supposed to enjoy sex according to Gillette.
Despite the article saying that having a higher sex drive than most women is a characteristic of having nymphomania, scientists agree now that there is no “right or proper level of sexual drive.” It is when a woman starts behaving in ways that are against her own interest that may be cause to think the woman could be diagnosed as having nymphomania.
Treatment for Nymphomania
In older times treatment for nymphomania included homeopathy, hypnosis, hydrotherapy, and folk remedies as well as taking sedatives. Nowadays treatment includes therapy, attending self-help group meetings and anti-depressant medications.
As mentioned above defining what the right level of sex drive is hard to do, which is why nymphomania is so hard to talk about. Without really knowing how to define it, it is almost impossible to talk about it simply because there is no way to be sure what is being discussed is even really nymphomania. According to the American Psychiatric Association a famous sex researcher once described a nymphomaniac as “women who have more sex than you.” In that article it also says that there is no way to determine how much sexual activity is too much so the word “nymphomania” is useless in the medical world. Because of this, researchers and doctors had to come up with what they believe to be characteristics of “hypersexuality” which is what many doctors and researchers think of when they think of nymphomania. It is hard to diagnose someone with nymphomania and even harder to treat because of all the complexities this sexual behavior entails.
Bancroft, J.. "Sexual Behavior that is "Out of Control": a Theoretical Conceptual Approach."
Psychiatric Clinics of North America
31.4 (2008): 593-601.
. Web. 1 Apr. 2011.
Gillette, Paul. "Do Nymphomaniacs Really Exist."
Jan. 1972: 9-12.
Modern Mechanix: Yesterday's, Tomorrow, Today
. Web. 1 Apr. 2011.
Groneman, Carol. "Nymphomania in the Body."
Nymphomania: A history
. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 2000. 2-10. Print.
| APA DSM-5
. N.p., 14 Oct. 2010. Web. 1 Apr. 2011. <
Krueger, Richard, and Meg Kaplan. "Diagnosis, assessment, and treatment of hypersexuality."
Journal of Sex Research
47.2-3 (2010): 181-198.
Richard B. Krueger, M.D. Meg S. Kaplan, Ph.D. Publications
. Web. 1 Apr. 2011.
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