Hyperfixation, Love Bombing: How ADHD Complicates Attraction

Experts say the constant search for novelty and stimulation can have both good and bad effects on people’s relationships.
adhd mental health condition illness disability attention deficit hyperactivity disorder love relationships attraction love bombing emotions adult adhd
It’s not you, it’s ADHD. Photo: VladSt, Getty Images

Matt Raekelboom is the kind of person who will give a partner everything he’s got. That is, at least, until the stimulation fades. Then he turns the dial back down, leaving his partners unsure about how he feels about them. 

Raekelboom, a content creator and public speaker, thinks that this behavior is because of his Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), which he said makes him feel like he’s being fueled by extreme emotions and prone to impulsive decisions, mood swings, and a “constant urge for more.”


“I think ADHD affects my romantic relationships in both extreme positives and extreme negatives,” Raekelboom told VICE.

ADHD is a mental condition that affects parts of the brain that help people plan, focus, and execute tasks. According to the United States National Institute of Mental Health, it’s marked by a pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with people’s daily functioning. One study estimated that in 2020, the condition affected over 506 million adults around the world. 

The condition also affects the brain’s reward system, which makes regulating emotions and behaviors more difficult, and impulsive and risky behaviors more appealing. But it’s not all bad. Some people with ADHD claim it makes them more creative or allows them to go into intense states of hyperfocus

Experts and people who have ADHD say that the condition affects the way they feel attraction, manage conflict in their relationships, and even how they have sex.

Janina Elbert Maschke, an ADHD coach, said this can make romantic and sexual relationships more intense and exciting, but it can also make them more difficult.


According to her, struggling with emotional regulation can mean an affinity for intense emotions, which can make falling in love, or at least wanting to fall in love, feel easy. This can lead people with ADHD to hyperfixate on and “love bomb” their newest attraction, but it might also mean they quickly lose interest and want to move on to a new hyperfixation.

Donna Giachino, also an ADHD coach, said that people with ADHD can come off as spontaneous and fun-loving, which can attract people and lead to special relationships. But “due to troubles with executive functioning, including organizing, memory, etc., [ADHD] can challenge any relationship where the partner is hoping for organization and consistency.” 

Pina Varnel, a comic book author who makes comics about her experiences with ADHD, said that she sometimes falls into the trap of relying on her partner to make up for the times she’s unable or forgets to do something. “It creates a lot of negative feelings in the long run. It can foster resentment in my partner and make me feel like I’m incapable of handling things on my own,” she said. 

Having difficulty concentrating also makes Varnel more sensitive to when her concentration is broken, like when her partner interrupts her work to ask quick questions like what she wants to eat. 


“I get frustrated and react annoyed. Even if my partner meant well, it will now take me ages to regain my focus,” Varnel said. She added that states of hyperfocus and trouble regulating her emotions can sometimes make her prolong arguments to match what she’s feeling instead of actually working things out. 

“I try to catch myself when I do this more and more by recognizing the sentence patterns that I’ll use in these moments. When I do this, I often start sentences with, ‘OK but.’ So I trained myself to stop right after the ‘but’ and take a closer look at my thoughts. Am I really looking to get something out of this question, or am I trapped in a ruminating spiral because I can’t seem to resolve my own feelings?”

ADHD can also affect sex.

“It pains me to say this, but it takes me a lot of effort to focus on being intimate in bed, too. I just can’t have any music on or I’ll get distracted and start mentally listing the groceries I’ll have to buy the next day. Other days, I’ll get hooked on intimacy as a form of dopamine source,” said Varnel.

Both Maschke and Giachino said that the impulsivity that comes with ADHD can lead people to risky sexual behavior. 

In a video, Raekelboom said that having ADHD can sometimes go hand-in-hand with enjoying certain kinks, precisely because getting stimulated through things like pressure and pain can help people stay present in bed. 


Relationships and ADHD are tricky enough on their own, but each can make the other even more complicated.

“It is important to understand how these behaviors are related to ADHD and how they show up in the individual. If the individual has trouble with emotional regulation and this causes them to have mood swings or seek out fights with their partner for the adrenaline rush, it is important to start working on their emotional regulation,” said Maschke. 

She added that practicing mindfulness can be a good way to regulate emotions and reduce impulsive behavior. Setting clear boundaries and working on communication can also help reduce friction in relationships. Seeking treatment through coaching, therapy, medication, or a combination of those things can also help people understand their own behavior. 

Raekelboom said that having ADHD is both a blessing and a curse and every day comes with its own challenges. “If I take care of myself, which I always should be, then I reap the benefits of a wonderful brain. But if I don't take care of myself, then it can lead to the spiral of most of [my] relationships,” he said. 

But it’s important to remember that one’s ADHD is not necessarily something that has to be changed for their relationship to succeed. Varnel said that there’s a fine line between looking at the condition as something that has to be “overcome” and working with it to find ways to become even more herself with her partner. 

“I have to be allowed to be myself with my ADHD symptoms and all because these are parts of me that I just can’t remove. But how I handle these symptoms and how I take responsibility for the potential hurt I may cause—ADHD or not—is something I will always be able to work and improve on,” said Varnel.

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