Sex Q&A

How Does ADHD Affect Orgasm?

October 18, 2021 by Justin Lehmiller

A reader recently asked the following question:

“I often have a hard time orgasming. I have heard that having trouble orgasming can be related to having ADHD. To be clear, the orgasmic potential is there, it’s just that I get so distracted that I sometimes cannot actually come. I would be super interested to see what the research about this topic looks like.”

Anecdotally, I have heard similar things from some of my friends with ADHD, so you’re not alone in experiencing this.

There isn’t a ton of relevant research on this subject because most studies of sexual difficulties haven’t taken ADHD into account; however, I was able to locate a recent study that looked at rates of sexual difficulties among adult men and women with ADHD [1].

What the researchers found was that 44% of men and women with ADHD reported symptoms of at least one sexual difficulty—and among those who had at least one difficulty, most (60% of men and 70% of women) had symptoms of two or more difficulties.

For men, the two most common difficulties were orgasmic problems (14%) and premature orgasm (13%). For women, they were sexual excitement problems (26%) and orgasmic problems (22%).

These findings were based on screening questionnaires provided by 136 patients at an ADHD clinic in the Netherlands, so we can’t generalize the findings broadly. However, they do suggest that among adults seeking treatment for ADHD, sexual difficulties, in general, are not uncommon and that problems with orgasm are among the most frequently reported difficulties specifically.

It’s interesting to note that ADHD was linked to both orgasming too quickly as well as having delayed orgasm (or no orgasm at all). This suggests that ADHD may have quite different sexual effects on different people.

The link to premature orgasm may be due, in part, to broader impulse control issues that often co-occur with ADHD.

By contrast, the link to delayed orgasm may be due to the distraction issues you noted because, with ADHD, it is often difficult to focus. However, in some cases it may be due to other medications one is taking. For example, some people with ADHD are on antidepressants, which can have a number of sexual side effects, including orgasmic difficulties.

So what can you do if you have ADHD and are experiencing sexual difficulties? For tips on this, check out my podcast with Dr. Ari Tuckman on how ADHD affects sex. Tuckman also has a great book called ADHD After Dark that offers a deep dive into how ADHD intersects with sexuality and relationships, and how to deal with common issues that arise.

Want to learn more about Sex and Psychology? Click here for more from the blog or here to listen to the podcast. Follow Sex and Psychology on Facebook, Twitter (@JustinLehmiller), or Reddit to receive updates. You can also follow Dr. Lehmiller on YouTube and Instagram.

Image Source: Photo by Ahmed Nishaath on Unsplash

[1] Bijlenga, D., Vroege, J. A., Stammen, A. J. M., Breuk, M., Boonstra, A. M., van der Rhee, K., & Kooij, J. J. S. (2018). Prevalence of sexual dysfunctions and other sexual disorders in adults with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder compared to the general population. ADHD Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorders10(1), 87-96.

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Written by
Dr. Justin Lehmiller
Founder & Owner of Sex and Psychology

Dr. Justin Lehmiller is a social psychologist and Research Fellow at The Kinsey Institute. He runs the Sex and Psychology blog and podcast and is author of the popular book Tell Me What You Want. Dr. Lehmiller is an award-winning educator, and a prolific researcher who has published more than 50 academic works.

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