What is a Nymphomaniac?

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If you’re a woman who has sex, frequently masturbates, and enjoys porn (like many women do), are you a nymphomaniac? No! But in the Victorian era? Yes! How can this be? Also, what is a nymphomaniac?

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First off, the word “nympho” comes from the Ancient Greek “nymph”, which described “deities represented as beautiful maidens”. It’s the modern Greek word for "bride" and is informally used in English to describe a beautiful, flirty, and promiscuous young woman.

What does nymphomaniac actually mean?

Put simply, a nymphomaniac is a woman with an excessively high sex drive. Though used in the Victorian era to describe women who were medically addicted to sex, the term is now mostly used without any medical knowledge at all, and to condemn women for being “too” sexually active. For having, for example, casual sex.

Due to books, TV, and movies (and porn), nymphos have become iconic, exciting, and taboo. They’re often portrayed in fiction as a hetero male fantasy. But what’s this obsession all about?

Well, when you think about it, what’s more thrilling, or threatening, than a woman who wants sex and goes out and gets it?

What is nymphomania?

Nymphomania is the medical condition of excessively wanting and pursuing sex. It’s the condition that nymphos supposedly suffer from. And, supposedly, it was a fairly common disorder in the 18th and 19th centuries. It was thought to be a disease; a form of madness that, left untreated, could result in death.

Nymphomania isn’t a recognized illness anymore (thanks to scientific progress and female sexual liberation). It’s now called hypersexuality, or sex addiction, and is used to diagnose anyone (of any gender) who has a real compulsive, obsessive addiction to sex.

Woman in lingerie leaning against a window looking out

The male equivalent of this disease is “satyriasis”. Not heard of it? There’s a reason for that!

Nymphomania: Sex addiction or sexual freedom?

In the 18th and 19th centuries, medical professionals and the general public thought strong sexual desire in women was a symptom of disease. They claimed certain activities led to nymphomania, including reading novels, masturbating, and eating too much chocolate!

Women diagnosed with this condition would be sent to hospitals and asylums for treatment. But there was rarely, if ever, anything wrong with them. To be labeled a nympho, a woman would only need to reject the demure, chaste, and marriage-oriented Victorian idea of womanhood.

So, what is a nymphomaniac? A sex addict, or a woman with normal sexual appetites?

Why has no one heard of satyriasis?

Say hello (again) to the sexual double standard!

No one’s heard of satyriasis because no one cares about men’s’ sex lives. This means women are punished for promiscuity while men aren’t. It also means that the idea of an extremely sexual woman is more novel and exciting than that of an extremely sexual man.

So, is nymphomania actually a real thing?

Yes, it’s possible for a woman to be addicted to sex. But the term has been so historically misused - to falsely diagnose women and punish them for not being chaste - that it’s become outdated and meaningless.

Couple in underwear embracing by a window at home

That’s why we see films and lots of erotic fiction and nympho women, but none about their male counterparts!

Hypersexuality or sex addiction are the correct terms for someone suffering from an excessive sex drive. But medical and psychiatric knowledge has also improved, so a hypersexual diagnosis does not come from just wanting a lot of sex. That’s right: A nymphomania symptom is not just wanting a lot of sex.

It is an obsessive and dysfunctional need for sex and fixation with sexual fantasy.

Although there is debate around whether hypersexuality is a compulsive disorder in the same way that other addictions are, it is a recognized condition that many people seek help for.

Hypersexuality and sex addiction

And although there are no exact and recent figures on how many people suffer from hypersexuality, previous research suggests around 8% of men and 3% of women have it.

What’s the difference between enjoying sex and being addicted to it?

Like other obsessive-compulsive disorders, someone is hypersexual if their obsession with sex negatively impacts the rest of their life. For example, it interferes with personal relationships, work, and mental health.

Woman sitting on the floor looking sad and depressed

A hypersexual person doesn’t get pleasure from sex. They do it and think about it because they can’t not. Has someone called you a nympho because you love sex? Read them this list of symptoms!

And tell them they’re jealous. Because they probably are.

Nymphomania symptoms

Symptoms of nymphomania, or rather, hypersexuality, include:

  • Repeated, uncontrollable, compulsive behavior
  • Repeated, unwanted, obsessive thoughts
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Desire for sex and having sex negatively impacts the rest of your life
  • Feelings of inadequacy, shame, and guilt about sex

Nymphomania treatments

Hypersexuality can be treated like other compulsive disorders - with various kinds of therapy or appropriate medication. If someone has nymphomania symptoms, visiting a doctor will help them get the best possible treatment.

What is a nymphomaniac: Reality or fantasy?

Nymphomania is a tricky topic because it’s so misunderstood. The next time you hear someone called a nympho, think: Are they compulsively addicted to sex, or enjoying sex in a way that makes someone else comfortable? Are they enjoying the sex they're having, or is it negatively affecting their wellbeing?

Sensual woman leaning back on a bed

When it comes to issues around sex, what's important is that we start talking!