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How to Navigate Sex and ADHD


sex and adhd

Neurodiversity can refer to one’s difficulty with organization, memory, concentration, time direction, perception, and/or sequencing. Neurodiversity refers to disorders including Dyspraxia, Dyscalculia, Dyslexia, Tourette’s Syndrome, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Individuals who live with neurodiversity can experience sex, arousal, and desire much differently than their neurotypical counterparts.


Sex and Neurodivergence


Around 1 in 5 people in the US experience some form of neurodiversity. According to NIH, the estimated lifetime prevalence of ADHD is 8.1% for adults in the United States age 18-44. The CDC, reports around 2.2% of adults in the United States are diagnosed with Autism.


The prevalence of Autism is higher for men and varies slightly by geographic region. Individuals who experience neurodiversity are less likely to receive comprehensive sex education. These individuals may be a higher risk for victimization depending on the acuity of their symptoms, level of sex education, access to outside resources, and other factors. They may also begin dating and engaging in sexual activity at a later stage due to social limitations or lack of education.


Individuals with neurodiversity can experience arousal, bodily sensations like touch, smell, and temperature differently than neurotypical folks. Neurodiverse individuals may also have difficulty paying attention during sex and intimacy.Some with ADHD may also experience a high sex drive, or hyper sexuality. They may enjoy sex differently depending on symptom severity, medication adherence, and context. However, people with ADHD and other forms of neurodiversity are interested in sex and emotional connection similar to their neurotypical peers.


How Does ADHD Effect Sexual Health?


Symptoms of ADHD include but are not limited to: lack of attention to detail, lack of focus or difficulty paying attention, poor organizational skills, difficulty following through when given instruction, difficulty with sustained mental attention, impulsivity, hyper fixation, and restlessness. Some studies have found that some who identify as women who are diagnosed with ADHD report lower satisfaction in the areas of desire, arousal, orgasm, sexual satisfaction, pain, and lubrication.


In addition, those with ADHD who identify as males report less satisfaction in the areas of orgasm, erectile/sexual dysfunction, intercourse satisfaction, and overall satisfaction. However, males are more likely to report higher satisfaction with desire. One’s specific symptom presentation may impact their ability to connect sexually, feel motivated for sex, or experience intimacy in a fulfilling way.


It’s important to note that men and women, as well as people from all gender identities can experience ADHD and neurodiversity differently. Neurodiversity is not a one-size-fits-all presentation so symptoms, behaviors, and more can vary from person to person.


Some individuals with ADHD may have a hard time switching from one task to another and may require a longer runway or foreplay period to become interested in sex. Additionally, individuals with ADHD may lack some of the skills necessary to create an environment for arousal and intimacy to grow. They may have difficulty remembering their partners turn-ons or organizing dates and other rituals of connection that can foster intimacy. They may struggle paying attention or following through when given feedback from their partners.


Additionally, individuals with ADHD may become hyper fixated on a hobby, task, or skill that occupies much of their time resulting in a lack of connection between themselves and their partner without ADHD. Side effects of impulsivity can look like engaging in sexually risky behaviors without considering about the consequences or even speaking without thinking causing rifts in relationships.


Navigating Sex & Neurodivergence


Whether you are a neurodiverse or neurotypical person, it is important to understand the ways in which neurodiversity can impact one’s sex life and intimacy. It is very common for neurodiverse and neurotypical folks to engage in romantic and sexual relationships together. Open communication about how neurodiversity impacts one’s specific experience with sex and certain sexual behaviors is the first step to creating a positive shared experience.


It is important for neurotypical partners to understand that their partner with ADHD is not intentionally acting in ways to make intimacy more difficult or create sexual issues within the relationship. Try to empathize and have compassion for the challenges their partners may be facing, and the ADHD experience as a whole. A person with ADHD may complete household chores, connect interpersonally, or plan in ways that feels “wrong” to their neurotypical partners. However, it is important to be mindful of criticisms and how that might land with your partner.


Being critical of one another is an intimacy killer and can even create a parent and child dynamic between partners. It is important for partners to communicate about how symptoms of neurodiversity are impacting them without a shaming and blaming tone. Discussing ways in which symptoms are affecting intimacy and getting creative around how to change sexual scripts can be a fun and exciting conversation.  For example, you might try scheduling sex in order to carve out intentional time for intimacy.


Finally, neurodiverse partners should take the necessary measures to manage their symptoms including taking ADHD medications or employing therapist to learn skills for symptom management.


Understanding one another and working hard manage symptoms is an important way to communicate to your partner that you value them and your connection. For some couples who struggle to create a fulfilling intimate connection or continue to experience sexual problems as a direct or indirect result of neurodiversity, couples therapy is likely a good option.

Modern Intimacy is a group therapy practice, founded by renowned Psychologist and Sex Therapist, Dr. Kate Balestrieri. This inclusive blog is designed to provide a wealth of information and resources for mental health, relationships, and sexuality. Subscribe today to get the latest information from our expert contributors from all around the world.


Author Bio

Theresa Gallagher, Psy.D. is a Licensed Psychologist in the state of New York and a Clinical Associate at Modern Intimacy. Theresa is passionate about helping her patients find strength within themselves. Theresa works with both couples and individuals to heal from trauma, improve relationships, build resiliency, and more.



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