Chapter 6: ADHD and Sex — Peaks and Valleys In the Bedroom

ADHD and sex

By Taylor J

Now we arrive at Chapter 6: “Peaks and Valleys: ADHD in the Bedroom.”  That is, ADHD and sex.

ADHD and Finances nearly destroyed our marriage. ADHD-fueled driving certainly gave us gray hair early in life.

Sex, however, is not an area that has been a…. problem for us (thank you, Jesus!), in the ways chapter 6 is describing.

Gosh, I’m blushing right now. Is it hot in here?

I’m sorry—I spent the first seven years of our married life impulsively blurting out private things that Dr. Math (my husband) didn’t want repeated in public. So, please be patient if I stutter and stammer over this topic. We’ve been married nearly eleven years, and I think we can say we’re still…um…quite happy with the way things are going in our love life.

Not everyone feels the same way. And that’s an important point: Nothing about ADHD affects the people who have it in the same way. As Gina emphasizes repeatedly:

ADHD is a variable syndrome, and the people who have it are individuals.

Nonetheless, inattention, hyperactivity, and distraction still have a habit of sneaking into the bedroom for many people.

You Me and ADHD book club

Welcome back to the “You, Me, and ADHD” Book Club.

Have you been reading along?

Here, Taylor writes about sex and her dual-ADHD marriage, based on Chapter 6: “Peaks and Valleys: ADHD in the Bedroom”


Sex: No Thinking Required?

There’s a common myth (you know you’ve heard it!): Sex is fueled by “animal” instincts, and a man needs no stimulation to actively engage in it.

Yet, our more basic brain functions that control arousal—like fear, pleasure, aggression, and sense of smell—are managed by our Executive Functions. If ADHD is a factor in your life, then those Executive Functions may work erratically in any setting, including the bedroom. Gina offers various examples of how this might play out:

  • Spacing out during love making
  • Rushing through to the end before we lose focus
  • Suddenly thinking about other things (like a movie, or that checkbook that needs to be balanced)
  • Or simply never “getting around to” sex at all

Chapter 6 lists some hilarious nicknames for these dysfunctions:

  • The Energizer Bunny!
  • The Do-Me (but I’ll never initiate) Bunny!
  • The Indifferent (can we get this over with?) Bunny!”
  • and lots more!

It’s gallows humor, though. One in three respondents in the ADHD Partner survey report that they have sex between “once yearly” and “never.”  Many partners of adults with ADHD complain about their sexless marriage. If sex is going to happen, it’s up to them. And sometimes there is rejection.

Gosh, that makes me sick on my stomach. (And don’t forget, class, that ADHD isn’t real, is a big-pharma conspiracy, and would be fixed if you had better self-control!)

ADHD and Sex: So Much Harmful Advice…

I know one friend who said she simply could not pick the right type of lingerie that “turned her husband on.” He thought his lack of sexual response was all her fault, and she spent a small fortune trying to find just the right skimpy outfit please him. Meanwhile, her self-esteem plummeted as she felt she was basically unattractive; her husband later turned to pornography.

Even though Dr. Math and I are both in the “Energizer Bunny” category, I’ve been pregnant seven times in nine years. (Yes, you read that correctly.) On birth control. Five different kinds of birth control. But hey, if birth control is effective 99 times out of a hundred, just calculate how many times you’d have to make love on perfectly functioning birth control to get pregnant once. Multiply that by seven. Subtract that from the number of days in nine years. Welcome to my favorite side-benefit of ADHD in marriage.

The really sad thing is, I’ve heard all of these extreme sexual behaviors normalized at one point or another, in various church marriage classes, with the teacher claiming they were gender-specific!

  • “Ladies, you know your man is visual. You need to do everything you can to keep his attention—like lingerie, or even learning a lap-dance—or his eyes will rove somewhere else.”
  • “Yeah, ladies, even when you really don’t want to, remember that some guys need a lot of sex. Even if you’re thinking about balancing the checkbook while he’s kissing your neck (cause we all know that women have wandering minds), remember that he needs you to be available whenever he’s in the mood.”
  • “It is the man’s job to be the initiator and your job to be receptive and warm.”

…With Such Harmful Potential Consequences

Can you imagine the shame that these (ignorant, uninformed) teachings would bring to an ADHD marriage?

  • “Oh no, I’m just not visually appealing enough.”
  • “Wait, I have to initiate sex all the time because he doesn’t—does that mean I’m stepping out of my role as a woman?”
  • “Hey, I really like sex—why is this guy saying I shouldn’t? Is something wrong with me?”
  • My husband’s not initiating. Is something wrong with him?”

Many religiously oriented people turn to a pastor or other spiritual advisor, for marital or sexual problems. If ADHD isn’t recognized by the spiritual community, then the “cure” can often be worse than the disease.

Sometimes the situation is not much better in the mental health profession.

Discussion Points:

For this chapter’s reading:

  • Have you seen distractibility, hyperactivity, or inattentiveness in your sex life?
  • How have you mis-read those problems in your ADHD partner? For example, did you think you weren’t attractive enough? Caring enough? Skilled enough?
  • How have other ADHD-related challenges affected your love life? For example, when we’re worried about grocery money, it can be hard to focus on amorous activities.
  • If you are struggling in a sexless marriage, how has that affected your self-esteem? Does knowing that ADHD might have something to do with your ADHD partner’s lack of interest change your perspective?



18 thoughts on “Chapter 6: ADHD and Sex — Peaks and Valleys In the Bedroom”

  1. When we were married the lovemaking in sex and affection was perfect very into the love language of touch now years later there’s hardly if any affection, let alone sex I have feel RSD in extreme ways which ignites my preoccupied attachment tendencies and she has dismissive tendencies. I’ve tried many different routes being a clinician retired law enforcement officer and military veteran I have come to basically feel floundering and no where to turn

    1. Hi Todd,

      It might be that your clinical training is making things harder for you. 🙂

      When we misinterpret why something is happening, we have more difficulty solving the problem.

      “Preoccupied attachment tendencies” and “dismissive tendencies.” Doesn’t that explain what something “looks like” rather than the cause?

      I would ask….you have ADHD, I assume. Are you pursuing evidence-based treatment? Is your wife on board with collaborative strategies?

      Study after study points to troubles in the rest of life dampening things in the bedroom.


  2. I have such a feeling of relief right now! I’ve suspected for quite a while my husband is an undiagnosed ADHD. The qualities that attracted me to him, his challenges (constantly losing keys- the hours spent looking for things!) Impulsivity! He just brought a new puppy home without discussing with me (we have 4 young children and a dog already) and I’ve JUST gained some freedom with our youngest in pre-K 3 days/week so finally some time for me, and poof! It’s gone!

    He is a big gesture person with a child like idea of what would make me happy. There are of course elements that don’t sound like him- he is a money wiz and incredibly successful before selling our business. An entrepreneur whose idea of hell would be working at a desk in a cubby for someone else.

    He woke up the other day and just started a business. Our love life is passionate (when we have it) but its not him that doesn’t want it, its me! I’m so stressed and annoyed from all the chaos and frustration and lack of mindfulness and not feeling heard when I ask him to clean up after himself, to put away his tools, to not leave things laying around wherever he last used them, the last thing I want is sex.

    It breaks my heart and this entire thing is ruining our relationship. Historically, the blame has been placed on me but I am hoping that he will read some of Gina’s book and be willing to explore this possible cause for some of our issues and how he can take ownership and control over certain aspects of his life.

    1. Hi Lia,

      I’m grateful that our “book club” series has been helpful to you. There’s nothing like validation to bring a person out of the fog and into clarity.

      Please be sure to read the money chapter in my book. I acknowledge at the very beginning that some ADHD partners are fantastic money managers. That’s the thing about ADHD: The people who have it aren’t clones but individuals. And they have various manifestations of this highly variable syndrome called ADHD — not to mention all the rest of personality.

      Please be sure to read the book before you even begin to look for a mental-health professional. Trust me on this. Self-education is mandatory. The mental health field is all over the map when it comes to legitimate conditions and modalities.

      it sounds like you have much going for you. ADHD treatment might make a big positive difference. But only if it’s done appropriately.

      Good luck to you!

  3. I wonder if some women (especially those with ADHD) confuse their craving for dopamine with love in certain relationships. I’ve seen otherwise intelligent, rational women lose their heads and become completely obsessed with unavailable or unsuitable men after a great sexual encounter. Could women with ADHD and a natural shortage of these neurotransmitters be particularly susceptible to sexual obsession, like they are to spending money, eating and other typical stimulating behaviors? If so, an awareness of this tendency could help women avoid falling into this trap. Would stimulants help them return to a more rational, cool headed assessment instead of being blinded by good sex? Anyone aware of any research?

    1. Hi Cassidy,

      Oh yes, not only women but men with ADHD are vulnerable to “self-medicating” with attraction, sex, romance, etc. And not only women and men with ADHD but humans in general. 😉

      But I would say that women and men with poorly managed ADHD might be more vulnerable around being less able to “stop and think” about the quality and wisdom of being in the relationship.

      I can’t point to any research; romantic and sexual attraction, of course, is a very difficult thing to measure.

      But anecdotally….oh yes. 😉

  4. While I didn’t see DH in any of the “bunnies” presented in this chapter, his ADHD has definitely found its way into our bedroom. The biggest way is the “domestic fallout” we’ve experienced. The quote by Elena on page 77 summed it up nicely for me: “You just lose the energy for it somehow. Then, once you go a long time without intimacy–meaning months and even years–and on top of that your partner causes so much chaos, it’s difficult to care for your partner in other ways, too.”

    I joke with DH that his doing the dishes is the best kind of foreplay, but it’s true. It’s that vicious cycle mentioned in this chapter–he acts like a jerk towards me (not helping at home), which makes me less inclined to be intimate, then he continues to act like a jerk because he’s not getting affection. Not to mention, if he helped out more, then I would have more time AND energy to give him. I tried to explain this to him just in terms of how men and women are different and need to be loved differently (not mentioning ADHD at all), he scoffed at the idea and blamed me for lacking warmth. (yep, there’s that blaming thing)

    The other issue we have that is definitely ADHD related is that he never comes to bed at a reasonable hour. He is on the computer or playing video games or watching tv, often falling asleep on the couch. Then when he finally makes his way up to bed and I’m asleep, it’s just too late.

    Here’s something I wonder if other ADHD couples experience: When we are on vacation, there is much more physical intimacy than when we are at home. I wonder if because when we’re on vacation, there are fewer responsibilities and his distractibility is less of an issue?

    1. Hi Deb,

      I bet you speak for many here.

      As for your last point/question, yes, I think some ADHD-challenged couples do experience a revitalization in their physical intimacy when on vacation — perhaps it’s the lack of all the distractions at home, or the novelty.


  5. Hi Penny,

    You got the exact right product by Reviva – it is fine for inside or out.
    Full doctor approval.
    Let me know how it works for you
    because it’s been a miracle for us.



  6. My husband and I both have ADHD but I feel we are well matched in terms of sex drive – when we have sexual obstacles it usually has more to do with our schedules than with interest. More recently, my husband seems to feel that he is often “tired” and that that gets in the way…but again, that’s probably a scheduling issue. Maybe an age issue…but at least for us, probably not an ADHD issue. We’ve just always been compatible in that way. I think the only exceptions have been when one of us has expedited a bout of depression.

  7. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say this is just one more big area where lack of mindfulness can spell disaster — especially for the ladies. If your mind is wandering, sex becomes tiresome and frustrating. You need to actually BE PRESENT, and that’s hard for so many ADHD folks.

    For us, it was much more problematic early in our relationship, before my husband’s ADHD diagnosis. And it wasn’t the sex itself, it was the melodrama that surrounded it, to the point where I avoided it as yet another social failure. Now that we’ve learned more about ourselves, we’ve learned it’s a two-way street and if there’s a problem, it’s not just one person’s fault.

    Honestly, though, I’d recommend mindfulness meditation to all those mind-wanderers out there. It helps in every aspect of life where having your mind miles away can cause problems.

    1. Hi Susan,

      Definitely, porn is a problem for many people with ADHD. So are videogames and any other activity that creates over-the-top dopamine release. Over time, it takes more and more “stimulation” to register in the brain.

      So, I don’t know if I’d say PIED is the “culprit” but rather poorly managed ADHD that leads to dysregulated behaviors. For some people, abstinence from porn and masturbation for weeks (or even months, if the habit is a long-held one) can help the body return to homeostatis. But if the person never had a “normal” homeostatis to begin with, that’s another matter. Maximizing ADHD treatment, and helping the person to develop new coping strategies, might be required.

      I hope that answers your question.

  8. Oh hell. This isn’t an ADHD problem with him, the problem is with the non-ADHD spouse (me). In the first months of our relationship we were pretty well matched….that is, until I had to go back to work.

    He’s on SSI, sleeps whenever he wants, gets up whenever he wants, does whatever he wants…you get the picture. I had to commute 2 hours a day – 5 days a week. I had a stressful boss at the time. I’d come home tired, stressed and low on energy. He *tried* to be understanding. I *tried* to be accommodating. It made for some pretty crappy sex.

    Then we both got older and sex started taking more of a back burner for him (it was already there for me). Went to the doctor this week and found out the pain (and blood) I was getting from having sex was the result of menopause. Oh whee. Now I’m going to try topical hormones, but who knows if they will work.

    I guess the biggest “complaint” I could have about his performance is that he always does the exact same things. Nothing very innovative unless I suggested it. At this point, I don’t even care. It’s gotten to be a nice weekly time to be together and if it doesn’t happen, I con’t care much either.

    That all sounds like we don’t have a very good relationship, but that is far from the truth. We love each other dearly and sex it just one part of our lives together. So I’m not complaining much, but I kind of miss my youth as far as sex was concerned, but whatever.

    1. Hi Penny,

      I can empathize with your situation after menopause
      With no way to have sex,
      So unbearably painful.
      I looked for and bought every lube on the planet and HRT inside and out. Nothing worked.
      BUT I found a Cure!!
      Hydralonic acid Gel in a syringe
      (3 mil ) intravaginslly
      Everyday for a week and 2 x week after that. Supplemented by refined coconut oil lube.
      Reviva makes a good HAGel
      It works it really does!

      It also eems to have a bit of an aphrodisiac effect on me, oddly.

      Good Sex really helps the ADHD relationship. Hope you get that back.

    2. Reply to Joy – I couldn’t find the product you mentioned above. I found: Reviva Labs – Intercell Night Gel with Hyaluronic Acid, but this seems to be for the outside skin. Do you have a link to it? Where to you buy it? I was looking on Amazon.

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