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

ADHD and sex


Now we arrive at Chapter 6 in this virtual book club, Peaks and Valleys: ADHD in the Bedroom.  That is, ADHD and sex. Sex in the extremes — all the time or never. Before we get to Taylor J’s personal essay based on that chapter, I’ll share the chapter’s opening.

“What’s the group consensus on ADHD and sex?” new support-group member Jennifer timidly asks. “We’re against ADHD and for sex,” quips Dave.

Some members joke about their sexual woes, but it is gallows humor. Of course they aren’t so much against ADHD as for well-managed or even acknowledged ADHD, not to mention being against the devastating impact it can have on a couple’s sex life—and a person’s self-esteem.

Dave’s wife refuses to consider an ADHD evaluation (despite three of her immediate family members being in treatment) or the fact that her sensory sensitivities and distractibility make her more anxious than amorous.

The part that really bedevils Dave? They enjoyed a great sex life prior to their marriage, and then the passion went out, “like turning off a lightbulb.” Now, he’s only half-kidding when he says, “It’s death by a thousand nights of silent rejection. It’s enough to inspire really bad poetry.”

To be sure, many support-group members aren’t suffering from sexual starvation. Almost one in five ADHD Partner Survey respondents report having a great sex life, including many in long-term partnerships. This seems significant, given that most survey respondents had sought a support group because they were experiencing significant partnership challenges. Moreover, almost half say their partner is a skilled and considerate lover. “Sex is not a problem,” says one. “If only everything in our life could be this easy!” Other survey respondents, however, report more deflating scenarios.

Is It Hot In Here?

By Taylor J

ADHD Money woes 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.

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—that’s right, a sexless marriage

Chapter 6 lists some  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? Especially a sexless 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?

Thank you, Taylor J.

Your comments are always welcome!

—Gina Pera


You, Me, ADHD Online Book ClubRead More in The You, Me, ADHD Book Club Series:

And now for the preview of the chapter-by-chapter lineup: the book’s table of contents.  Chapter titles appearing as hyperlinks correspond to an essay in the Book Club. Click to read. 

We stopped at Chapter 20. Would you like to submit your own essay to the Book Club?  We welcome it!   “Finding Your Voice” is an essential part of slowing your ADHD Roller Coaster.                              

Part One

From the Tunnel of Love to the Roller Coaster: Could Your Partner Have ADHD?

Section Introduction

1    Who Has a Ticket to Ride? Spotting ADHD’s Surprising Signs (this post)

2    Laying the Track’s Foundation: What Is ADHD, Anyway?

3    Deconstructing Your Coaster: Why Each Is Unique

4    Financial Loop-the-Loops: “It’s Only Money, Honey!”

5    Driving While Distracted: The Roller Coaster Hits the Road 

6    Peaks and Valleys: ADHD in the Bedroom (this post)

7    More Mystifying Twists and Turns

Part Two

Roller Coaster Whiplash and G-Force Confusion: How Many Plunges Before You Say, “Whoa!”

Section Introduction

8    First Plunge: Explaining the Inexplicable

9    Second Plunge: Managing the Unmanageable

10  Third Plunge: Breaking Down in Illness—Or Through to Truth

Part Three

Your Relationship and the Art of Roller Coaster Maintenance: Four Success Strategies

Section Introduction

ADHD Relationship Success Strategy #1: Taking Care of Yourself

Introduction: The Amusement Park’s Emergency Room

11  Strategies for Right Now

12  Solving ADHD’s Double Whammy

ADHD Relationship Success Strategy #2: Dealing With Denial

Introduction: Roller Coaster? What Roller Coaster?

13  Psychological Denial: The Fear Factor

14  Biological Denial: Not Unwilling to See—Just Unable

15  New Ways to Broach “The Conversation”

16  More Solutions and Strategies

ADHD Relationship Success Strategy #3: Finding Effective Therapy

Introduction: Calling in a Consultant to Help Retrofit Your Ride

17  Why the Wrong Therapy Is Worse Than No Therapy

18  Therapy That Works for ADHD

19  More Solutions and Strategies

ADHD Relationship Success Strategy #4: Understanding Medication’s Role

Introduction: Tightening the Brakes on the Roller Coaster

This post from Jaclyn at The ADHD Homestead touches on a range of issues within this section on medication

20  Making Connections Between Brain and Behavior

21  Rx: Treatment Results That Last

22  Maximizing Lifestyle Choices, Minimizing Rx Side Effects

23 Catch Your Breath and Take Five

Appendix A:

Adult ADHD Evaluation and Diagnosis

Appendix B:

“But I Heard That…”: More Background for the Unconvinced

Appendix C:

Three Views from Decades on the ADHD Roller Coaster




Your story in a comment below will help others—as well as yourself.

Please feel free to respond to the discussion even if you haven’t read the chapter (but I recommend that you do!).

—Gina Pera


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

  1. I started dating my ADHD partner, she had been divorced for a year. She had informed me that she wasn’t looking for a short term relationship. She disclosed that her marriage of 20 years lacked trust and dishonesty. That her ex-husband was a cheater and wasn’t attentive to her needs. When we started dating, she mentioned that she possibly had ADHD but was never diagnosed. I stated “you have similar behavior as my ADD/ADHD students”. This did not go over well with her but we moved passed this. The first year was amazing, although her symptomatic issues would show-up at times; forgetfulness, hyper focus arguments and being distracted. The bedroom was open for new adventures and excitements. The second year her ADHD behavior begin to show-up more often. She would be cleaning the kitchen and stop in the middle of that and start cleaning the bathroom. Something that should of taken an hour now has turn into 3 hours; from jumping from one task to another. Mentioning this cause another argument. Wherever, she started yelling, i would go home. This caused me to pick my words carefully when speaking with her. I noticed she behaved this way with family and friends. I started to see a pattern, when she calms down she is apologetic and quiet. However, by the end of year 2, her sexual excitement was little to none. She no-longer initiated sex as she did in the beginning. I mentioned to her on several occasions that something has changed and it wasn’t me. She had an excuse for not initiating, missed nights and oral. This conversation ended with me being hypersexual and not being understanding of her emotions. She stated “I’m going to do better i will make more of an effort”. This do better and effort was little to none as far as change. Now, when we do have sex it a quicky season; 2 minutes of kissing and hurry before she mentally disappear and dry up. As a man, this is like sleeping with a warm blow-up doll. Her behavior has changed, my sexual excitement towards her has changed, which sadden me because she is a beautiful person. I have become tried of initiating and being rejected during the prelude. Its like playing emotional and mental double dutch with yourself. Having conversations around this never ends well. She believes are sex life is good. She states “good sex isn’t counted by how many times but that moment”. That statement brought me to the conclusion that we are not on the same page. Third year in, we decided to spend a week in Mexico to rekindle are relationship. The same uninterested sexless behavior at home was now in Mexico. The morning we were to leave, she asked if i was interested in a quicky, i just said wow. She turned this around and blamed me. I told her the amount of money we spent “Hard Rock Resort”, we did not take advantage of the ambiance and romantic things the resort had to offer. We spent day and night doing activities and running around. This was not the kind of vacation we planned before we arrived. If i would of known this a less expensive stay would have been in order. We discussed medication, she said she could not take no medication because she has diabetes. So that off the table. Later on in the year, there grand-daughter had a birthday party at a water park. He ex-husband was laying in a lounge chair with female friend. My partner blurted out to him, “Oh you know how to cuddle now”. He laughed and introduced his female friend. She yelled and told his female friend “he’s going to cheat on you watch him”. The female friend laughed and said were okay. I apologized and told my partner to stop your grand-daughter and everyone is watching. She stated, “fk them”. The ex-husband said i wonder why i was cheating. He stated, “for years everything revolved around your feeling and behavior”. You a great caregiver but I’m not in a of a mother but a partner that takes more of an emotional interest besides the 10 minutes you are willing to give. How can you be upset with me, you blamed me for all your faults and behaviors, you should be happy. I looked at my partner, over the last two years she had been saying these things to me. I saw him later that evening and apologized. He said i was once you 5 years ago. I was with her for 20 years after the first 3 years i was catering to her behavior and feelings. She is a great women but she has some major issues that makes you question yourself. I asked him about the ADHD and he did not know what that was. He said good luck and he was more happy today then he has been. I discussed this with her and she denied it all and he was the problem. At this point, I’m still involved with her but this is more then i can handle. This relationship is making me passive, which i believes works for her. I have begun to spend less time with her because some days i just don’t feel like the roller-coaster. I realized she use her kindness as a way for you not to look at the behavior. I spoke to psychologist, she stated that people make ADHD to be some horrible thing and its not. However, an undiagnosed individual can burnout there partner and if they are not willing to get treatment. Get read for the ride. Interestedly, she said that individuals that stay in these relationships usually struggle with some form of trauma themselves or they found some other way to couple. I told her that her ex-husband told me she is a great women as long as you have another women to have something more with a emotional meaning. She said, if she isn’t willing to get treatment and these problems are effecting you emotionally and mentally then get out of the relationship.

  2. Thank you Gina P so much for your responses to all I wrote. It helped immensely and I ordered your book. I look forward to reading it. God Bless

  3. My wife and I (lesbian) have been married for almost 6 years. She always wants to avoid talking about sex with me. We have almost divorced a couple times and this last time I moved out. She wanted me back and dropped a bomb on me that she masturbates (she is horny constantly) all the time and watches porn for our 6 years. She hates that I have a high sex and says that’s all I think about. Which makes no sense. First she tried saying that that I was terrible in bed then it was it was her and that her mind is constantly going and she can’t relax – it’s not me but it’s her.
    All she wants to do is do home improvements for me. She knows we lack sexually so she accuses me of cheating because she knows she is not being intimate ever with me and avoids me.
    I am trying to read articles to try and find ways to get her to talk to me – answer simple questions- so I can get some mental clarity, but I am so lost.
    We are on a wait list for marriage counseling. I asked her about sex therapy and she wants to see if we can fix us without but I ask one question and she goes off automatically “that’s all you think about” … help … please … any advice would be appreciated.

    1. Hi Jessica,

      You don’t mention other potential signs of ADHD, only this issue with sexual intimacy.

      ADHD could be a factor, but it’s important than you learn more.

      When someone with ADHD has “low insight” to their behaviors, they can sometimes find all kinds of rationalizations for it. But the rationalizations don’t go to the core of the matter — ADHD-related issues around self-management, planning, coordinating….and other behaviors that are conducive to regular sexual intimacy with a partner. And the rationalizations often lean toward blaming their partner with nonsensical explanations.

      You need more than articles online or random books, if you think there are other reasons to see ADHD as a factor. I recommend that you read my first book.

      Good luck!


  4. My spouse has ADHD. He’s addicted to alcohol and that’s how he’s coped. His physical addiction to alcohol has now made his life more difficult than the ADHD, he’s on month two of sobriety after the last ER visit (three in one year) This round, I’ve made it pretty clear will be my last go with him. This requires I have a ton of patience with everything that comes out when he isn’t drinking. ADHD goes into full effect. And we go from having sex 3-4 times a week to him having raging boners but not wanting to have anything to do with sex. He told me he went 9 months without Cumming once… I love him more than I have any man. No matter what we go through, I’m willing to go through it with him… however… I’ve come to realize sex means more than I thought it did to me in a relationship. I’m worried this will be what leads to a break up which is crazy considering everything on our plate… I tried to talk to him about it, it ended with me feeling like I was hypersexual.

    1. Hi Taylor,

      Developing an alcohol addiction isn’t “coping” with ADHD. It’s compounding the problems.

      So, even though you might perceive that “alcohol now has made his life more difficult than the ADHD,” it sounds like untreated ADHD is what left him vulnerable—and exacerbated his dys-functioning thanks to alcohol.

      You write that “I’ve made it pretty clear will be my last go with him”. And you also write, “No matter what we go through, I’m willing to go through it with him.”

      I encourage you to learn all you can about ADHD. Read my book, for example, and understand that treatment is often best approached with teamwork.

      Good luck,

    2. My wife takes Vyvanse and she has graduated to 2 pills a day and I noticed when she is off of it … she is worse and worse over the years, even in her sleep. My wife uses the alcohol sometimes but she has realized is and curtails it. I don’t want to give up on her but it can be mentally exhausting.

    3. HI again, Jessica,

      Okay, so now you say that your wife is taking Vyvanse. That means she has already been diagnosed with ADHD.

      Taking 2 pills a day of Vyvanse means nothing without knowing the dosage, how it was decided to increase the number of pills daily, etc..

      You say she is getting worse. Has her prescriber ever invited you to provide feedback?

      Jessica, the unfortunate truth is that most “medical treatment” for ADHD is a hot mess. If we leave it up to the MDs and PhDs, we risk a lot.

      Think of ADHD as a team sport.

      Again, I encourage you to read my book. Yesterday, if not sooner! 🙂

      Don’t wait until you are worn down to a nub and perhaps falling ill to depression, anxiety, or a physical illness.


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