Fifty shades of ADHD and performance in the bedroom

Mimi Hall of Cocoa / Headline SurferEditor's Note: The following was written for the Counseling Center of New Smyrna Beach and Shane Porter by Mimi Hall, a freelance writer, shown here who lives in Cocoa

NEW SMYRNA BEACH -- If you’re an adult who’s been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, commonly called ADHD, chances are you’ve started to address some major issues: procrastination, lack of organization, distractions, sees-awing energy levels, managing your money.

ADHD affects nearly every aspect of our lives: education, parenting, jobs, housework, and yes, the stuff we do in the bedroom. Or let me rephrase that:  The fun stuff we’re supposed to be doing in the bedroom.

Like most adults with ADHD, I admit that it’s hard for me to focus on one activity unless I’m completely obsessed by that activity. It’s not that sex is bad; it’s just, that, well, I can’t focus.

I am ashamed to admit how many times my mind starts to wander, and I start planning what I’m going to wear, what I’m going to cook, what’s going to happen in the next episode of whatever HBO series I’m watching at the time.

According to Edward Hallowell, M.D., author of multiple resources for understanding and treating ADHD, nearly every ADHD adult he treats has an ADHD-related sex problem.

The sad truth is that the stuff that plagues us with our clothes on also plagues us with our clothes off. We may not be having enough sex, or pretty average sex, as Hallowell puts it, “that doesn’t foster genuine emotional intimacy.”

How can an ADHD adult concentrate on foreplay when his or her mind is always racing ahead?

“Good sex is possible only if both partners in an ADHD marriage feel relaxed and playful — and are capable of shutting out the outside world to savor the moment,” says Hallowell.

Right. Well, when does that happen? I thought. When the planets are aligned?

When we’re on all-expenses paid, stress-free vacations in five-star hotels? When the dogs don’t bark? When I can focus on my partner’s ear lobe and stop thinking about the next chapter of the vampire novel I’m reading?

It was good for me

How about that tendency to interrupt and excitedly control a situation that many of us have displayed since childhood?

Sex is a shared activity, but an ADHD partner may tune out after his or her needs are met. This kind of selfishness in the bedroom may not be intentional, but ADHD adults may need reminders about taking turns.

Great Expectations

The ADHD attention span works at 100% or not at all.

ADHD adults often thrive on excitement, so sex isn’t usually a problem in the beginning of a relationship. That’s when it’s passionate, all consuming, the most important thing on your radar.

When familiarity sets in, sex may command less of our attention, and when you’ve lost that lovin’ feeling, it’s hard to reignite.

For many people, the best sex exists in their minds.

An ADHD adult might frequently think about having sex, but the reality is a bit of a letdown. To compound the problem, many ADHD sufferers are perfectionists, always in search of the ultimate experience. Some seek stimulation and variety in the form of pornography or other partners. Holding a grudge relationship dynamic, such as resentment, may play a large role in ADHD sex.

For instance, if the organized, non-ADHD partner handles bills, housecleaning, etc., he or she may resent this responsible, somewhat parental role, and lose desire for their partner.

If the ADHD partner is constantly being reminded, nagged, or coaxed he or she can resent being treated like a child. A skilled therapist may help with power struggles rooted in ADHD.

It is imperative that couples regain a level of mutual respect to function happily in the bedroom.

What to do?

Like every other approach to correcting ADHD behavior, increasing our attention span in the bedroom takes intention, organization, practice, and time commitment.

The good news is that like most behavioral modification for ADHD, making time for sexy time boils down to schedule and structure, with a dash of spontaneity.

It might just be you

Passionate intensity is attractive.

Chances are, some of your excitability is what attracted your partner to you in the first place. 

Even though you may worry about being boring, or feeling boredom, your partner might not share this concern.

Some adults with ADHD have found that they are actually doing a better job than they thought in bed, and just knowing that their partner is satisfied helps alleviate some of the guilt.

It’s not you or me

It’s important not to blame each other when ADHD puts a crimp in your sex life. Average sex doesn’t happen because you don’t love each other enough.

ADHD is a biologically driven, behavioral habit that has to be redirected. It requires calming down, finding a way to focus on sex, and adjusting your expectations.

Grow up already

Spine tingling, back clawing sex comes with a lot of risk and uncertainty. Stability may not be the most exciting thing in the world, but with maturity, comfort trumps a string of empty one-night stands.

Not the same old same old

One of the nice things about ADHD adults is that they often enjoy playful spontaneous acts, so bring on the role-playing, props, games, and more.

Generally, your ADHD partner will enjoy any change of pace, scenery, or novelty.

According to Shane Porter, a therapist at CCNSB or the Counseling Center of New Smyrna Beach “One of the primary sexual issues amongst couples is that they forget what it is like to have fun with one another, they forget how to be playful in and out of bed.

Playfulness helps to bring down the walls of the ego and allows the couple to experience increased intimacy again.”

Make Time Break out that list or that smartphone app that you’re probably already using to get your ADHD under control. Sex should be a bullet item.

Or take a more subtle approach: Schedule a date night or a weekend getaway that may or may not lead to sex. Taking the pressure off the sex act itself and focusing on gentle intimacy works best for some couples.

Whatever your approach, turn off or leave all distractions behind.

Don’t speak like many ADHD people

My husband and I are so verbal that we constantly entertain each other with our stories, opinions, and general goofy wit. Before we know it, 30 minutes have elapsed and we’ve talked ourselves out of the mood, or we have to go jump in the shower to meet some other deadline.

It’s important to take time to do the activity, not to talk about the activity or talk around the activity.

Just do it. Again – Just do it!

Physical activity stimulates areas of the brain that control attention and thinking, so getting regular exercise may help focus your activity in the bedroom. Exercise increases levels of dopamine and activates happy hormones like oxytocin.

When your body feels energized, you can take some of that adrenaline into the bedroom.

Baby Steps

Just concentrate on this one activity on your list. Taking small, manageable bites out of your daily agenda reverses the deadly procrastination train. And truly, isn’t this one of the best bullet items? Sex shouldn’t feel like, “Oh, it’s too much trouble. Let’s do it later.”

Chances are, the energy and well-being you generate in bed will enable you to tackle the next item on your list – tomorrow!

Mimi Hall recently switched from a structured day job to pursue a freewheeling career of freelance writing, which she describes as a delightful challenge. To sample her portfolio and blog, check out http://mimi.writerfolio.com and http://mimsywords.wordpress.com. Sources: Edward Hallowell, M.D. “Rediscovering Romance In Your ADHD Marriage.”

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Short Bio

Shane Porter, a licensed mental health counselor who has been in private practice since 1998, is president of the Counseling Center of New Smyrna Beach. His community column, "Get Psyched," is exclusively carried by Headline Surfer®.