When Sarah Potter gets it on with her significant other, what feels like a million different thoughts race through her mind. For Potter, who is diagnosed with bipolar disorder and adult ADHD, distractions might be unavoidable while she's having sex. For instance, thoughts — which typically border on the mundane — like needing to take out the trash or do the laundry — flood her brain. If you, like Sarah, live with adult ADHD, you might be all-too-familiar with the constant distractions that pop up during sex.
While many people with ADHD have sex lives that might not be that much different from non-ADHD folks, sometimes, an individual's ADHD can actually affect their experience, points out Stephen Snyder, MD, a sex therapist based in New York City, and author of Love Worth Making: How to Have Ridiculously Great Sex in a Long-Lasting Relationship.
With this in mind, we're going to get to the bottom of the ways in which living with ADHD can potentially affect your sex life, and what you can do to keep it in check to have great sex and improve your relations with your partners.
And while we're at it: it's worth mentioning that there seems to be a stark difference in timelines for diagnosis between men and women. For many people with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, otherwise known as ADHD, that diagnosis will come in childhood. But did you know that boys are three times more likely to receive an ADHD diagnosis than girls? That gender disparity continues later into life. Rather than being diagnosed as children — as men often are — women may not receive that diagnosis until adulthood. According to the American Psychological Association, the average age range for a woman getting diagnosed with ADHD is between their late 30s or early 40s.
1. First, a few things about ADHD. According to CHADD, a nonprofit serving folks in the US with ADHD, about 10 million adults have ADHD. And while we're all prone to distractibility, ADHD is a diagnosed neurological disorder that impacts self regulation skills and the brain's executive function — think mental processes that help us focus our attention, prioritize tasks that need to get done, and remember details and instructions.
2. There are also a few different types of ADHD, not just one. ADHD falls on a spectrum with inattentive and distractibility on one end of the spectrum, and impulsive and hyperactive on the other end, explains Dr. Kojo Sarfo, a DNP, PMHNP-BC mental health expert based in Los Angeles, and host of Ask Dr. Kojo.
3. Now that we've established some base-level information about ADHD, let's get into the details. To start, there may be times when you want to have sex all the time, and others when you're just not into it at all.
4. You might run into sensory challenges in the bedroom.
5. The need for newness and sometimes risky behavior is real. Trina Haynes, an ADHD advocate and founder of My Lady ADHD, has a history of being a bit impulsive when starting a new relationship with someone, and can move quickly.
6. Something referred to as "rejection sensitive dysphoria" can be a factor if your healthy sense of self and self-esteem get out of whack.
7. And in some cases, RSD can be more pervasive with your romantic relationships.
Now that we've gone over some of the ways that living with adult ADHD can impact your relationships and sex life, let's also talk about how you can best manage potential challenges.
8. Find ways in the bedroom to help you concentrate or to fold in an element of newness.
9. Look for patterns and things that are the hardest for you to do, and communicate them with your partner.
10. If your partner lives with adult ADHD, try to do your best to see where they're coming from.
11. If you see someone with ADHD struggling, ask them what they need. They may or may not be able to tell you immediately, but starting that dialogue in an empathetic way can be a good first step.
12. Recognize that ADHD has supreme benefits and strengths — and lean into them.
So, there you have it! Let us know if you have relate to this or have more questions in the comments!
And, if you're interested in learning more about ADHD, make sure to connect with a professional. The websites below are also great places to start with research and community-building.
• Kaleidoscope Society: Kaleidoscope Society is an online community for and by women with ADHD.
• CHADD (Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder): CHADD is a national nonprofit that helps people affected by ADHD.