ADHD & Sex
This week on The Slut Show Kaia Manoeli Stafford (she / her) takes over the show, interviewing host Ellen Moore (she / her). The two discuss how ADHD impacts their sex lives, what struggles they encounter and how they overcome them. From submissiveness to dirty talk, from getting tied up to smoking weed and from distractions to (faking) orgasms – ALL the tea will be spilled. This week’s Slutty Science discusses the interrelationship between ADHD & sex.
Please note: this article contains information about ADHD & sexism, which may be triggering for some readers.
In the treatment of individuals with ADHD sexuality is oftentimes disregarded as irrelevant. A questionable choice, originating partially from a scarcity in research investigating the interrelationship between ADHD and sex. However, the limited research we do have to our availability speaks volumes, drawing a variety of crucial, yet straightforward conclusions. The most important one being that the presence of ADHD has a very direct influence on sexuality. Studies found that ADHD can lead to:
- More sexual desire;
- Yet, less sexual satisfaction;
- Higher masturbation frequency;
- More sexual disorders;
- And more sexual dysfunctions.
The latter, with an absolutely staggering prevalence. One study examining the correlation between ADHD and sexual dysfunction found that 39% of male participants and 43% of female participants presented with symptoms of sexual dysfunction.
Of the 39% of male participants who presented with symptoms of such dysfunction:
- 14% have orgasmic problems;
- 13% orgasm prematurely;
- 13% cope with sexual aversion;
- 10% experience negative emotions during or after sex.
Of the 43% of female participants who presented with symptoms of sexual dysfunction:
- 26% deal with sexual excitement problems;
- 22% have orgasmic problems;
15% cope with sexual aversion.
That same study found that 17% of male and 5% of female participants had symptoms of sexual disorders. Amongst the 17% of male participants who presented with such symptoms, hypersexuality was the most prevalent disorder. These findings coincide with preexisting data claiming for hypersexuality to be one of the most prevalent comorbid disorders in people with ADHD - of all genders.
Anything you enjoy – risky behavior included – will cause the body to release dopamine. Sex is one of the inevitable triggers which makes dopamine levels spike. This extraordinary prevalence of hypersexuality, among people with ADHD, is thus not really that surprising considering the majority of trouble caused by ADHD is the result of its concurring dopamine deficit. It is no wonder people with such a deficiency are therefore more likely to feel drawn to activities which cause the natural release of dopamine.
Considering the indisputable role ADHD symptoms play in the severity of hypersexuality, it’s been advised to assess individuals who show striking levels of hypersexuality for ADHD. Similarly, ADHD symptoms can aggravate problematic porn use - albeit only in men. For this reason it is recommended to assess men who present with outstanding problems - regarding their porn use - for ADHD.
Although paraphilias have too been suggested to be more prevalent in individuals with ADHD, research analyzing the relationship between the two remains quantitatively unsatisfactory.
Women with ADHD & sex
Women with ADHD are more likely to face sexual aversion, report ambivalent gender identities, desire cross-dressing and have relatively more pedophilic desires than their neurotypical counterparts do. In addition, women with ADHD who also suffer from depressive disorders are more likely to present with sexual disorders, than those without such a comorbidity.
In terms of female sexual functioning, the presence of ADHD was shown to negatively impact desire, arousal, orgasming, satisfaction, pain and lubrication.
Men with ADHD & sex
Men with ADHD - compared to their neurotypical counterparts - are likely to be more sexually active and masturbate more frequently, while these men are also statistically more likely to deal with elevated levels of sexual aversion and reduced desire for sexual contact. In addition, the male use of antidepressants has been linked to an increased likelihood for sexual disorders.
Analysis of risky sexual behavior in adolescent men with ADHD, who were diagnosed during childhood, leads us to believe that childhood ADHD (amongst boys) can predict:
- Earlier initiation of both sexual activity and intercourse;
- More sexual partners;
- More casual sex;
- More partner pregnancies.
Such behavior is more likely to occur in those who displayed childhood behavioral problems, as these are often the result of the hyperactive-impulsive traits of ADHD, symptoms which may induce risky sexual behavior in adolescence and additionally elevate the chances for comorbid substance abuse.
In terms of male sexual functioning, the presence of ADHD negatively impacted orgasming, erectile function, intercourse satisfaction and overall satisfaction. However, elevated levels of sexual desire are common too, among men with ADHD.
Medication & sexual functioning
Although the use of both stimulant and non-stimulant medication for ADHD may impact sexual functioning, for neither one of the two conclusive evidence has been found associating the use of such medication with an increased prevalence of sexual disorders.
However, the amount of sperm men ejaculate has been found to decrease as a result of using stimulants. Rest assured, besides a quantitative difference no significant changes in concentration, motility, nor motile sperm count were found. In conclusion, the use of such medication impacts sperm quantitatively, however, not qualitatively.
ADHD symptoms & sex
The hyperactive-impulsive symptoms of ADHD seem to play a pivotal role in the way individuals with this disorder function sexually. Impulsivity, emotional dysregulation and novelty seeking can lead to risky sexual behavior, an increased likelihood for participation in both unprotected sex and sexual intercourse at large. Additionally this behavior can lead to an elevated probability of engaging in romantic relationships, resulting in larger quantities of romantic relationship partners.
Nevertheless, inattentive symptoms of ADHD are also prone to impact sexual functioning. Both forgetfulness and distractibility can make it harder for people with ADHD to orgasm. These inattentive traits may also cause a disturbance in relational intimacy, because to a neurotypical partner the continual wandering of the mind may look like emotional detachment. Supporting these findings is an ADHD partner survey which found that 30% of non-ADHD partners 'felt no connection when having sex with their ADHD partner, as if their partner was not there.'
Such a disturbance in relational intimacy - in couples with one neurodivergent partner and one neurotypical partner - may in part be the result of an unequal power dynamic within the relationship. An imbalance of such nature often originates from the neurotypical partner taking care of more responsibilities, especially regarding domains of life like household, relationship and / or children.
Stating the obvious, the brain of people with ADHD works evidently - and for a big part uncontrollably - differently from neurotypical brains. When sexual scripts become repetitive and predictable, the ADHD brain begins to wander. It can wander to images seen previously in porn, sexual fantasies they’d like to reenact or past sexual experiences. However, also seemingly irrelevant things like what groceries to get, where Uzbekistan is located, when they last visited their dentist or what they ate for lunch last Thursday.
For this reason even a “healthy” sex drive might result in the inability to orgasm, in spite of reciprocal effort and or prolonged stimulation. For individuals with ADHD repetitive and predictable sexual stimulation is thought to increase the chances of both orgasmic dysfunction, erectile dysfunction and lowered sexual desire.
Across most ADHD treatment facilities the subject sexuality is touched upon only briefly or ignored altogether. Disregarding sexuality as irrelevant when treating individuals with ADHD - claiming their sexuality is left unaffected by their disorder is, however, inherently problematic. Doing so reinforces the counterfactual idea that sexuality and ADHD don’t impact one another. A bizarre narrative considering the fact that the brain is our most important sexual organ and it is precisely that organ which ultimately suffers the most as a result of ADHD.
Concluding, although further research needs to be conducted evaluating the interrelationship between sex and ADHD, there already is substantial evidence which suggests the importance of discussing sexual functioning, in relation to ADHD, when treating patients with this disorder. For that reason professionals are urged to routinely address peculiarities in sexual behavior, the struggles these may result in and how these may originate from one's ADHD, in order to give patients more insight into their own sexual functioning and assist them with resolving possible sexual difficulties.
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We hope to see you on our socials and for now, sluts out!
Lots of love,
The slut show is about way more than sex. It is about breaking taboos, asking questions and fucking the patriarchy, by having real, raw, uncensored and heartfelt conversations about topics that matter. In a safe space we aim to make room for the voices of marginalized folks, creating a place to listen to the pain, sorrow, hopes and dreams of those who came before us. Found in & by intersectional feminism, we believe that everybody should have the same opportunities and get treated equally - regardless of the color of their skin, the size of their body, the gender they identify with or the people they choose to love. Let it be known that the feminism we know today rests upon the foundation black, indigenous, people of color & the queer community built for us. May the battles they fought and the struggles they overcame keep the raging fire in our hearts alive, to make sure that they - nor their legacy - will ever be forgotten.
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