This week on Mystical Monday - written by Casey Gueren
We've gotten A LOT of questions about how antidepressants are screwing with your libido and orgasms. This is such an important topic and something that will probably affect lots of people at some point in their lives. So instead of responding to one particular question, this article will explain how these medications can affect your sex drive and what you can do about it.
To learn more about this, BuzzFeed Life spoke with two psychiatrists who also specialize in sex therapy: Dr. Virginia Sadock, clinical professor of psychiatry and director of the human sexuality training program at NYU Langone Medical Center, and Dr. Madeleine Castellanos, board-certified psychiatrist and author of Wanting to Want: What Kills Your Sex Life and How to Keep It Alive. Here's what they had to say:
It’s true: Antidepressants can absolutely screw with your sex drive.
It's a very common side effect of most SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or the most common type of antidepressants). This group includes meds like Paxil, Prozac, Zoloft, and others. They're used to treat various anxiety and depressive disorders, and they might be something you take for a little while or a lifetime. So if you've taken something like this and experienced sex issues, you're definitely not alone.
That said, there are also other types of antidepressants — like Wellbutrin or SNRIs (serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors) — that are less likely to come with sexual side effects, but these might not be the right fit for everyone.
But not everyone will be sexless while on these pills.
"Some people are more sensitive to the effects of these medications than others, and some people metabolize medications differently," says Castellanos. So you might not experience any side effects — or you might on one drug but not another. Plus, some people who had low libido when they were depressed or anxious might do better on medication.
"In some very lucky people, it affects [libido] and then after a few months the body sort of recalibrates and it doesn't affect it anymore," says Sadock. "It's not common, but it can happen." Basically, it's totally individual.
So how do SSRIs mess with libido? Actually, it's the same way they help treat anxiety and depression.
SSRIs work by increasing the neurotransmitter serotonin in your brain, says Castellanos. This is what helps with depression and anxiety, but too much serotonin can also inhibit libido and make it harder to orgasm. It's also possible that as serotonin increases, dopamine is reduced, she says. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that actually facilitates arousal (among other things), so if you're secreting less of it, you'll have a harder time getting and staying turned on.
These sexual side effects can include lowered libido, inability to orgasm, delayed orgasm, or erectile dysfunction.
So just overall not a great time. For women, SSRIs often lower libido so that you're just not that interested in having sex, but they can also delay or inhibit orgasm. For men, SSRIs more often affect libido and orgasm rather than actual performance, says Sadock. So you'll probably get an erection just fine, but it takes forever to orgasm — or you can't finish at all. Some may also experience erectile dysfunction, though that's a less common side effect and may be related to previous failed attempts (like if you're so freaked out about it happening again that you can't get it up).
There's one major confounding variable to keep in mind, and that's the reason you're on antidepressants in the first place. "The complicating thing here is that depression also affects libido and depresses it," says Sadock, and obviously so can anxiety and other mental health issues. It's important to look at what your sex drive was like before your symptoms hit, what it was like when you were experiencing symptoms, and what it's like now that you're taking medication. This will help you and your doctor figure out what your baseline was and see if it's your symptoms or your medication that's cockblocking you.
First of all, do not stop taking your medication without talking to your doctor. It's usually recommended that you stop taking SSRIs gradually to avoid any withdrawal-like symptoms. So even if you're dealing with sucky side effects, call your doctor before throwing out your pills. Now, here are a few things that might help:
And there many practices and herbs that you can try to increase desire that are not at all pharmaceutically related.
Essentials to remember:
1. PLAIN and EASY FUN boosts TRYPTOPHAN! Focus on what really makes you happy and simply do it. Dont think twice, or wonder about what others might think. Just go out and do it.
2. DOPAMINE + SERATONIN REGULATING HERBS are known to make you feel happy and, often-times, horny. Some of the best: St. Johns Wort (horny goat weed), Mucuna seed, Damiana, Ashwagandha, Albizzia flowers and bark, Muira Puama seed, Cacao, Yohimbe, etc.
3. EXERCISE! SWEAT + SWEAT + SWEAT mental and emotional toxicity easily accumulate in the body. When you do exercises that squeeze all the energetic and physical stagnation out, you tend to feel amazing. This is why the simple act of sweating profusely releases dopamine!
Super important note here for anyone sleeping with someone who's taking antidepressants! Be patient and understanding. This is obviously incredibly frustrating for both of you, but getting discouraged will only make things worse. Know that it may take them longer to finish — or they might not be able to orgasm at all (or only with solo stimulation). Showing them you're totally cool with it and not rushing them will probably do great things for your relationship and your sex life.
The bottom line: Antidepressants might be alright for your short term mental health, and quite shitty for your sexual health and overall happiness. But there are ways around that!
1/4 cup Blood Orange Juice
1/4 cup Beet Juice
1/2 cup Sparkling Water
Maple Syrup* (or sweetener of choice) as desired
Rub the orange peel around the lip of the glass and toss into the cup. Add about a cup of ice. Add the fresh squeezed blood orange and beet juice, then fill the rest of your glass with sparkling water. Here feel free to adjust proportions for each ingredient. Add your Euphoric elixir and Happiness tonic, and mix very well with a long mixing spoon or shaker. Add a hibiscus flower or rosemary to make it beautiful.
*Keep in mind you can add your happy herbs to honestly anything! You can add your happy drops into your matcha, coffee, tea ritual at any time of day (and as needed) to regulate your dopamine and serotonin!
Cocktail by Renee of Will Frolic for Food