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Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurological condition that causes symptoms like impulsivity, hyperactivity, and a lack of focus.
ADHD comes with a slew of stereotypes (e.g., little kids running up and down the aisle on a plane), but the condition looks different in adults.
Those with ADHD may struggle with:
- time management
- misplaced motivation
- susceptibility to addiction
- self-regulation of emotions
Healthy relationships and good sex are the result of emotionally present, confident partners. But confidence can diminish after years of dealing with the stigma and other difficulties of ADHD.
Adults with ADHD may have trouble maintaining professional and personal stability and may seem forgetful, distracted, and inattentive to those around them.
Romantic partners may feel responsible for all household tasks because they can’t depend on the person who has ADHD.
These frustrations can lead to depression, anxiety, and emotional turbulence for people living with ADHD and may manifest as one of two types of sexual behavior: hypersexuality or hyposexuality.
Hypersexuality is characterized by an unusually high sex drive. It happens because sexual stimulation boosts endorphin production and brain activity, both of which create a sense of calm.
When a person dealing with ADHD finds an (ahem) activity that reduces their restlessness and helps them feel calm, they may seek it out to an extreme degree.
Hanky-panky is good for the soul, but problematic pornography use and a constant need for sex can lead to relationship troubles.
And because some people with ADHD have difficulty with impulse control, they’re at a higher risk for substance abuse, which could further affect their decision-making.
Hyposexuality is hypersexuality’s sleepy cousin: It’s the loss of desire for sex. People experiencing hyposexuality may be too distracted to carry out the “task” in front of them.
While hyposexuality may be a symptom of ADHD, it can also be a side effect of antidepressants or other medications that are often prescribed to manage ADHD.
Talk to your doctor if you think a medication could be affecting your sex drive — they can help you find an alternative.
Some people with ADHD experience high sensitivity to physical sensations, which can make typically très agréable pastimes uncomfortable or even painful.
Touch isn’t the only sense that may be an issue. Smell and taste can also be heightened, causing a person with ADHD to become distracted, overwhelmed, and unable to enjoy the moment.
Crouching tiger, hidden orgasms
Women and men experience ADHD differently, but women may have an extra hurdle in terms of relaxing or focusing enough to reach orgasm.
Though some women can orgasm easily and often, many need to feel totally relaxed to get there, which can make it extremely difficult for those with ADHD.
However, anyone with ADHD may have issues reaching orgasm due to trouble focusing or side effects of medications.
“C” is for communication
Even when ADHD isn’t a factor, sex is best when partners know how to please each other. This isn’t a silent movie, people. Say what you like! Let your partner know what you need! This is especially true for those with ADHD.
Communicating any sexual issues beforehand and letting your partner know what they can do will help prevent confusion and hurt feelings.
If it’s a matter of hypersensitivity, again, communication is key. The partner without ADHD will (hopefully) care a lot more about getting their partner to orgasm than lighting that Cinnamon Explosion scented candle on the nightstand.
Spice up your life
Sometimes the best way to get out of a sex rut is to mix things up. If you find you’re having trouble focusing in the bedroom, discuss with your partner some ways to make sex more exciting.
Try new positions. Buy a new toy. Have spontaneous sex in the kitchen. Role-play. Incorporate new things into your sex life and see if any of them stick.
Be in the moment
Meditation, yoga, and mindfulness can help people with ADHD focus on the present. Taking a meditation or yoga class can be helpful because the group setting is free from the plentiful distractions at home.
Mindfulness is a practice that can be applied to everything from sex to cooking. It involves mentally checking in with your body and soul throughout the day so you’re aware of distractions, negative behaviors, and underlying emotions.
Be nice to yourself
People dealing with ADHD may have internalized the thought that their symptoms are personal flaws, which can lead to low self-esteem. Treat yourself with some TLC. Shame and self-loathing won’t help you feel sexy.
Accept your limits and know that everyone has their own.
Frequently remind yourself (or your partner) that everyone deserves to be loved and sexually satisfied, even if the house is a mess or you’ve been reading the same page for 10 minutes because your mind keeps wandering. Lean in.
Schedule sex dates with your partner. Put them in your calendar and highlight them in red.
Planning for sex may not feel sexy, but if spontaneity is the issue when it comes to getting aroused and you need some time to get your head (and body) in the game, give yourself time to mentally prepare.
ADHD can cause problems in romantic relationships and marriages if it’s left untreated or not talked about.
People who have ADHD tend to have issues with:
- financial responsibility
- household chores
- good judgment
- conflict resolution
- impulsive behavior
Because of this, the partner of someone with ADHD may feel like the burden of household tasks falls only on their shoulders (lest we forget this iconic scene from “Mrs. Doubtfire”).
They may feel more like a parent than a partner to their S.O., and nothing screams “HOT SEX” less than having to ask someone to clean up after themself 20 times or not being able to fully trust them to watch the kids when you’re not there.
If left unresolved, these issues can lead to separation or divorce.
It’s important to remember that if this type of behavior stems from ADHD, it may require time, patience, empathy, and often medication and therapy to manage. What may seem like a lack of effort or love, or just irresponsible behavior, is not intentional.
But all the empathy in the world can’t curb feelings of chaos and unfairness when you feel like you’re on your own in a partnership. Consider going to couples’ counseling sooner rather than later.
We all need a fresh perspective from time to time. A couple coping with ADHD will have obstacles other couples may not, but that doesn’t mean they can’t improve.
In order to revive their sex life, both parties may need to adjust the way they deal with ADHD, whether it’s their own or their partner’s.
Not sure if it’s time for therapy? It may be time if your relationship is faltering due to:
- a lackluster (or nonexistent) sex life
- a messy house that affects the mood of one or more people
- financial issues, due in part to disorganization and poor management
- incessant fighting
The partner who has (or may have) ADHD may want to see a specialist and begin a treatment plan if they haven’t already. Couples’ counseling with a therapist who specializes in ADHD will provide extra support.
ADHD can cause rifts in relationships and changes in sexual behavior.
Some people lose all interest in sex, while others go to the opposite extreme. Some people need to work hard to keep their sex lives interesting, while others easily get overstimulated and need a little time and space.
Whatever difficulties they’re facing, people with ADHD can have awesome sex lives — they just need to lean into communication, therapy, and the right treatment.