The Neurodivergent Guide to Sex
If you are neurodiverse, then you probably already know that neurodivergence impacts every area of your life. For those of you who don’t know, “neurodivergent” is a term used to refer to a person whose mental or psychological functioning is different than that which is typical. This could mean you have ADHD, autism, depression, anxiety, trauma, or any number of psychiatric diagnoses. Whether you yourself are neurodivergent or your partner is, here are some things you should know about neurodivergent sex:
Interest in sex may fluctuate.
This is truly the case for many people, but especially for neurodivergent people. You may go through phases where you are hypersexual and want sex all the time or phases where you have no interest in sex at all, maybe for a while. This is not always indicative of a bigger problem. For some people, their brains may simply forget that sex is a thing they like to do or something else may grab their focus for a while. If you are in a relationship where the fluctuating interest is causing a problem, some ways to deal with it include taking advantage of the particularly horny phases, masturbating regularly to help maintain regular interest in sex, and encouraging the partner who is interested to initiate sex themselves which may remind the less interested partner how much they enjoy it!
Novelty is necessary.
It is extremely common for people with ADHD to get bored with sex. A lot of times, this can cause feelings of shame or guilt, but the fact is that people with ADHD quickly lose interest in activities that are repetitive, long-lasting, or do not fully engage their minds and bodies. In this case, novelty is necessary. Don’t have sex the same way, in the same position every time. Switch things up. Try new lingerie. Light candles or play music to engage your senses while having sex. Experiment with kink. These are all ways to keep things interesting, fresh, and exciting, which is a good practice for anyone.
Sensory issues are real.
Sensory needs are extremely common among neurodivergent people. Sometimes, this comes in the form of sensory aversions, where certain smells, tastes, or textures are extremely uncomfortable or off-putting (maybe the smell of lube or feeling of lace). Other times, this could mean they are easily overstimulated by certain levels of sensory input, even those which seem to be normal to a neurotypical person (like the loud music of a club or smells of certain candles). Be patient with yourself and your partner and have honest discussions about what sensations you enjoy and which ones you want to avoid. These are usually fairly easy to work around with some creativity.
Distractability is not the same as disinterest.
Beyond just getting bored with sex, neurodivergent people may also have trouble staying focused during sex. This doesn’t mean the sex is bad or that your partner is not enjoying themselves or doing a good job. Whether it’s an ADHD mind wander or an anxious worry-spiral, being neurodivergent can mean you get distracted often, even during sex. Some ways to work around this include saying their name during sex or having faster paced sex.
Trauma triggers can be really inconvenient.
Neurodivergence is not just limited to people with diagnoses of ADHD, autism, or mental illness. Trauma can impact your brain and the way you experience sex, too. If you have experienced trauma, particularly sexual trauma, having sex can bring about triggers you might not expect. Subtle sensory cues, flashbacks, or just letting yourself be vulnerable with someone can go from sweet to startling without much warning. If this happens, communication is key. If you are able and comfortable, let your partner know what triggers to avoid, what you need in the moment if you are triggered, and understand that you may need a break (a few moments or even longer) to process your feelings before being able to move forward. It is not usually a good idea to “push through” or you risk re-traumatizing yourself. If you notice this is impacting your life or keeping you from enjoying sex altogether, you may consider seeing a therapist or a sex coach.
Meds can be maddening.
It is a terrible, cruel irony that the medications often prescribed to address depression come with side effects that are, well, depressing. SSRIs (like Zoloft, Lexapro, Prozac, etc.) can reduce your sex drive, cause anorgasmia (the inability to achieve orgasm), impact your ability to have an erection, or experience vaginal dryness. If you think your medications are impacting your sex life, talk to your doctor about ways to work around this. Your doctor may suggest other types of anti-depressants that do not have these side effects, a lower dosage, or recommend some workarounds (like having sex right before you take your meds, when the medication is lowest in your system or simply using more lube or longer foreplay). These side effects are incredibly common and nothing they haven’t hear before, so there is nothing to be embarrassed about.
Dysfunction comes in all shapes and sizes.
In addition to medication-induced sexual dysfunction, execeutive dysfunction is a widespread problem for neurodivergent people. Executive dysfunction impacts your ability to plan, organize, prioritize, or motivate yourself. It often results in procrastination, messiness, trouble starting tasks, impulsivity, and a number of other things that can look a lot like laziness or not having priorities straight. This can impact your sex life by making it harder for you to take care of yourself or your home which could create some unattractive or unappealing situations. Be honest with yourself, patient with each other, and try to be proactive about keeping yourself clean and groomed and keeping your home or bedroom clean and organized so you can set yourself up for success.
Work with your brain, not against it.
It is important to embrace your neurodivergence rather than fighting it. Neurodivergence is often the result of differences in brain anatomy or brain chemistry and isn’t something you can–or should– “tough out” or “fix.” The sooner you accept that your brain is wired differently, the sooner you can learn to work with your brain rather than against it.
These obstacles are far more common than you think. For help working with your neurodivergence to have a thriving and exciting sex life, Dr. Stacy Friedman holds a Doctorate degree in Human Sexuality in addition to a Masters in Clinical Sexology and is a Certified Sex Coach. She offers remote complimentary 15-minute consultations and ongoing coaching sessions. Call 1-561-899-7669 or visit https://drstacyfriedman.com today!