I’m talking today with Chris Connelly about how ADHD affects sexuality and intimate relationships. I have a feeling that this episode is going to be very relatable to so many of my listeners, and myself included. You might hear some of the things Chris has to say, and think to yourself “Hm, this sounds a lot like me.”
Chris started her sexploration in high school as a peer sex educator at the Hartford Gay and Lesbian Health Collective. She went on to receive her degree in Community Health from the University of Maine and to work at the Center on Halsted community center in Chicago as a Health Educator. In 2013 she began her research to hack online dating which bloomed into her current 5 step dating course that she has now customized to serve the ADHD community.
What has Chris’s experience with ADHD been?
When she was tested in the 4th grade, she was told it definitely was not ADHD, but instead that it was dyslexia. When she was in college, she had a therapist suggest that she try ADHD meds to see if that would help her. Before the meds, her head was like a keg party, and then all of a sudden on the meds, it was like all the people at the party were waiting in line to talk and not just a mess of noise.
What changes did she start to notice after getting diagnosed and being put on meds?
Meds do make it easier for her to finish a sentence and focus on something, as long as she's interested in it. People often think that having ADHD means you can’t focus on things, but it’s so not the case. For example; that bird outside the window is way more interesting than the teacher in front of the class. I can focus on that bird for 45 minutes just fine, the attention we have just isn’t going where other people want it to. It’s about being able to drive your attention instead of the attention driving you.
The biggest challenge that people have is not believing their self worth. Or not having the right tools that will work with an ADHD brain. We just need to be authentic and honest, to be able to have self acceptance without being self critical, knowing that I’m am perfect just the way I am. Maybe my brain can’t connect all the sentences in the right way, but my brain can take a bunch of information and make connections that other people wouldn’t be able to make.
How does ADHD affect sex?
It can be like listening to a boring lecture, “Where else can my brain go that’s more interesting?”. If we know what’s going to happen, we’re left thinking how can I get novelty back into my sexual life and stay connected? When you tell an ADHD brain we have to get there instead of seeing if we can get there, the brain is going to throw a fit and say no. We need to thinking about the journey being the destination, or the destination is connecting with yourself or connecting with another person.
What can we do to change this?
Try thinking of sex like a game. Things like, touching for 10 minutes, but the bikini area is off limits.
Maybe keep the sexual sessions shorter. You can focus on something for 30 seconds or 1 minute, then allow yourself to get distracted, take a few deep breaths, and then come back, or maybe not.
Maturbate curiously, maybe you don’t start with doing things with a partner. Notice yourself, notice when you come and which ways you touch yourself is useful.
"I’m not worried about diagnoses. I’m worried about making sure people loving themselves, knowing they’re not broken and being able to have fulfilling lives, relationships and sexuality with themselves and others."
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