Reviewed by Whitney White, MS CMHC, NCC., LPC
Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder is a mental health condition that causes major symptoms such as impulsive behavior, inattention, and hyperactivity. The condition can have substantial effects on adult life. For instance, someone with ADHD may struggle with a poor self-image and maintain a proper job or relationship.
ADHD can affect your sex life in many ways. ADHD can have a substantial effect on the emotional and sexual lives of couples. It is common to see a partner with the condition among couples undergoing treatment. Those living with ADHD might be aware of hypersensitivity to sensory stimulation, causing sensual touch to feel irking or even upsetting. Sometimes, you might experience remarkably varying levels of sexual desire from one day to another. Individuals with ADHD are more prone to depression, leading to reduced desire and sexual dysfunction.
On the other hand, some people with ADHD may have a significantly high sex drive and crave stimulation and novelty like pornography, leading to their relationship issues. Those with ADHD may also be more likely to indulge in risky sexual behaviors like having multiple sex partners or unprotected sex. The mental health condition is related to reducing neurotransmitters, which may cause these forms of impulsive behaviors.
Sometimes, it could be another factor. Some of the sex and relationship issues faced by adults with ADHD often occur due to enduring excessive criticism as ADHD children. A parent may try their best to show empathy. Still, when everyone else is in a rush to arrive in time for an important family event – all but one child is completely lost in front of the TV, totally oblivious of what is happening around them – there may be some yelling. Most of such kids are naturally tough. They manage the constant criticism by simply blocking it out. However, this may cause issues later in adult relationships, as that may be their coping mechanism.
The Effects Of ADHD On Sexuality
It is often hard to determine the implication of ADHD on sexuality since sexual symptoms often vary from one person to another. Some sexual symptoms can cause sexual dysfunction and lead to remarkable stress in a relationship. Knowing the effects of ADHD on sexuality can help partners handle relationship stress.
Some of the common ADHD symptoms include emotional instability, depression, and anxiety. All these conditions have negative consequences on sex drive. For example, someone with ADHD may find it stressful to stay orderly and organized. They may not have the drive or energy for sexual activities.
Healthy relationships and good sex are only possible for partners who are confident and emotionally present. However, confidence may dwindle from years of experiencing stigma and other challenges of ADHD. Adults with ADHD may find it hard to sustain professional and personal stability and may appear distracted, forgetful, and inattentive to people close to them. Romantic partners may have to handle all the house tasks because they can rely on their partner with ADHD.
These frustrations associated with ADHD can manifest in different forms of sexual behavior. If someone with ADHD is dealing with sexual symptoms, they may fall into the classifications. According to the American Psychiatric Association guidelines, it is necessary to note that sexual symptoms are not part of the recognized diagnostic criteria for ADHD.
Hypersexuality And ADHD
Hypersexuality means a strangely high sex drive. Sexual stimulation increases endorphin production and releases neurotransmitters in the brain, which tend to calm the person. When someone living with ADHD discovers any activity that stops their restlessness and induces calmness, they often tend to engage in it to an extreme level.
However, promiscuity, problematic pornography, and constant need for sex can lead to relationships. It is necessary to note that promiscuity or pornography does not always mean someone has ADHD. Due to troubles with impulse control, people with ADHD may engage in risky sexual behaviors or substance abuse, which could further impair their decision-making ability.
Hyposexuality And ADHD
Hyposexuality is on the other end of the spectrum. The person loses their sex drive, as well as any interest in sexual activity. This may be caused by the disorder itself or a side effect of medication, especially antidepressants, which mental health professionals often prescribe for people with ADHD. If you think medication could be causing sexual disorder – they may replace the drug or reduce the dosage.
People experiencing hyposexuality may be too distracted to engage in sexual activities. Sex is not different from other tasks that cause issues for someone living with ADHD. They may struggle to concentrate during sex, lose interest in the activity, or get distracted.
Hypersensitivity And ADHD
Some people with ADHD have a high sensitivity to physical sensations, making typically enjoyable sensual activities unpleasant or even painful. Touch is not the only sensation that may be a problem. Smell and taste that usually accompany intercourse can become more pronounced, causing the person with ADHD to become overwhelmed, distracted, and unable to enjoy the process.
People experience ADHD in different ways, but women tend to experience extra hassle when relaxing or concentrating enough to reach orgasm. While some women can reach climax easily and regularly, many need to feel completely relaxed to get there, making things harder for those with ADHD. Some women report being able to climax multiple times and struggle to get an orgasm, despite prolonged stimulation.
Overcoming Sexual Challenges Of ADHD
If you are a partner to someone living with ADHD, you may discover that your partner gets distracted easily during intercourse, and their focus and interest drifts easily, which you might take as rejection. It is crucial to note that ADHD causes trouble with a concentration in different life aspects, and sex is usually not exempted – it is usually unrelated to the person's interest in their partner. Also, the heightened feelings experienced by someone with ADHD, such as frustration and anger, can cause conflict in any romantic relationship, and the conflict can affect sexual connection as well.
Most importantly, patients need to use their ADHD medications according to prescription, and fortunately, many of these meds do not reduce sex drive or desire. In fact, since they boost your ability to concentrate, they may benefit your sexual life. However, SSRI antidepressants are often provided for depression and anxiety, which is common among people with ADHD and can lower one's sex drive.
There are certain techniques and coping methods for people with ADHD to improve their sex life and relationships:
Even when ADHD is not involved, sex is better when partners understand how to please each other. Do not be afraid to discuss the implications of the condition of intimacy and sexual expression. If your ADHD is the cause of sexual issues, inform your partner that the distraction or behavior caused by ADHD is not their fault and not an indication of a lack of desire or attraction.
If your partner has ADHD, pay attention to their needs, and try not to judge. Inform your partner of your needs. For instance, keep the lights off and avoid using strong perfumes, lotions, or scented candles if your partner is highly sensitive to light or scent. Set up the environment in a comfortable way. If you do not like a certain position or form of sex, let your partner know what you prefer.
Talking about any sexual issues ahead of time and letting your partner know what to do can help avoid confusion and hurt feelings. Be open to seeking the assistance of a qualified sex therapist or mental health professional. Many couples dealing with ADHD will find couples counseling and sex therapy remarkably beneficial for their sex lives. It helps open communications and clarify arguments and confusion, encouraging better intimacy and, consequently, a more fulfilling sex life.
Spice Things Up
Often, the best method to optimize your sexual life is to remove monotony and spice things up. If you are struggling to focus in the bedroom, talk to your partner about ways to make sex more interesting. Try new locations, positions, and techniques to reduce boredom during sex. Incorporate new things, but be sure that your partner is comfortable with the suggestions.
Try to pay attention to. Eliminate distractions and practice calming exercises with your partners, such as meditation or yoga. Create time for sex and stay committed to it. Prioritizing sex can help ensure you do not get distracted. Mindfulness can be applied to any activity, including sex. It entails being mentally aware of your body and soul throughout the day to pay attention to negative behaviors, distractions, and underlying emotions.
Get Rid Of Distractions
Although some people calm down with mood music or background noise, someone with ADHD might get distracted. During sex, you can turn off the computer, television, or radio to avoid distractions. However, the distractions can come from the fan's sound in the bedroom or the presence of an uncompleted project lying around. Distractions can reduce some people's arousal.
As mentioned earlier, communication is important. When people know the things that distract them and avoid them, they may be more present and attentive during romantic moments.
You may be able to overcome your issue with sex by creating a schedule and adhering to it. Scheduling sex may seem unromantic, but it may help to calm you down. If spontaneity is the problem behind arousal and you need time to get yourself in the mood, allow mental preparation. Knowing you have a particular time to concentrate on sex may help reduce anxiety as well.
Go Easy On Yourself
People struggling with ADHD may have admitted that their symptoms are personal flaws, which can cause low self-esteem. Admit your limits and understand everyone has theirs. Remind yourself or your partner regularly that everyone deserves love, care, and sexual satisfaction, whether your house is disorganized always, or you have been on the same screen for several minutes because your mind will not stop drifting.
A different perspective can be beneficial from time to time. A couple living with ADHD will have challenges that other couples may not, but this does not mean improvement is not possible. To enjoy your sex life, both partners may need to change the way they handle ADHD. If you are not sure whether to get therapy, it may be helpful if you’re experiencing a decrease in sexual activity, financial problems (caused in part by poor management and disorganization), constant fighting, or a messy house that disrupts other people's moods.
The partner with ADHD may need to start seeing a specialist and start a treatment plan if they have not done so. Couples counseling with a therapist who focuses on ADHD can be incredibly beneficial.
ADHD can lead to issues in romantic relationships and changes in sexual traits. While some may lose interest in sex completely, others may experience a high sex drive. Some people need to put extra effort into their sex life, while others quickly get overstimulated and require time or space. Regardless of the challenges, people with ADHD can have interesting and great sex lives. They only need to communicate, get therapy, and undergo the right treatment. You can start by taking an assessment test for ADHD.