ADHD and Sex
One ignored issue – and 5 ways to help
By: Megan Wagner
What’s not to love about sex?
It takes energy, creativity, playfulness — all positive qualities of ADHD. Yet it also requires focus, patience, intimacy, and communication — skills that may be more of a struggle. The result is often a less-than-sizzling bond in the bedroom, as well as increased anger, frustration, and isolation (for both partners) beyond it. However, this rarely-discussed but common issue doesn’t have to cool your passion. Follow these expert strategies, and, together, you’ll feel more satisfied:
Take time to talk. Let your partner know how your ADHD symptoms show up during sex. Does your mind wander? Do you feel “edgy” during foreplay or cuddling? Maybe you experience extreme reactions to touch: One day, you swoon over a soft caress; the next night, you can’t stand it. All of these behaviors can send confusing signals, and your partner may feel to blame or undesirable. “Explain how this is part of your neurology,” says Kate Kelly, MSW, an ADHD coach who specializes in relationships. “Be clear that it has nothing to do with your feelings.”
Check your medication. Good news: ADHD medications don’t usually dampen your libido. However, consult your doctor to learn how your dosage amount and time(s) can affect your love life. You may need to take your medication closer to when you and your partner typically have sex.
Reduce distractions. It’s not unusual for people with ADHD to zone out or become preoccupied during sex, says Edward Hallowell, MD, author of Delivered From Distraction: Getting the Most Out of Life With Attention Deficit Disorder. This is especially true for women, who, as a result, may have trouble reaching orgasm. How to bring yourself back? Hone in on the physical sensations you’re experiencing. Also, try having sex in the dark. “This may help you to better focus on your body and your partner’s,” says Kelly. Practicing meditation, either as part of your day or before sex, is another option. Studies show that meditation helps people with ADHD to improve concentration.
Fire up the foreplay. Kissing, hugging, and all that follows make sex more than just intercourse and orgasm. This can be a relief to men with ADHD who experience performance pressure, and with it, difficulty maintaining erections. Likewise, foreplay can boost intimacy. If you find yourself bored (which is not uncommon), think of this as the chance to try something new. Take turns sharing your fantasies and experiment with different positions or techniques.
Go easy on yourself. Remember that there is no such thing as “perfect” sex — for anyone. Kelly says to give yourself permission to lose focus once in a while; just let your partner know what’s up. “This can go a long way to helping you relax,” she says. Express how you’d like to touch or be touched, or, if you’re not into it, schedule a check-in and follow through. “Pick a day and time,” says Hallowell, who recommends that ADHD couples regularly set dates for sex. “Then show up in bed and see what happens.” When communication is open and the mood light, you just may be pleasantly surprised.
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3. E. Hallowell (personal communication, January 11, 2008)
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6. K. Kelly (personal communication, January 8, 2008)
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