Working Through ADHD and Hypersexuality in Relationships

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is characterized by restlessness, impulsivity, and inattentiveness, or a combination of these. 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 are affected by hypersexuality (very high sex drive), hyposexuality (very low sex drive or a lack of interest in sex), and other sexual factors that may cause them or their partners' distress.

This article will discuss how ADHD can affect sexuality and coping strategies.

A man and a woman are sitting in a bed with white bedding. The man is leaning in to be affectionate with the woman, who is looking at her phone.

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Do People With ADHD Want Sex More?

Not everyone with ADHD has higher-than-average sex drives—in fact, some people with ADHD experience lower-than-average sex drives—but hypersexuality is associated with ADHD.

Hypersexuality refers to an increased sex drive (libido) and, for some, an increase in sexual behaviors that are higher risk or maladaptive (not appropriate to the situation), such as unprotected sex, a high number of partners, or problematic pornography use.

Hypersexuality sometimes refers to compulsive sexual behavior disorder (also called sex addiction).

Understanding ADHD Hypersexuality

The research on the link between ADHD and hypersexuality is inconclusive, but largely indicates a correlation between ADHD and hypersexuality. Recent findings include:

  • A 2019 study indicated that ADHD symptoms play a role in the severity of hypersexuality in both men and women.
  • In a 2015 study, college students who showed more ADHD symptoms reported higher risk sexual behaviors, such as less consistent contraceptive use and more alcohol use before sex, more intercourse with uncommitted partners, and more impulsive sex.
  • A 2014 study of adolescents found a correlation between ADHD and risky sexual behavior. However, researchers noted that the link was found in adolescents who had comorbid (simultaneously occurring) conduct problems and problematic substance use.

Other studies have shown that childhood ADHD is associated with earlier initiation of sexual activity and intercourse, more sexual partners, more casual sex, and more partner pregnancies.

Not All Studies Support a Clear Connection Between ADHD and Hypersexuality

A review of literature in 2021 noted that some people with ADHD report hypersexuality and that some studies show a high incidence of ADHD reported in people with hypersexuality. However, this review concluded there was insufficient evidence to suggest that hypersexuality is more common in the ADHD population.

Study Limitations

Studies on hypersexuality in people with ADHD tend to focus on cisgender men and women, with an overemphasis on men. The prominent studies do not examine patterns in other genders.

The studies are also largely performed on white participants.

Most of the studies note correlations but indicate that more research is needed, with bigger sample sizes, more diverse samples, and with consideration of co-occurring factors that may influence results.

Why Might ADHD Lead to Hypersexuality?

While there is no conclusive answer to why people with ADHD may experience hypersexuality, there are some theories, such as:

  • Need for stimulation: Some people with ADHD may have a high need for stimulation, which can lead to seeking something new or situations and activities that provide that 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 behaviors in adolescents with ADHD.
  • Escapism: Hypersexuality may be a way for people with ADHD to self-medicate for stress and anxiety relief.

Putting Off Sex Because of ADHD

 For some people with ADHD, too little sex, not too much sex, is the problem.

Hyposexuality, inability to "get into" sex, difficulty reaching orgasm, and other sexual problems can occur as a result of ADHD. In some cases, they are a side effect of some medications prescribed for ADHD or commonly associated conditions, particularly antidepressants.

This lack of interest in sex can stem from intimacy difficulties often found in relationships in which one or both partners has ADHD. When a partner with ADHD struggles with executive functioning, they may have trouble staying on top of cleaning, paying bills, and other day-to-day responsibilities. This can lead to their partner taking on more household responsibilities, giving constant reminders, and in some cases "parenting" their partner.

From this can arise resentment, feelings of being underappreciated, exhaustion, and other negative feelings that don't put people in the mood for intimacy.

Hypersensitivity can make sex less enjoyable for some people with ADHD. They may not enjoy certain touches or can be distracted by smells associated with sex or in the room.

People with ADHD may also find it difficult to stay in the moment if their attention drifts to their surroundings or unrelated thoughts. This distractibility can be misinterpreted as disinterest by their partners, leading to hurt feelings and disconnection.

Partners of people who have ADHD with impulsive symptoms have reported sex that is too rough, fast-paced and painful, and without adequate foreplay before intercourse.

What Is a Normal Sex Drive?

Having a high sex drive, low sex drive, or no sex drive is not always a problem. With or without ADHD, sex drives vary among individuals.

If your sex drive is comfortable for you, is not causing relationship difficulties, and is not putting you or others at risk, it may not be a cause for concern.

If you have questions about your sex drive or sexual behavior, book an appointment with your healthcare provider or a sexual health professional.

Porn, ADHD, and Masturbation

Problematic pornography use is a common characteristic of hypersexuality. Building on previous studies on men seeking treatment, a 2019 study examined ADHD symptoms in relation to hypersexuality and problematic pornography use. This study looked at both adult men and women.

The findings show ADHD is correlated with the severity of hypersexuality in both men and women, but the role of ADHD symptoms in problematic pornography use is stronger in men.

Working on Intimacy With ADHD

Healthy relationships with satisfying sex lives are definitely possible for people with ADHD and their partners—they just might need some extra considerations and effort.

First and foremost, 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 crucial to having your needs met and meeting those of your partner.

If communication is difficult to manage on your own, consider counseling, either 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 the Person With ADHD

  • Medication: Taking your ADHD medication as prescribed can help manage your symptoms, which can benefit your relationship and sex. Typical ADHD medication doesn't usually cause sexual dysfunction, but antidepressants can. You may also be able to time your dosages around when you typically have sex. If your medication isn't working well for you or is causing sexual side effects, see your healthcare provider for an adjustment.
  • Play to your strengths: If you find certain tasks difficult to remember or complete without reminders, work with your partner to take on the tasks you can handle. Regardless of who does what, household responsibilities need to be shared equally. You can also use organization apps, techniques, and reminders to help you keep yourself on track without needing to rely on your partner.
  • Eliminate distractions: Turn off the lights, skip the scented candle, and minimize any other distractions that pull your focus away from your partner and your pleasure during sex.
  • Be clear and communicative: Reassure your partner that your lack of focus during sex and in your relationship is not related to your feelings about them.
  • Think outside the orgasm: Sex can be about a lot more than intercourse and/or orgasm. Focusing on exploration and play can reduce the pressure some people with ADHD feel to "perform" or to climax.

As the Partner

  • Recognize that it's usually not personal: Much of the time, your partner is not deliberately ignoring you or intentionally trying to irritate you. That doesn't mean you should accept ADHD as an excuse for being treated unfairly or not having your needs met. But reframing the situation may be helpful for both of you.
  • Set boundaries: It is not your responsibility to take on a parental-type role for your partner, nor should you be expected to take on the bulk of the responsibilities. Setting clear expectations and boundaries, then working together on a plan for how to meet them can help reduce your physical and emotional load.
  • Take time for yourself: Having ADHD can be exhausting, but so can having a partner with ADHD. Sometimes you might need a break, and that's all right. Reassure your partner it is not a rejection of them.
  • Schedule sex: While this doesn't sound romantic, planning couple time, including sex, is a way to ensure it stays a priority and doesn't fall through the cracks of hectic days and other responsibilities.
  • Hit the books: Learning about ADHD and how it affects both your partner and your relationship can help you understand your partner's perspective, ways in which you can help them, and how to tell them what you need.

Summary

While a link has not been conclusively proven, there is evidence to suggest that ADHD symptoms are associated with hypersexuality. This can lead to riskier sexual behavior and, particularly in men, problematic pornography use.

ADHD can also cause other sexual and relationship difficulties such as low sex drive, problems with intimacy, and an inability to achieve orgasm.

Communication is key to a successful relationship when one or both partners have ADHD. Talking to each other about feelings, expectations, and your relationship go a long way to fostering a healthy partnership and satisfying sex life.

A Word From Verywell

Sex and relationships aren't always easy when you or your partner has ADHD, but with good communication and some effort they can be fulfilling.

If you have ADHD and are concerned about your sex drive or sexual behavior, see your healthcare provider or a sexual health professional.

If your relationship is struggling because of your or your partner's ADHD symptoms, consider seeking counseling from a therapist who understands how ADHD affects intimacy.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Am I hornier because of my ADHD?

    Hypersexuality has been linked to ADHD, but it can also be due to other factors. If hypersexuality is causing you concern or leading you to engage in activities that put you at risk, see your healthcare provider to explore causes and solutions.

  • How do I keep my partner from feeling rejected?

    Communication is key. If you find that your ADHD symptoms are interfering with your relationship or your sex life with your partner, talk to them and reassure them it isn't about them or how you feel about them. Discuss together ways in which you can both have your needs met.

11 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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