Impulsivity, Relationships and Sex

Do you engage in sexual relationships you later regret? Always looking for the next guy or girl? Suffer buyer’s remorse from an relationship you got into too soon? Impulsive decision-making regarding relationships and sex is a way of life for many ADDers. It all comes down to the way our brains are wired. But there is hope! Like most “ahas” about ADD, awareness leads to understanding which leads to acceptance. In this article, we’ll discuss how the impulsivity common to Adult ADD impacts relationships and sex.

Impulsivity, Relationships and Sex

In a study published by Faraone et al. (2000), adults with ADD are found to be impulsive, inattentive, and restless. The researchers also found many adults with ADD suffer with antisocial, depressive and anxiety disorders and showed histories of school failure, work problems and traffic accidents.

But what about relationships and sex?

Author Jeff Emmerson didn’t know he had ADHD until the age of 35.

 “Ahhhh, the shameful past of quickly extinguished relationships, of walking out on jobs, of getting into verbal fights, and even of going to jail as a result of my actions! Yeah, this one is huge. Promiscuity and “easy come-easy go” relationships are yet another common pattern for people living with adult ADHD. Self-control, especially on the verbal front, is a real issue. Over the years I would go from relationship to relationship, looking for some sort of connection, however tenuous, to fill the void, only to feel even emptier after quickly rushing into one night stands, relationships where we had nothing in common, and other pursuits to find some inner peace through the external world.”

Does this sound like you? Is this behavior learned or hard-wired?

In a study, “Associations between Dopamine D4 Receptor Gene Variation with Both Infidelity and Sexual Promiscuity” by Garcia, et al. (2010), it is the presence of the 7 repeat allele (7R+) present in the ADD brain that allows impulsive acts such as promiscuity. This 7R+ gene is also associated with traits related to ADD such as alcoholism, financial risk-taking, and other impulsive behaviors.

How ADDers can avoid being impulsive in relationships and sex:

  1. Set goals. Discover what you want in a relationship or partner.
  2. Resist the temptation to find a new partner or end a relationship when things get tough. Hang with it.
  3. Find a good therapist.
  4. Learn to meditate.

The beautiful thing about being a human is the ability to choose. While acting on impulse is strong in ADDers, being aware of the impulsive urge may just be all we need to impact change.

— George Sachs PsyD

George Sachs, PsyD is a clinical psychologist in Manhattan and founder of the Sachs Center. He specializes in the testing and treatment of ADHD and Autism in children and adults. He uses a holistic approach for treatment, which includes therapy, diet, exercise, medication if needed and neurofeedback training. Dr. Sachs has appeared on NBC, CBS, and Vice TV. Sachs is also the author of three books, including his most recent Helping Your Husband with ADHD and Adult ADD Solution.