Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is characterized by restlessness, impulsivity, and inattention, or a combination of these characteristics. This can cause problems in many areas of a person’s life, including sex and relationships.
While not everyone with ADHD experiences sexual dysfunction, some people experience hypersexuality (very high libido), hyposexuality (very low libido or lack of interest in sex), and other symptoms that can cause them or their partner distress influence of sexual factors.
This article will discuss how ADHD affects sexual behavior and coping strategies.
Do people with ADHD want sex more?
Not everyone with ADHD has an above-average libido — in fact, some people with ADHD have a below-average libido — but hypersexuality is associated with ADHD.
Hypersexuality is an increase in libido (sexual desire) and, for some, an increase in higher-risk or maladaptive (inappropriate) sexual behaviors, such as unprotected sex, heavy partnering, or problematic porn use.
Hypersexuality is sometimes referred to as obsessive-compulsive behavior disorder (also called sex addiction).
Understanding ADHD Hypersexuality
Research on the link between ADHD and hypersexuality is inconclusive, but largely shows a correlation between ADHD and hypersexuality. Recent discoveries include:
- A 2019 study showed that ADHD symptoms play a role in the severity of hypersexuality in both men and women.
- In a 2015 study, college students who exhibited more ADHD symptoms reported higher risks of sexual behavior, such as less consistent use of contraceptives and more alcohol before sex, with uncommitted partners Have more sexual intercourse, and more impulsive sex.
- A 2014 study of teens found a correlation between ADHD and risky sexual behaviors. However, the researchers noted that the link was present in adolescents with comorbid (co-occurring) behavioral problems and problematic substance use.
Other studies have linked ADHD in children to earlier initiation of sexual activity and intercourse, more sexual partners, more casual sex, and more partner pregnancy.
Not all studies support a clear link between ADHD and hypersexuality
A 2021 literature review noted that some people with ADHD report hypersexuality, and some studies suggest that people with hypersexuality report high rates of ADHD. However, this review concluded that there is insufficient evidence that hypersexuality is more common in people with ADHD.
Research on hypersexuality in people with ADHD tends to focus on cisgender men and women, with an overemphasis on men. Notable studies have not examined patterns in other genders.
The studies were also conducted primarily on white participants.
Most studies point to correlations, but suggest that more studies are needed with larger sample sizes and more diverse samples and considering co-occurring factors that may have influenced the results.
Why does ADHD cause hypersexuality?
While there is no definitive answer to why someone with ADHD may experience hypersexuality, there are a few theories, such as:
- Need for stimulation: Some people with ADHD may have a high need for stimulation, which may lead to seeking new things or situations and activities that provide this stimulation.
- Other risky behaviors: People with ADHD are at increased risk of engaging in other risky behaviors, such as problematic substance use. Alcohol use is also highly associated with risky sexual behavior in adolescents with ADHD.
- Escapism: Hypersexuality may be a way for people with ADHD to self-medicate to relieve stress and anxiety.
Postponing sex due to ADHD
For some people with ADHD, having too little sex, not too much, is the problem.
ADHD can lead to decreased libido, inability to “get into” sex, difficulty reaching orgasm, and other sexual problems. In some cases, they are a side effect of some medications for ADHD or common related conditions, especially antidepressants.
The reason for this lack of interest in sex may be the difficulty of having one or both partners in an intimate relationship with ADHD. When a partner with ADHD is having trouble with executive functioning, they may have difficulty keeping clean, paying bills, and other daily responsibilities. This can lead to their partner taking on more family responsibilities, constant reminders, and in some cases “nurturing” their partner.
Resentment, feelings of being undervalued, exhaustion, and other negative emotions can arise from this that don’t put people in the mood for intimacy.
For some people with ADHD, hypersensitivity reactions can make sex less enjoyable. They may dislike certain touches or may be distracted by sexually related smells or smells in the room.
People with ADHD may also find it difficult to stay in the present moment if attention shifts to their surroundings or to irrelevant thoughts. This distraction can be misinterpreted by their partner as uninterested, leading to emotional hurt and disconnect.
Partners of people with ADHD who have impulsive symptoms report having sex that is too rough, fast-paced, and painful, and not getting enough foreplay before sex.
What is normal libido?
High, low or no libido is not always a problem. With or without ADHD, libido varies from person to person.
If your libido is comfortable for you, doesn’t cause relationship difficulties, and doesn’t put you or others at risk, it probably won’t be a concern.
If you have questions about your sexuality or sexuality, make an appointment with your healthcare provider or sexual health specialist.
ADHD brain vs non-ADHD brain
Porn, ADHD and Masturbation
Problematic porn use is a common feature of hypersexuality. Based on previous research on men seeking treatment, a 2019 study examined ADHD symptoms associated with hypersexuality and problematic porn use. The study looked at both adult men and women.
The findings suggest that ADHD is associated with the severity of hypersexuality in both men and women, but the role of ADHD symptoms in problematic porn use is stronger in men.
Building Intimacy with ADHD
It’s definitely possible for people with ADHD and their partners to have healthy relationships with satisfying sex—and they may require some extra consideration and effort.
First, prioritize communication. Letting each other know how you feel, what you like and what you don’t like — in and out of the bedroom — is critical to meeting your needs and meeting your partner’s needs.
If you have difficulty communicating on your own, consider counseling by yourself, with your partner, or both. Counseling can help you express your feelings.
There are also things you can do individually to increase intimacy and satisfaction in your relationship.
as someone with ADHD
- Medication: Taking ADHD medication as prescribed can help manage symptoms, which is good for your relationship and sex. Typical ADHD medications don’t usually cause sexual dysfunction, but antidepressants can. You can also schedule your dose when you usually have sex. If your medication does not work well for you or causes sexual side effects, talk to your healthcare provider for adjustments.
- Use your strengths: If you find certain tasks difficult to remember or to complete without reminders, join your partner to take on tasks that you can handle. No matter who does what, family responsibilities need to be shared equally. You can also use organizational apps, technology, and reminders to help you stay on track without relying on your partners.
- Eliminate distractions: Turn off the lights, skip scented candles, and minimize any other distractions that distract you from your partner and your pleasure in sex.
- Be clear and communicate: Reassure your partner that your lack of focus during sex and your relationship has nothing to do with how you feel about them.
- Think beyond orgasm: Sex may be more than intercourse and/or orgasm. Focusing on exploring and playing can reduce the pressure some people with ADHD feel to “perform” or reach orgasm.
as a partner
- Recognize that this isn’t usually personal: a lot of times, your partner isn’t ignoring you on purpose or angering you on purpose. This doesn’t mean you should accept ADHD as an excuse for being treated unfairly or not meeting your needs. But redefining the situation may help both of you.
- Set boundaries: It’s not your responsibility to take on a parent-type role for your partner, and you shouldn’t be expected to take most of it. Setting clear expectations and boundaries, then working together to create a plan for how to meet them can help reduce your physical and emotional burden.
- Take time for yourself: Having ADHD can be exhausting, but so can a partner with ADHD. Sometimes you may need to take a break, and that’s okay. Reassure your partner that this is not rejecting them.
- Schedule sex: While it may not sound romantic, planning couples time, including sex, is a way to make sure it stays a priority and doesn’t get bogged down by busy days and other responsibilities.
- Reading books: Understanding ADHD and how it affects your partner and your relationship can help you understand your partner’s perspective, ways you can help them, and how to tell them about your needs.
While this link has not been conclusively proven, there is evidence that ADHD symptoms are associated with hypersexuality. This can lead to more risky sexual behaviors, especially in men, which can lead to problems with porn use.
ADHD can also lead to other sexual and relationship difficulties, such as low libido, intimacy problems, and the inability to achieve orgasm.
When one or both partners have ADHD, communication is the key to a successful relationship. Talking to each other about feelings, expectations, and your relationship goes a long way toward fostering healthy partnerships and satisfying sex.
Sex and relationships aren’t always easy when you or your partner has ADHD, but with good communication and some effort, they can.
If you have ADHD and are concerned about your libido or sexuality, talk to your healthcare provider or sexual health professional.
If your relationship is struggling because of you or your partner’s ADHD symptoms, consider seeking counseling from a therapist who understands how ADHD affects intimate relationships.
ADD vs ADHD: Differences and Symptoms in Children and Adults
Frequently Asked Questions
Am I horny because of my ADHD?
Hypersexuality is associated with ADHD, but can also be due to other factors. If hypersexuality is causing you concerns or causing you to engage in activities that put you at risk, talk with your healthcare provider to explore causes and solutions.
How can I keep my partner from feeling rejected?
Communication is key. If you find that your ADHD symptoms are interfering with your relationship or sex life with your partner, talk to them and reassure them that it has nothing to do with them or how you feel about them. Discuss together ways to meet the needs of both parties.