Thursday, October 3, 2013

Satyriasis: The Disease with the Legendary Past

Introduction and Objectives: To present the past of a diachronically present disease, known as satyriasis in antiquity and hyper-sexuality (in males) or nymphomania (in females) in our days, having as main feature its excessive and uncontrollable sexual desire and behavior.
Materials and Methods: The review of the Greek mythology regarding the Satyrs and the investigation in art and literature (classical Greek comedy), as well as the textual evidence in medical literature of antiquity and early Byzantine compilers.
Results: The Satyrs’ physical appearance, as illustrated in vase-painting is as half man half goat and having perpetual erections. They accompanied the god Dionysus in his orgiastic activities, playing the role of small local deities in the more distant areas of the country, before their entrance to the Attic theater, where they gave their name to the satiric drama. Their prolonged ithyphallic state was identified with the disease of Satyriasis, first described in the work of the physician Aretaeus of Cappadocia (2nd c. AD), who supports that the sufferers cannot satisfy their sexual permanent desire, even after multiple and intense intercourses, showing behavioral problems and psychic disturbances. Soranus of Ephesus (2nd c. AD) adds his experience that Satyriasis can also happen to women. Additionally, Galen of Peramum (2nd c AD), is discriminating Satyriasis from Priapism based on the existence or lack of desire for the latter. These ideas survived through the great early Byzantine (4th-7th c.) medical compilations. Contemporary Psychologists and Sexologists attribute the excessive sexuality to extreme narcissism, addiction, psycho-somatic causes (parallel headaches) or biological roots, such as bipolar disease.

Conclusion: In antiquity, the insatiable appetite for sex was attributed to legendary admirable creatures. Reality is different, as sufferers consider it a source of shame preventing them living a life free of passions.

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