Intimacy and ADHD
By: Adam Kessler, LPC
If you live in Chicago or have spent any amount of time in the city, you likely know how bustling it is and how much can happen all at once at a moment’s notice. There are so many sights to see, people to interact with, places to eat, etc.
For the “average” person, this is just a typical day. However, if you live with ADHD, you likely feel overstimulated like this in many ways all day, every day. ADHD, or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, is a disorder marked by three major characteristics – inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity.
This can lead to issues with homework, relationship strains, or losing things often due to inattention. As a result, it can lead to that person avoiding things that they know they struggle with, further complicating their journey. This can really be evident in school work. However, ADHD can also cause issues in the bedroom, which is something that people can often overlook.
Whenever issues in the bedroom arise, it is typically associated with a lack of intimacy/love, erectile dysfunction issues, or maybe just not being in the mood. However, ADHD can have a major impact in the way a couple interacts in the bedroom. Below are a few ways that can impact a couple’s sex life due to ADHD being a factor:
As simple of an idea as this may seem, it is entirely likely that this would be the main factor getting in the way of intimacy. If someone has ADHD, the inattention could cause their mind to drift during sex, leading to a change in the sexual energy. So if that partner is focusing on the sex but an object in the room, or even a thought, distracts them, it can send their mind down a rapid path of thinking and reflection. And through that, it could lead them to think about something else, continuing the spiral and continuing to take focus away from the bedroom.
Another “simpler” idea is that mood swings associated with ADHD can cause issues in the bedroom. Those with ADHD can experience mood swings, or hypersensitivity, as part of their struggles. This could lead the partner to want sex and feel in the mood one moment, and not the next. This can be frustrating not just for the other partner, but the partner with ADHD as well, because they likely would want to be intimate with their partner but are frustrated that they are not in the mood like they are.
A hyperactive sex drive can also be a manifestation of ADHD in both men a women, according to Bőthe et al. 2019. They also stated that excessive porn use has been linked to ADHD in men. As a result, this can affect the relationship a couple has in the bedroom because one partner might have a significantly higher sex drive than the other, leading to complications and feelings of needs not being met. If excessive porn use is a problem as well, it is possible that the partner would get distracted by this and not feel like they are in the mood for sex with their partner. It is also possible that the excessive masturbation with the porn use can cause a dip in that partner’s libido, lowering their urge to have sex with their partner.
To go along with the hypersexuality, and to add the factor of impulsivity into the mix – irrational decisions might become a factor in the bedroom. For example: if a partner with ADHD is feeling hypersexual, they might find themselves not wanting to use a condom for safe sex. With impulsivity being a factor as well, the mood of the moment might cause the couple to roll with that and not use a condom, which can lead to STDs or pregnancy.
On the other side of things: if a partner is hypersexual and impulsive and their partner is not meeting/matching their needs, they might make a quick, impulsive decision to seek sex elsewhere, or another partner. This would certainly cause many issues in the bedroom, and beyond. Per Hosain et al. 2012, there is a link between ADHD in young women and risky sexual behavior, which supports the idea that it is the impulsivity that can lead to such risky behaviors.
ADHD is a disorder often thought of as someone being hyperactive and not being able to pay attention as well as others. While this might be put simply, and is true to a degree, there are many underlying areas that ADHD can have an impact on that many are not aware of. Bringing awareness to issues like this is the first step in change, so if you are experiencing issues in the bedroom, open your mind to the possibilities so that the proper care can be received. It might not always be a physical limitation, like erectile dysfunction.
Bőthe, B., Koós, M., Tóth-Király, I., Orosz, G., & Demetrovics, Z. (2019). Investigating the associations of Adult ADHD symptoms, Hypersexuality, and PROBLEMATIC Pornography use among men and women on a Largescale, Non-Clinical Sample. The Journal of Sexual Medicine, 16(4), 489-499. doi:10.1016/j.jsxm.2019.01.312
Hosain, G. M. M., Berenson, A. B., Tennen, H., Bauer, L. O., & Wu, Z. H. (2012). Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Symptoms and Risky Sexual Behavior in Young Adult Women. Journal of Women’s Health, 21(4), 463–468. https://doi.org/10.1089/jwh.2011.2825