Effects of ADHD on Sexuality

Medically reviewed by Timothy J. Legg, PhD, PsyD, CRNP, ACRN on October 10, 2017Written by Vicki T. Hyatt

What is attention deficit hyperactivity disorder?

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a condition that causes a person to have a variety of symptoms which may include impulsive behavior, hyperactivity, and difficulty paying attention.

This disorder can have significant effects on adult life. For example, a person with ADHD may have a poor self-image and difficulty maintaining a stable relationship or job.

What are the effects of ADHD on sexuality?

The effects on sexuality by ADHD can be hard to measure. This is because sexual symptoms may be different in each person.

Some sexual symptoms can lead to sexual dysfunction. This can cause significant stress in a relationship. Understanding how ADHD affects sexuality can help a couple cope with relationship stress.

Some common symptoms of ADHD include depression, emotional instability, and anxiety. All of these conditions can have a negative impact on sex drive. For instance, it can be exhausting for someone with ADHD to constantly maintain order and organization. They may not have the energy or desire to engage in sexual activities.

Two reported sexual symptoms of ADHD are hypersexuality and hyposexuality. If a person with ADHD experiences sexual symptoms, they may fall into one of these two categories. It should also be noted that sexual symptoms aren’t part of the recognized diagnostic criteria for ADHD as established by the American Psychiatric Association.

Hypersexuality and ADHD

Hypersexuality means you have an unusually high sex drive.

Sexual stimulation releases endorphins and mobilizes the brain’s neurotransmitters. This gives a feeling of calmness that reduces the restlessness often caused by ADHD. However, promiscuity and consumption of pornography can be sources of relationship strife. It is important to keep in mind that promiscuity or pornography use aren’t part of the diagnostic criteria for ADHD.

Some people with ADHD may engage in risky sexual practices due to problems with impulsivity. People with ADHD may also be at increased risk for substance use disorders, which may further impair decision-making and result in sexual risk-taking.

Hyposexuality and ADHD

Hyposexuality is the opposite: A person’s sex drive plummets and they often lose all interest in sexual activity. This can be due to ADHD itself. It can also be a side effect of medication — particularly antidepressants — which are often prescribed for people with ADHD.

Sex is no different from other activities that present a challenge for someone with ADHD. They can have trouble concentrating during sex, lose interest in what they’re doing, or become distracted.

What are the treatment options for overcoming sexual challenges?

Women with ADHD often have trouble reaching orgasm. Some women report being able to have many orgasms very quickly, and at other times not reach orgasm, even with prolonged stimulation.

People with ADHD may be hypersensitive. This means a sexual activity that feels good to a partner without ADHD can be irritating or uncomfortable for the person with ADHD.

Smells, touches, and tastes that often accompany intercourse can be repulsive or annoying to someone with ADHD. Hyperactivity is another obstacle to achieving intimacy for someone with ADHD. It may be very difficult for a partner with ADHD to relax enough to get in the mood for sex.

Mix it up

Trying new positions, locations, and techniques can decrease boredom in the bedroom. Discuss ways to spice things up before sex to ensure that both partners are comfortable.

Communicate and compromise

Discuss how your ADHD may affect intimacy and your sexual expression. If your partner has ADHD, be considerate of their needs. For example, turn off the lights and don’t use lotions or perfumes if they’re sensitive to light or strong smells.

Don’t be afraid to seek help from a qualified sex therapist. Many couples coping with ADHD greatly benefit from couples counseling and sex therapy.

Prioritize

Work on being in the moment. Get rid of distractions and try doing calming exercises together, such as yoga or meditation. Make dates for sex and commit to them. Making sex a priority will ensure you don’t get sidetracked.

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