Justin Lehmiller (Social Psychologist) wrote this article.
What’s the first image that comes to mind when you hear the term “attention deficit hyperactivity disorder” (ADHD)? Odds are, you’re probably imagining a kid who is hyperactive or has trouble focusing in school. However, ADHD isn’t just for kids—it affects adults, too. It has many important implications for their daily lives, as well as their intimate lives.
It is believed that 4-5% of adults ADHD affects approximately 1 in 20 people. In other words, it’s not a rare occurrence, and this means that a lot of people are going to wind up dating or being in relationships with a partner who has it. What does ADHD mean for romantic and sexual relationships?
Unfortunately, this is a topic that hasn’t received much research attention; however, psychologist Ari Tuckman recently conducted a large scientific survey on this subject, the results of which he published in a book titled “ADHD After Dark.”
Tuckman conducted a survey of more than 3,000 adults living in a relationship with an ADHD partner. The results revealed a lot about ADHD couples and the best ways to handle them. These are his key findings.
ADHD Adults tend to have greater sexual drives
This survey included 12 questions about sexual “eagerness,” such as how often people want sex, how frequently they masturbate and watch porn, as well as how diverse they want their sexual repertoire to be. The partner with ADHD scored higher on 10 of the 12 questions than the non-ADHD partner. This indicates that they are more interested in sex.
This is what this means for the relationship. As Tuckman told me in an interview, “it can be a double-edged sword.” On the one hand, it can potentially be a source of strength to have a partner with high libido who desires a varied sex life. Long-term relationships are more likely to be sexy and satisfy sexual needs. The tendency to fall over time, so having a partner who doesn’t let sex move to the back burner and is willing to trying different things could help to keep the passion alive.
However, it could lead to sexual desire discordances. This could lead to conflict if the partners are very different in terms of how much and which type of sex.
This problem is made worse by the fact non-ADHD spouses may have lower sexual desires to start with, stemming from conflicts in their relationship. ADHD sufferers often struggle with managing their time. People with ADHD may forget things or fail to do their fair share of housework, which can lead them to stress, resentment and conflict. This can lead to a decrease in desire and a wider gap between the couple in the bedroom.
ADHD sufferers are more likely than others to have committed infidelity
The survey also found that adults with ADHD—both men and women—were more likely to say they had previously committed infidelity. This was true irrespective of whether the infidelity was sexual or emotional.
This could be due to ADHD’s tendency to have more impulsive and sexy decisions. However, this isn’t to say that someone with ADHD can’t be monogamous or that they’re necessarily bound to cheat. Let’s be clear: that’s not true at all! In fact, ADHD was present in the majority of ADHD patients. Not Have you ever been cheated?
So, while ADHD is linked to higher rates of cheating, it’s far from a foregone conclusion that they will cheat.
ADHD patients are more interested than ever in non-monogamy consensual.
Additionally, ADHD sufferers reported a greater interest in being involved in sex open relationships, and more previous experience in these types of relationships. This makes sense because of their increased interest and desire for sexual variety.
However, it’s not clear whether persons with ADHD are more well-suited to non-monogamous relationships. Going back to the “double-edged sword” discussed above, those with ADHD have higher sex drives and are more likely to have cheated, which would suggest that being in an open relationship might be ideal for meeting their sexual wants and needs.
At the same time, though, we also know that persons with ADHD tend to have issues with time management—and managing multiple relationships at the same time presents a number of challenges in and of itself, even for those who don’t have time management issues.
Research tells us that ADHD has important implications for a couple’s sex life when one partner has this disorder and the other does not. However, this does not mean these relationships can’t be successful.
It’s important to keep in mind that ADHD is underdiagnosed in adults—many people have it but aren’t being treated for it. Tuckman says this is when relationship and sex problems can be most severe. If you suspect that you or your partner may be suffering from sex problems, you should seek help.
From there, it’s really a matter of how much effort both of you are willing to put into the relationship. The more that you’re willing to work together to come up with productive solutions to sexual and other disagreements, the happier you’re both likely to be in the end.
Justin Lehmiller, a social psychologist and research fellow at The Kinsey Institute, is Dr. Justin Lehmiller. He is an award-winning educator having been recognized three times with the Certificate for Teaching Excellence from Harvard University. Dr. Lehmiller has published more than 50 academic works, including a textbook titled “The Psychology of Human Sexuality” that is used in college classrooms around the world. His Sex and Psychology blog, workshops and media appearances help people to live healthy, intimate lives.