Teens, Sex and ADD ADHD

As a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, I spend a lot of times with teenagers – often with their parents out of the room. I hear a lot of things about the world that teens live in… And I often can’t share it with the parents due to confidentiality rules.

One of the topics which comes up a lot is: Sex.

There are two major issues which comes up around this topic:

  1. Teens ARE sexually active
  2. They often have questions – and often don’t feel that they can ask anyone…

And most parents aren’t aware of what is really going on with their teens, and they often can’t talk to them about sex.

How does this relate to ADD/ADHD?

Research has clearly shown that teens with ADD and ADHD are much more likely to engage in sexual activity – and risky sexual activity at that.
Research has also shown that:

  • Teens with ADD/ADHD have first sexual intercourse earlier
  • Teens with ADD/ADHD are more likely to have teen pregnancies
  • Teens with ADD/ADHD are more likely to need an HIV test (i.e. they have had sex without protection)
  • etc.

A new study was just released which reveals the sexual practices of teenagers. The research was published in the January issue of Pediatrics and Child Health. The study found that 27% of teens were sexually active at a mean age of 15 years. The last time that they had sex, 76% had used a condom, according to the study.

Another conclusion of this study was that teens don’t know enough about common STIs – i.e. sexually transmitted infections/diseases. While most teens know about HIV and its risks, this study finds that most do not know about common STIs like chlamydia.

This study documents that by age 17, 45% of the teens surveyed were sexually active.

What should a parent of a child or teen with ADD or ADHD do about this?

You need to realize that:

  • Your ADD/ADHD child is at risk of early sexual intercourse.
  • Your ADD/ADHD child is at higher risk of teenage pregnancy.
  • Your ADD/ADHD child is at higher risk of Sexually Transmitted Infections.

It is also very important for you to remember that many parents of kids/teens with ADD and ADHD struggle to maintain good communication lines with their child or teen.

Why?

Because often there are issues with day to day life which create arguments, frustration and anger.

So when there is an important issue to discuss, there is little rapport for a safe, open and non-judgmental discussion.

I encourage parents to let go of day to day ‘little issues’ (which create a lot of fights and arguments) so that they can have the discussions about issues which are very important (and can be dangerous) – like sex, as well as drugs and alcohol.

How do you create such a relationship with your ADD/ADHD child or teen?

  • Learn a lot about ADD and ADHD.
  • Focus on your child’s strengths.
  • Work with your doctors and therapists.
  • Use great resources which are out there for you – like Secrets to ADHD Success.

The bottom line:

Although the issue of talking to kids and teens about sex can be controversial, and you may agree or disagree with my opinions, the truth is that kids and teens with ADD and ADHD are at higher risk of sexual issues than non-ADHD kids and teens.
It is best to equip yourself with the right knowledge and work proactively (i.e. educate your child early on) rather than working reactively – and dealing with crises after the fact.

Please share your thoughts, comments and experiences by posting a comment on this blog post below.

Dr. Kenny

p.s. To get your hands on the breakthrough system which can help you to communicate better with your child or teen with ADD/ADHD, visit: Secrets to ADHD Success.

[tags]ADD, ADHD, Teens, Sex, Parenting[/tags]

Comments

  1. my daughter been struggle for a long time with out burst,arguments,fighting with parent not leaving the house, can’t sit in class very sexual,with object,just found boyfriend, there is a long list i hope i can get answer from this site

  2. I’m from Alberta. In grade 7 kids start taking sex ed or when enrolled in special ed they have a class called “girl power” (exceptional). My girls are all very aware of sexually transmitted diseases and the risks they take if they choose to be sexually active and leave themselves unprotected. The line of communication must be open to them. The issue is not that they are sexually active but that they are protected. They are going through a difficult time in life and need your support and understanding more than they ever did. Be there even though you don’t agree with their choices. Do this throughout all aspects of life and I guarantee you, when they need you they will come.
    Joyce Preston

    • I am the mom of an Add girl, and a Adhd boy. My daughter is a 15yrs old and every so often engages in casual sex. She comes to me after the fact, in a panic worried about possible pregancy cause the condom broke. We were in a similar situation last ur when she first started having sex. Can’t begin to tell u how disappointed I am in the behavior. She is unmedicated cause she hates meds. She is doing well in school wit lots of hard work of coarse. She has never had a boyfriend, but has had two partners. We do have an open relationship. She is a really good girl but lacks confidence and longs for a boyfriend. We recently discussed seeing the psych and maybe starting a different med, then the one in the past. Also I am considering starting her on birth control, but i am not sure i am sending her the right message. I truely could use some advise. Thank u and sorry for the long post.

  3. I am a teacher, now substituting K-9. This piece of information needs to be passed along to all teachers and school counselors! This article opened my eyes! Thank you.

  4. Kenny,

    Thank you for coming out and saying this. I am grateful my daughter is not quite at that age yet but I am bracing for it and working on creating open communication. Having grown up ADD I remember being a CONSTANT thrill seeker. Sex fell among many behaviours I sought out, some of which were much more destructive. All the same I kept an A+ average in school and showed up for church every Sunday. My folks almost did not have a clue until the time that my girlfriend, (now wife), became pregnant. I was barely 17 and they had no clue how little control they actually had over the situation. End result was that we ran away to be married in a state that condoned underage marriage. Now we are a happily married couple after 10 rough years but I look back and see that ironically this is actually the thing that probably saved me from literaly kiling my self through all of the risks and thrills. Things could have turned out much differently but irresponsible sexual activity was a major influence on my life during that period of time. So many parents that I speak with are oblivious to the facts and the risky age that their teenagers, especialy those with ADD/ADHD are going through. I hope that your article helps to open their eyes. I wouldn’t change my life now, but things could have been much different.

  5. Thank you all for your comments so far.
    I am glad to see that this post is creating some discussion – because this is a very important issue. And one that our society often doesn’t do well on, even when ADHD is not in the picture.
    Thanks Joyce for your advice.
    Kathy – I agree – that teachers need to be aware of this. Feel free to email the link to this article to the teachers that you work with.
    Jason – I really appreciate your willingness to share your story and past with us. I am glad that you have been able to make things work – and I appreciate your wisdom – i.e. “I wouldn’t change my life now, but things could have been much different.”
    Dr. Kenny

  6. Kenny
    communicating about sex with a normal adolescent is in itself a daunting task for most parents, with an ADHD adolesccent, issues do get more complex and challenging.
    In my experience of working with young adults with ADHD, for some engaging in sexual activity is fuelled by their high need for approval and acceptance and this often biases their ability to choose a stable partner or worse continue a potentially abusive relationship.Parents need to be conscious of messages of acceptance and affirmation that they give their adolescent.

  7. Frankly, this article scares me, I know it is necessary to deal with or in my case, to be prepared for, but my son is only 7 and he won’t listen to me now! What am I going to do when he is a teen ager?!
    At this point, we’re still dealing with be careful crossing the street, and the stranger issue and when I speak to him about these things, he just rolls his eyes and says that he “already knows this stuff”…

    I do believe that knowledge is power, I read lots and I purchased the secrets to adhd success, which I found very helpful. It’s just that I find this so overwhelming at times that I’m afraid to even think about what it will be like when he is a teen!

  8. This is a great topic to discuss because I myself was diagnosed with the disorder and I had a sexual encounter at around puberty and so I am glad that you brought the topic so they can discuss this with their teens which have the disorder.

  9. Monica,

    I think that Joyce has the best advise I have heard. Many of the thrills and risks that i took were taken trying to achieve some sort of acceptance and there was not a forum for partental exchange because my folks enforced a very biased belief system. I am not saying that you should let your kids run rampant, but if they are not able to discuss situations and actions without fear of retribution THEY WON’T. Friendship and mutual respect for who they are can go a long way. Also you still have the opportunity to build this now before your child is a teen.

  10. Hi Dr. Kenny,

    i just received your email. I really want to jump on the bandwagon and also be a child psychiatrist for ADHD, because I myself, am a sufferer of this disorder and I have stumbled on so many doctors that don’t know how to properly treat it. I noticed this article, and I agree with it. Although I am 25, I have to say that ADHD individuals are often putting themselves at some risk, whether sexual or non sexual due to impulsive behavior. I think most males I know that have ADHD seem closely associated with several of the observations/stats you have mentioned on your site –sexually active at a younger age, more prone to STD’s risky behavior, etc. Ironically, I’m an atypical ADHD-er and assess these situations with fine care (maybe because I’m aiming towards the medical profession or my 12+ crazy years spent in Catholic Education accompanied by a messy parental divorce).

    Although I’m super liberal, I think its hard for any teen to talk to their parents about sex and I DO think that most ADHD teens are more engaged in sexual activity. I think part of this is also because some people may feel in control of their sex life, but are not in control or have difficulty in other parts of their lives. I find this research fascinating and wish that I can do more work on this topic. I think that there might be a significant difference between males and females in this group, but I am not all that sure. I see a big difference among them in my school, but that might be due to external factors

    Sorry for such a long post!

  11. Unfortunately, I agree with Dr. Handelman.
    I was a Guidance Counselor in an alternative High School for some years where many of the kids were diagnosed with ADHD. In my experience, an overly-high proportion of the kids were sexually-active. And, many of the kids who’s parents strictly forbid talk of birth control, STD’s and sex in general (except for “Don’t have any!”), were in fact sexually-active anyways… just without the info to do so safely. When they happened to come to me, I had the tricky job of following the guidelines of the school and parents- encouraging the kids to wait to have sex, to value it and themselves more and to know how to have relationships without sex (many feel that you can’t, especially the girls!)… but kids still often have sex. And I watched too many of them get pregnant, drop out of school, and start (or continue) a cycle that no parent wants their child to be stuck in (i.e.- pregnant too early, has to drop-out-of-school or does poorly in school, gets the first low-paying job they can get and stays stuck for years!). As a parent myself, I know that I don’t want my daughter or son to be sexually-active too early for many reasons… At the same time, I know that unless I teach them as much as I can and arm them not only with knowledge but with the emotional fortitude to make good decisions (either feeling okay about saying, “no” or at least using birth control via condoms etc.)… they too will be at risk for early pregnancy, STD’s etc. It’s tricky to nagivate through the teen years- my hope and prayer is that I, and other parents, can teach their kids what’s factual and true before their peers manipulate them into believing something that isn’t true. Good luck parents!

  12. Wow!!! I am sitting here thinking about the unbelievable amount of risks I took as a teen and young woman. I have never been tested for ADHD but now I believe that my son does get it from me. I had unprotected sex all the time, I also used IV drugs, and abused alcohol. I am terrified what my son will do to “feel accepted”. He is 14 and starting to think about dating. He has a VERY low self esteem, and would do anything to feel accepted by his peers, this scares me to death. We have just started to see a physchiatrist and I am hoping to open up the lines of communication. At present our communication is basically yelling and screaming at one another. I have told him time and time again that he can talk to me about anything, but I also know that sex is something nobody wants to talk to their parents about. Thank you for the thoughts that I shouldn’t sweat the little things and maybe that will calm the waters between us and hopefully open the lines of communication.

    Keeping my fingers crossed!

  13. I am a young adult, diagnosed with ADHD and ODD since the age of four. Growing up in a christian household probably aided me in remaining abstinent. I have been seriously dating a man for 2 plus years now and we are still waiting! Which is impressive, ADHD or not.
    I say all of this to make the comment that yes, ADHD people, because of impulsivity issues are more likely to develop problems related to STI’s and the like, but it is not impossible! I want to let others know that just because a kid has AD/HD does not make them a sexually rampant being.
    With all this being said, I am crossing my fingers, hoping for a child with the same morals system I have!
    Good luck to all the parents out there!

  14. Well that explains a lot. i have three girls and the youngest, 13 years old, has adhd. My two older girls are very conservative and are “good” girls. I have been having problems with my daughter and her sexuality. She is not modest at all and has engaged in some activity that even her older sisters are appalled at. She is such a nice girl but, she is so sexual. I think it has a little to do with the fact that they always seem to get yelled at by everyone and this is one time when someone is being extra nice and it feels good. Very sad!

  15. My daughter who is 13 has many of the symtoms of an adhd child impulsive , fidgety ,distractable ,etc..It has only been the last three years of middle school where things have changed so much .This year was the first year she had a boyfriend and she has only had a boyfriend since Sept . .Recently we found out through the school that she had unprotected sex with her boyfriend and thought she was pregnant.We were shocked ! She is not pregnant,thank god.She has been getting in trouble at school,since 6th grade .We’ve been trying to figure it out.Now all the pieces are coming together .She was a straight A student up until then.She was even in a talented and gitfed program.Her teacher suggested she be screened for adhd which we are in the process of .Today we found out she can’t go on her 8th grade trip because of the trouble she has gotten in to .She also missed her 7th grade trip because she had gotten two critical referrals. She has gotten 40 blue slips for getting in trouble in school in 7th and 8th gradeShe is very sad and angry about not going on this trip and it just hurts to think of all the things she is going through but right now I have to learn all I can to help her, that is what has brought me to this sight.I am more convinced then ever that she has adhd.

  16. I am dealing with this now. My 13 year old boy with ADHD loves life and wants to be accepted. When he started 7th grade last year (when he was 12) he met a new girl. She was 13 and was also ADHD among other problems. She had multiple boyfriends (most in high school) and had gotten pregnant and blamed my son so as to not get her real boyfriend in trouble because he was older. My son was 12! and even though I am pretty sure his parts work, he definately was not developed enough to father a child.

    Parents of ADHD children! Don’t let this happen to you! We have gone through living hell. Keep watch on your ADHD children. It does not matter if they think you are smothering them and not giving them freedom. Keeping them safe from harm until they are old enough is the most important thing in the world.

  17. Teens, Sex and ADD ADHD | ADD ADHD Blog.com…

    Most parents aren’t aware of what is really going on with their teens, and they often can’t talk to them about sex. How does this relate to ADD/ADHD?…

    • My oldest daughter is 14 with ADHD and ODD. She is also sexually active. One symptom of her ADHD is her lack of Impulse Control, another is her thrill seeking personality. This combination causes her to make poor decisions and to seek out new adventures while ignoring any values we have tried to instill in her. To my current knowledge she has only experimented with oral sex, but given the right opportunity she is willing to try more.

      I am only aware of her sexual active due to counseling. Which resulted in making an appt for the Teen Clinic for STD testing. I have told my daughter that as family, we can recover from a pregnancy, but that I fear that she might contract HIV, Herpes, or Hep C, which would be harder for us all to live with.

      I have been talking to her about how to protect herself sexually since she was 11, just before she left for 4 days of to Science Camp. When she was 12 told me that 12 years don’t have sex. A month later she told me that a girl she sits next to in her class was pregnant. A year after that she asked me for condoms. I asked her if she was sexually active she said no, but that she wanted them just in case. I purchased them for her and told her that she was not to share or tell anyone she had them. 3 months later she was pulled into the school’s office because parents were complaining that she was handing them out to their sons. The school administrator also took the last one she kept. The following year her counselor informed me that she had snuck her boyfriend into her room 6 months earlier while Grandmother was babysitting her and her younger siblings. I also informed that she snuck out of a family gathering to have oral sex with a family friend just a month before. This past week when we took away her phone for texting her sexual fantasies, her father found nude photos of her that she had also been sending via text.

      She will not be receiving any of her electronic devices back.

      Being able to talk with your child about sex does not guarantee that your child will or will not engage in sex. It doesn’t even give you peace of mind that you have done everything you can to keep your child safe. Everyone is always looking for a quick fix. There isn’t one . The best we can do as parents is to be kept informed and remain diligent. Not every child with ADHD is the same and what works for one doesn’t work for another.

      Some have suggested that I put her on the pill, but that will not prevent her from contracting an STD. She is too young to be a mother, but I can live with being a bald grandmother.

  18. i found this blog interesting although not containing the answers i am looking for i have an almost 12 y/O with adhd who is way to curious about sex, too the point he has searched it out on the internet and everything. he’s getting in trouble in school for making inappropriate comments to girls and touching in inapppropriate places ie rubbing their leg and showing unwanted attention, i am lost dazed and confused i have had a very open discussion with my child about sex and he see’s a therapist on a regular basis to deal with his impulsive behavior and we are getting nowhere. he has no friends and he is pushing the limits in everything, as a parent all i seem to be able to do is watch him self destruct..i don’t know the answers and i am not even sure what the question is or was anymore, as a parent it is very difficult to know how to help a your child with all of these confusing things in life if they won’t even tell you what is going on in their little heads, the saddest part in all of this is i know i have an intelligent funny sensitve young man in the making now how do i go about directing his energies in the right path?!?!?!?!? ahhh, the dilemmas of parenting!!!!!

  19. We were very open with our two children and talked to them both about sti’s and the need for protection. Our 2 boys are 18 and 15, and we dont know how sexually actice they are, but we always mention about sexual transmitted diseases, and the need for protection. We just hope they listen to what we have said.

  20. My 15 year old daughter has been prediagnosed with ADD and I believe she also has ODD. We need help! However, she is refusing and thinks her behaviour is OK but it is not. Way too much to the extreme. How can we convince her to get help.

    • Audrey – get parenting help from a professional. It may help you to adapt your approach to set appropriate parameters. It isn’t full treatment, but it’s a step in the right direction.

  21. I have a teenage son with ADHD who is 19 now and I have been very concerned about his behavior towards sex.

    He has no interest at all in girls and is constantly in fear of them being sexually interested in him.

    I have tried to encourage him with girls but even seeing someone in a bikini seems to disgust and almost scare him.
    I have wondered if he could by gay, but he has almost the same reaction with boys. He is constantly complaining about people giving him physical contact. Can someone please help ?

  22. This information is definitely an eye opener for parents. It is essential for parents to be aware on what’s going on with their teens, especially if they indeed have ADD/ADHD. Some are unsure if their kids do have this, so I guess it’s a start to be able to know about the symptoms of ADHD in teens –
    http://www.add-adhd-teen-help.com/add-adhd/what-are-the-symptoms-of-addadhd-in-teens.html
    If they do have it, then it’s going to be very important to ask for any advice from professionals who would know how to deal with them. It’s going to be a very challenging task but as parents, it is our responsibility to make sure we help our kids to help themselves.

  23. That’s why parents giving support and discuss matters is very important, moreover it is also necessary for children to go to a school where they are accepted and monitored where counseling will be provided. Like Day schools ( http://www.add-adhd-teen-help.com/add-adhd/are-there-schools-for-adhd-children.html ) they tend to suit the needs of a small percentage of ADD and ADHD children. By using a variety of activities instead of bookwork to teach, and interspersing periods of physical activity, an controlling energy levels through strategic nutritional approaches, these schools manage to help ADD kids succeed academically. Academic success is important, since many of these children are otherwise bright. However, failing to address the behavioral issues makes for increased anxiety and troubles outside of school, where the environment isn’t s controlled.

  24. I have adhd….believe I always have and if you really think your kids give a shit about std’s or pregnancy happening you need to just understand they don’t care. I’m thirty and just now understanding consequences. Medication and counseling is best. Write them anonymous emails from a fake email acct saying what you want them to know is one idea. I wasn’t medicated when I was younger and sexually experimenting but I was FAR more horney than any other girls my age. I remember masterbating a dozen times a day at school in the second grade.

  25. My 14 year old daughter has or had a 12 year old boyfriend which has ADHD, ODD, Impulse control and anger issues. Very nice kid, but one with obvious problems. He insists he is in love with her and that they will marry. This led to them having sexual intercourse. They have not been allowed to continue their relationship as per his Mother and my feelings as they are in over their heads. I feel however they should be able to have some contact. How should this be handled? They are both miserable and both are acting out? My daughter has had no previous behavioral issues, honor student, straight A’s, athlete….How should this be handled?

Leave a Reply