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Nymphomania-Be-Gone

Nymphomania (and the male counterpart, satyriasis) are no longer official psychological disorders. Arguably, the two above conditions were never really mental health issues in the first place. Rather, the two seemed more like reactions and developments based on culture, morality, and perception. Indeed, even when the two were “official” problems, it was difficult to define what sort of sexual behavior could be considered to fall under them. Most of the definitions of nymphomania stem from a time when study of a woman’s mental health was intrinsically linked to the condition of her genitalia and sexual health. Scientifically speaking, there probably is a correlation, but not in the way it was originally envisioned.

The History Behind It

The psychosis (and the term is used loosely) classification known as nymphomania is categorized by excessive sexual behavior. This was defined during a time when human sexuality was poorly understood and a number of beliefs on “appropriate female behavior” were prevalent. Essentially, during the time that the term was coined and classified as a form of psychosis, women were not supposed to have sexual urges. Women who had mental and emotional stability did not behave in a sexual manner, the definition at the time being a very stringent one. Activities such as flirting were often enough to arouse suspicion, but there are recorded examples of more extreme behavior, such as public masturbation and sexually attacking random men. While women in these reports certainly had some form of mental health disorder, most experts now agree that it was not “nymphomania.”

Subjective Definitions and Diagnosis

Nymphomania has always been the target of subjective definitions. Judging whether or not a woman’s advances and behavior are inappropriate is difficult, mainly because there are countless factors involved. For example, the relative moral climate of the time and place where the assessment is made can play a role. What would have been considered nymphomaniac-like behavior during the late 18th or 19th century could be considered rather typical sexual behavior for today’s generation. Also, individual perceptions can make it impossible to find a consensus on what does and does not fall under the term. What may be seen as lewd and offensive to one observer could be little more than an expression of sexual health and interest for another. This gave nymphomania the distinction of being the only mental health disorder wherein the diagnosis relies entirely on the judgment of the psychologist, and not based on some objective standard.

Removal From the Books

The terms “nymphomania” and “satyriasis” have both been removed from the list of disorders, replaced by the term “hypersexuality.” The term is not quite a direct replacement of the above. In spirit, it covers much the same problem, but the letter of the definitions and descriptions differ. The new term only takes effect when the behavior becomes clinically dangerous, rather than relying on socio-cultural judgments. In other words, there has to be some sort of notable psychiatric effect other than the behavior itself. However, there is still debate on what would have to be considered before someone is diagnosed with having hypersexuality. The term has been accepted, but there is still heated debate on what behavioral signs are to be taken as symptoms of the problem. For the time being, the only consensus is when the behavior becomes disruptive to other activities and psychological processes.

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