In psychiatry, we do a mental state examination that is quite like a physical examination. In it, one of the questions we ask of every patient is- How is your sexual appetite? In many parts of the world this question can be considered offensive especially when asked by the member of the opposite sex. But in the western world, people can talk freely about it. So in psychiatry, one has to be respectful of the culture one is working in.
The importance of this question is that sexual drive determines the mental health of a person. In most psychiatric conditions, the drive is reduced. This happens in depression and anxiety conditions including post-traumatic stress disorder. In certain conditions like mania, it increases. In a person who is not manic, but has an unhealthy, elevated sexual drive, it is considered to be a sign of an addiction. An addiction has the quality of being compulsive and it is in excess to the norm. This excess starts damaging the person’s financial, social and personal condition. In such situations, it is a sign of ill-health.
In my experience, sex drive is the indicator of the physical and mental tension a person carries. When the tension increases to the extent that the body and the nervous system start getting tired, the drive reduces. If the tension is reduced, the drive comes back. In my experience, this happens typically in people who suffer with depression. Depression, is suppressed anger. When a depressed person, having low sex drive, starts releasing anger, the nervous system experiences a release and the sex drive or libido is increased as a result.
Excessive sexual drive is the result of excessive tension or stress being produced in the body. The fact that regular physical exercise produces a healthy sex drive is a clinically known fact. When the tension is increased in the body, as happens in anger and following physical exercise, there is an upsurge in sex hormones. At that stage, the drive can become excessive. Despite having regular sexual partners, such people will feel the need to masturbate frequently to reduce their nervous tension. Such people are usually normal individuals except that they are torn inside with guilt about masturbation. If such people were to do nothing about their ‘sex addiction’, they would end up being depressed. This is because the body has a limit to tolerate tension. When the limit is reached,the nervous system becomes fatigued and features of depression kick in.
In medical practice, medicines can be prescribed to control the excessive sexual drive. In my work, I have used meditation and imagery exercises to help the patients reduce their anger. The reduction in their sexual drive is a natural spontaneous follow up.
Many years ago, there was an earthquake in the region of California. In the studies done at that time, scientists were perplexed to learn that immediately after the earthquake, the survivors reported a surge in their sexual drives. The reason for this, as I understand is this. Sex is an activity that is gift from nature to the animal world to continue with the progeny. During times of danger, the survival of the species or individual is threatened. This causes an anger drive that is necessary to undo the effects of the danger. Testosterone is a typical male hormone that increases muscle tension and produces energy in the body. Its secretion is increased at such times too. In order for the progeny to continue, reproductive activity has to take place. So there is a consequent increase in sexual drive.
On the other hand, what would happen, if the anger tension is considerably reduced in the body? In all kinds of spiritual literature, there is emphasis on celibacy. Some religions enforce it on their followers. This is so because if you meditate regularly, the body’s physical and mental needs reduce considerably. There is also a reduction in anger levels and in the body’s tension. The sexual drive reduces as a result. In such cases, reduction in sexual drive is a sign of better mental health rather than the sign of mental illness. In spiritual literatures, sex is considered a weakness not because it provides pleasure, but because it is a sign of tension. Spiritual practices, like meditation, reduce this tension. Engaging in sex is a ‘weakness’ from anger/tension perspective in spirituality. It has nothing to do with denial of pleasure.