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The Facts About Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

Find out how ADHD affects your sexual health.

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Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a complex brain disorder that impacts about 11 percent of children and 5 percent of adults in the United States.

Individuals with ADHD have trouble with impulse control, focus and organization. Contrary to popular belief, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder is not a behavioral disorder, learning disorder or mental illness. Rather, it is a developmental impairment in the brain.


The symptoms of ADHD can be categorized into two types of behavioral problems, although it is possible to have both:

  • Hyperactivity and impulsiveness
  • Inattentiveness

The primary signs of hyperactivity and impulsiveness are:

  • Being unable to sit still, especially in a calm environment
  • Constant fidgeting
  • Difficulty concentrating on tasks
  • Excessive movement
  • Excessive talking
  • Impatience
  • Impulsive acting without thinking
  • Little sense of danger
  • Poor impulse control

The primary signs of inattentiveness are:

  • Appearing to be unable to carry out instructions
  • Being easily distracted
  • Being unable to stick to tasks
  • Daydreaming
  • Difficulty organizing tasks
  • Having a short attention span
  • Losing things
  • Making careless mistakes
  • Poor listening skills

What causes ADHD?

Researchers do not know the specific causes of ADHD. While there is evidence that suggests genetics contribute to attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, no specific gene combination has been pinpointed as the culprit. However, ADHD does tend to run in families.

There is evidence of anatomical differences in the brains of children with ADHD compared to people without the disorder. For example, children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder have less gray and white brain matter volume, and show different brain region activation during particular tasks. Babies born with low birth weight and those born prematurely have a greater risk of developing ADHD. The same goes for children who suffer head injuries to the frontal lobe of the brain.

Diagnosis and testing

When diagnosing ADHD, psychiatrists, psychologists and neurologists use the standard classifications and guidelines described in the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5), which is the standard for diagnosing psychiatric disorders.

While neuropsychological testing may add to the clinical assessment, ADHD cannot be diagnosed in a child using only brain imaging, such as a CT (computed tomography) scan or an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan.

To be diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, a child must demonstrate at least six symptoms of either inattention, hyperactivity or both. These symptoms have to be present for at least six months.


ADHD treatment, which depends on the age of the individual, typically includes prescription medications—such as mixed amphetamine salts (brand name: Adderall) and methylphenidate (Ritalin)—and behavioral therapy. While there is no cure for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, treatment can help control its symptoms.

The best treatment strategies for ADHD are typically multimodal, meaning a combination of various complementary approaches. In addition to medications and behavioral therapy, a nutrition and exercise program may be recommended. Taking supplements and vitamins, practicing mindfulness and spending time outdoors is beneficial for some ADHD patients.

ADHD in adults

Many adults with ADHD do not realize they have it. Adults with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder may find it difficult to focus on daily tasks. They may also have trouble controlling impulses, which can include impatience while driving in traffic and frequent angry outbursts.

Adult ADHD symptoms may include:

  • Difficulty focusing at work
  • Difficulty multitasking
  • Disorganization and problems prioritizing
  • Frequent mood swings
  • Impulsiveness
  • Poor planning
  • Poor time management
  • Problems completing tasks
  • Restlessness
  • Trouble coping with stress

ADHD and sexual health

If you have ADHD, you may be hypersensitive to stimulation during sex, making intimate touching annoying. Your sex drive (libido) may be affected by attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, which can make your desire for sex vary from day to day.

Some men with ADHD experience erectile dysfunction (ED) and delayed ejaculation, whereas other ADHD sufferers have an intense desire for sex and may look for risky sexual encounters, including unprotected sex with multiple partners. These impulses could create a rift in an existing relationship.

Dating with ADHD

Dating can be extra stressful for people with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Here are several tips for dating with ADHD:

  • Inform your date. It's likely your date is unfamiliar with the symptoms of ADHD. Find opportunities to educate them without immediately inundating them with information. Allowing your date to see the world through your eyes can help them better understand you.
  • Select the proper activities. When arranging a date, make suggestions for the activities you enjoy most. If you are aware attending events like poetry readings or plays might cause your mind to wander, avoid them. Instead, propose an active date, such as a tennis match or bowling. These date suggestions can give you more vigor and sharper focus.
  • Take your time. The impulsiveness that comes with ADHD frequently causes romantic relationships to progress too quickly. Make an extra effort to move slowly, because moving too quickly is a common dating red flag. Before taking the next step in the relationship, ask yourself if you're really prepared to take that step.

Living with ADHD

Usually noticed at an early age, ADHD symptoms can worsen as a child's surroundings change, such as when they first attend school. Although ADHD can occasionally occur later in childhood, the majority of occurrences are found in kids between the ages of 3 and 7. The diagnosis of ADHD is rarely given to people who were not diagnosed with it before age 12.

Two other concerns for people with ADHD are anxiety and sleep disturbances.

Although many adults who received an ADHD diagnosis when they were children still struggle, the disorder's symptoms usually become milder with age.


What are the 3 common symptoms of ADHD?

The three most common symptoms of ADHD are inattention, impulsivity and hyperactivity.

Examples of inattention include:

  • Being easily distracted
  • Forgetfulness
  • Short attention span

Examples of impulsivity include:

  • Interrupting others
  • Taking frequent risks

Examples of hyperactivity include:

  • Being in constant motion
  • Excessive talking
  • Fidgeting with hands

How do doctors test for ADHD?

There isn't one single test that can identify attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Doctors instead rely on a number of factors, such as:

  • Direct observation of the child or adult
  • Interviews with adults (parents, relatives, teachers, etc.)
  • Psychological testing
  • Rating scales or questionnaires that assess ADHD symptoms

The extent to which a patient's symptoms influence their everyday moods, conduct, productivity and lifestyle habits must be determined by the doctor. They also need to rule out any other conditions.

Why do people get ADHD?

The specific cause of ADHD is unknown to researchers. There seems to be a genetic link. For instance, your likelihood of developing attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder is about double if you have a sibling who has ADHD.

The areas of the brain that govern impulses also appear to have some anatomical abnormalities. Although all teenagers struggle from time to time with impulse control, adolescents with ADHD may experience the issue more frequently due to changes in how their brains develop.