How does ADHD affect sexual function?

This systematic review of the literature identified seven studies addressing ADHD and sexuality.

Sexual function

A Dutch study compared 136 persons with ADHD with two large surveys of the general Dutch population. They used both a self-report questionnaire, the Questionnaire for screening Sexual Dysfunction and a non-validated questionnaire especially constructed for the study. They found that males with ADHD reported a 50 percent higher rate of frequent masturbation than males in the general population. Both males and females were less than half as likely to be satisfied with their sex life. That was almost certainly linked to the fact that ADHD participants in the sample were less likely to be in a relationship.

A second study compared 79 ADHD participants with controls. Using a validated questionnaire, the Diagnostic Interview Schedule, to assess sexual function, they found a significant positive correlation between ADHD and the items “sex drive more than the average” and “recurrent thoughts about sex” by comparison with the control group.

A third study used two validated inventories – the Derogates Sexual Functioning Inventory and the Social Sexual Orientation Inventory – to assess sexual function among 27 young adult males. They found their sex drive to be higher than in the control group. 

Another study, also with 27 ADHD patients, compared them with two other groups, one with fiber mitosis (benign connective tissue cancers), and the other with both ADHD and fibromatosis. They used the validated Life Satisfaction Questionnaire to assess sexual function and found that those with ADHD reported lower sex life satisfaction.

On the other hand, the only large study, with over 14,000 participants, using a non-validated questionnaire to assess sexual function, found negligible associations between ADHD and the number of sexual partners, the frequency of having sex with one’s partner, and the frequency of masturbation.

Sexual dysfunctions

The Dutch study mentioned above, comparing 136 ADHD outpatients with two large surveys of the general Dutch population, used a validated self-report questionnaire, the Questionnaire for screening Sexual Dysfunctions, and a non-validated questionnaire, specially designed for the study, the Questionnaire for screening Sexual Problems. It found the rate of sexual dysfunction among both males and females with ADHD to be over twice the level in the general population. Men were four times as likely to report problems with orgasm, 50 percent more likely to report premature ejaculation, and over ten times as likely to report sexual aversion. Women were over three times as likely to report sexual excitement problems, over twice as likely to report problems with orgasm, and over three times as likely to report sexual aversion. No significant differences existed between patients treated with psychostimulants and those without such treatment.

A second study, which used a validated questionnaire to compare 79 ADHD participants with controls, found significant correlations between ADHD and aversion to sex for men but none for women.

On the other hand, a third study, comparing 32 subjects with ADHD with 293 controls, found no significant difference in the prevalence of sexual dysfunctions. It used clinical interviews to assess ADHD, and a non-validated questionnaire to assess sexual dysfunctions.

A fourth study took a very different approach. It compared 38 individuals with premature ejaculation to 27 controls. It found more than ten times the rate of ADHD symptoms among those with premature ejaculation than in the control group. Significantly, it measures premature ejaculation directly, with a stopwatch.

Conclusion

The authors concluded, “This article provides the first systematic review of sexual health among subjects with ADHD and shows that the quality of sexual health among subjects with ADHD seems poor,” but acknowledged “several limitations to our review. There are only a few studies for the topics we reviewed. For many studies, the sample size was small. The methodology and measurement instruments differed, which created a potential bias.”

Indeed, the study with the largest sample size found negligible associations between ADHD and sexual function, contradicting studies with small sample sizes.

Only four of the studies, all with small sample sizes, examined sexual dysfunctions. Two found strong associations with ADHD, one found none, and the fourth had mixed results.

This points to a compelling need for further research on ADHD and sexuality, with larger sample sizes.

Lorenzo Soldati, MD, Francesco Bianchi-Demicheli, MD, Pauline Schockaert, MAS, John Köhl, MAS, MylèneBolmont, Ph.D., Roland Hasler, Ph.D., and Nader Perroud, MD, “SexualFunction, Sexual Dysfunctions, and ADHD: A Systematic Literature Review,” Journal of Sexual Medicine(2020),https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsxm.2020.03.019.

Share