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Is ADHD Causing Your Sexual Problems?

Medically Reviewed by Smitha Bhandari, MD on June 29, 2020

Research suggests that about 40% of men and women with ADHD will have some sexual problems. But there’s a lot you can do to manage any troubles that you have.

Sexual Issues Linked to ADHD

There are some common sex issues that can happen to people that have ADHD. They include:

Trouble paying attention during intimacy. Lack of focus is one of the most well-known symptoms of ADHD. So you might find your mind wandering when you’re having sex, when you’re cuddling, or in the middle of foreplay. If you’re with a partner, they may think that you’re not interested in them. And in some cases, that lack of focus can make it harder to achieve orgasm.

High or low libido. If you have ADHD, you may have a high sex drive. You may think about or try to have sex frequently. You may also use pornography regularly. On the other hand, some medications that treat ADHD can cause a low sex drive. Antidepressants, which sometimes treat ADHD, are most likely to lower your libido.

Sudden changes in your mood or desires. Mood swings are common in people with ADHD. People with this disorder can be hypersensitive, too. That means sensations, like touch, that may feel normal to another person can feel too intense for someone with ADHD.

Hypersensitivity and mood changes can impact your sex drive and the way you interact with romantic partners. For example, you might like a certain sex act at one point, then decide you no longer like it. Or you may feel like cuddling or touching one day, but not the next. And sex acts that may feel good for your partner could be irritating or uncomfortable for you.

Desire for risky sexual behaviors. People with ADHD often have lower levels of brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. Low levels of neurotransmitters may make you more likely to be impulsive and take risks, like having unprotected sex. Not everyone with ADHD engages in risky behaviors. But it’s important to know that at some point, you may want to do certain sexual acts that may not be safe or healthy.

Anger and loneliness that make you less interested in sex or romantic relationships. ADHD can make you feel angry or lonely. These emotions may feel draining and sap your interest in sex.

Symptoms of ADHD can also cause relationship issues that make it harder for you and your partner to enjoy intimacy. For example, mood swings may make you more prone to arguing. Or you may zone out during conversations or arguments. That could make your partner feel like you’re ignoring them.

What to Do

There are ways you can manage your ADHD symptoms. That can raise the odds you can have healthy, rewarding sexual and romantic relationships.

Take your medication as prescribed. Most ADHD medications won’t hurt your sex drive. The opposite is true: They help you focus, which can help you enjoy sex. These meds also help keep risky behavior in check, which can help you stay healthy. Some people with ADHD notice that having sex closer to the time they take their medication helps them stay focused during intimacy.

Talk to your doctor about your medication. If you do have sexual issues and you think your meds are to blame, tell your doctor or pharmacist. They may be able to help you make changes that make you feel better. For example, switching antidepressants may help boost a low sex drive.

Exercise. Staying active can help you focus and raise levels of neurotransmitters. That can help you enjoy intimacy more and may make you less likely to engage in risky sexual behaviors.

Tell your partner about your symptoms. Let your partner know that ADHD symptoms, like trouble focusing, can show up during sex. It’s important for your partner to know that it’s not a sign you’re not interested in them.

Consider talk therapy. Research shows that talk therapy, also known as psychotherapy, can help ease ADHD symptoms that impact your sex life. A therapist can also help you learn skills that can help you communicate with your partner, both in and out of bed.

Speak up during sex. Let your partner know how you want to be touched, or if you’re not in the mood to be intimate. Being direct about your feelings can help you avoid arguments and other communication issues.

Lessen distractions. If you tend to lose focus during sex, have sex in a dim or darkened room. It may help you stay in the moment with your partner.

WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES:

ADHD Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder: “Prevalence of sexual dysfunctions and other sexual disorders in adults with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder compared to the general population.”

College of Applied Health Sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: “ADHD and Sex.”

Mayo Clinic: “Adult Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).”

University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital: “Differences Between ADHD and Bipolar Disorder in Children.”

Stephanie Sarkis, PhD, mental health counselor, author of Adult ADHD: A Guide For the Newly-Diagnosed, Tampa, FL.

Jon Belford, PsyD, clinical psychologist specializing in ADHD, New York City.

Judith Orloff, MD, assistant clinical professor of psychiatry, UCLA.

Journal of Child and Family Studies: “Life With a Partner with ADHD: The Moderating Role of Intimacy.”  

CDC: “Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder: Other Concerns & Conditions.”

Clinical Neurophysiology: “Effects of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy on neurophysiological correlates of performance monitoring in adult attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.”

Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology: “A Randomized Trial Examining the Effects of Aerobic Physical Activity on Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Symptoms in Young Children.”

Current Psychiatry Reports: “Emerging Support for a Role of Exercise in Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Intervention Planning.”

Journal of Attention Disorders: ADHD Symptomatology, Fear of Intimacy, and Sexual Anxiety and Behavior Among College Students in China and the United States.”

Neuropsychiatry Disease and Treatment: “Treatment of adults with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.”

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