Is my ADHD affecting my sex drive?

Which came first - ADHD or libido?

A Black couple in bed together. The man is in the background with his hand covering her face, and the woman is in the foreground, looking at the camera with a bored expression.

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is most commonly talked about in the context of school or the workplace, but it affects many areas of life — including the bedroom. (And no, we’re not referring to sleep!)

Research has shown that people with ADHD are more likely than neurotypicals to develop sexual dysfunction or other sexual disorders.[1] On the other hand, ADHD has also been linked to hypersexuality.[2] So, let’s dive into all things ADHD and sexual health, shall we?

Disclaimer: we recognize and respect the asexual community, as well as those who generally do not have an interest in and/or an ability to engage in sexual activity. This is not an inherent problem, and we do not intend to communicate otherwise. Additionally, mentions of sex, hypersexuality, polyamory, sex-working, masturbation, and pornography are included to provide the full picture of ADHD and sexual health, and are not meant to shame any persons or community, nor should this content be used or cited in such manners.

How can ADHD affect your sex life?

On the physiological front, individuals with ADHD are believed to produce lower levels of dopamine — meaning they could be less “satisfied” by the standard amounts of dopamine released during sexual activity and orgasm, potentially causing them to turn elsewhere for satisfaction; for example: other partners, pornography, and increased frequency of masturbation.

ADHD symptoms include that can interfere with sexual intercourse

At the same time - if you do want to engage in sexual activity - some ADHD symptoms can make it difficult to be present and intimate with a partner. Some of these interfering ADHD symptoms can include:

Studies have shown that over 50% of people with ADHD are dissatisfied with their sex life due to the sexual challenges they face.[3]

To be clear: this isn’t a life sentence to a bad, complicated or confusing sex life — it just means you’re not alone, and that, hopefully – after reading through this article – you’ll better understand how your sexuality and ADHD are connected, and how to deal with the highs and lows. Speaking of highs and lows - ADHD can cause both a low and high libido — depending on the individual and their presentation of ADHD symptoms.

ADHD traits that can cause low libido

  • Executive dysfunction can make it feel like it's 'too much effort' to initiate sex.
  • Distractibility can make it hard to focus during sex.
  • Mood swings can lead to a decreased desire for – and less interaction with – romantic partners.
  • Understimulation is more likely to occur for ADHDers, especially if the excitement and novelty of the sex is lost.
  • Overstimulation can make sensations like touch or sound during intercourse feel more intense and unpleasant.

ADHD traits that can cause high libido

  • Impulsivity can lead to “risky sexual behaviors” or spontaneous sexual activity.
  • Hyperfixation can cause someone to neglect other needs or important tasks because of a fixation on sex or reaching orgasm.
  • Mood swings can lead to an increased desire for – and more interaction with – romantic partners.
  • Understimulation can lead to an increase in the desire for more frequent and/or intense intercourse; the same principle applies to overstimulation, in the case that the heightened sensory processing is more pleasurable than bothersome.
  • Addictive tendencies can cause a person to become hypersexual or prioritize sex by all means necessary; similar to hyperfixation, but more long-term or chronic.

Low libido

Bear in mind that it’s completely normal for sex drive to fluctuate over time. Your libido can be altered to a variety of things, including (but not limited to):

  • Aging
  • Hormonal fluctuations, including those related to pregnancy, menopause, menstruation, birth control, and hormone replacement therapy
  • New medications, or a change in dosage
  • Grief or trauma
  • Stress
  • Alcohol or other substances

Signs of a low sex drive

There are a few ways to tell if you may have a low libido:

  • Decreased interest in sex
  • Decrease in sexual intimacy with partner(s)
  • Erectile dysfunction, difficulty self-lubricating, etc.
  • “Fantasizing” less than usual
  • Usual 'turn-ons' are ineffective 
  • An interest in sex theoretically/mentally, but lacking a feeling of physical desire

ADHD and hypersexuality - a very high libido

Hypersexuality involves an excessive preoccupation with sexual thoughts, urges, or behaviors that are difficult to control. They may also cause distress, or negatively affect one’s health, job, or relationships. 

How does hypersexuality relate to ADHD, specifically?

Since ADHDers have a tendency to hyperfocus — or fixate on something they find stimulating — they could be more likely to develop an intense interest in sexual activity.

Common hypersexual behaviors

  • Risky sexual behaviors, such as frequent one-night stands
  • Compulsive engagement in cybersex 
  • Repeatedly paying for sex after deciding not to do it again
  • History of cheating on partners
  • Pornography addiction*
  • Masturbation addiction*
  • Thinking about sex most/all of the time at the expense of more important matters
  • Feeling driven by impulse to these behaviors, leading to a release of tension afterwards, but - oftentimes - guilt or remorse as well
  • Trying to reduce or control sexual fantasies, urges, or behavior to no avail
  • Continuing to engage in sexual behaviors despite potential serious consequences

If you struggle with this, there’s nothing to be ashamed of. Many ADHDers experience hypersexuality, and recognizing and naming your experience can be empowering and validating. 

*to the point of negatively interfering with everyday life 

How to talk about your libido with your partner

Having changes in libido is very common — ADHD or not. By practicing openness and vulnerability with your romantic or sexual partner(s), you can push aside any anxieties you may have regarding your libido and sex life.

Communication and honesty are key

Explain to your partner what you’re feeling and experiencing so they can better understand and support you.

A ‘good’ partner will work with you to create a sex life that’s fruitful for the both of you.

Find a sex therapist

If you have a long-term sexual partner, it could be a good idea to seek input from a sex therapist — especially if you feel like nothing else is working, or if you struggle with one-on-one communication.

A sex therapist is trained to help people with sex-related difficulties, like those mentioned above. They will listen to your case to determine if the cause might be psychological, physical, or both. They may also assign ‘homework’ (tasks and exercises) to try alone or with your partner.

Sex therapy resources:

Find a community for support

Communities can help us feel less isolated, no matter what we may be struggling with — there's a niche community for just about everything! Safe community spaces can also help us to normalize conversations about sex and ADHD, which can help us find self-acceptance, reputable information, and practical solutions.

CHADD (Children and Adults with ADHD)

CHADD is a nonprofit organization based in the United States with a network of over 200 ADHD support groups. If you're in the USA, you can find one near you by clicking here

The Attention Deficit Disorder Association (ADDA)

The ADDA is an international nonprofit organization, and it offers virtual support groups for adults with ADHD all over the world. Some of their groups are tailored to specific demographics, such as parents, the Black community, and queer and nonbinary ADHDers. It even has a group for neurotypical partners!

Inflow

This up-and-coming ADHD management app has a dedicated learning module – ADHD and Sex – for members over the age of 18, which is a great alternative for those who aren’t fond of the dynamics of traditional support groups. Instead of talking with strangers in an open-circle discussion, Inflow provides a private learning experience that includes dozens of optional activities and live events for members to attend.

Too long; didn’t read

Navigating the impacts that ADHD can have on your sex life can be frustrating and overwhelming — especially while juggling other aspects of the neurodivergent lifestyle. (Thanks, brain!)

But don’t forget that ADHD can also make you a passionate and exciting lover, a deeply empathetic partner, and so many other wonderful things. 

If your libido level is of concern - whether it’s low or high -you can stay on top of it (pun intended) by being open and honest with partners, finding a community with similar challenges, downloading resources like Inflow, and finding a sex therapist that you vibe with. (Pun intended. Again.)

Be sure to check with your doctor about how your ADHD medication may play a role in your sex drive and sexual health as well – which is a topic that will be covered on our blog very soon!

All in all, do your best to stay informed, self-aware, and communicative, and you’ll be well on your way to a more manageable, happier, and healthier sex life.

Looking for support?

Inflow can help you thrive with ADHD and reach your full potential. Start your journey now by taking our quiz.

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