Antidepressants and Sex: where to begin?
Sex is something that is supposed to bring us joy.
Unfortunately, many people on antidepressants, including myself, learn that the tradeoff with antidepressants exists in the bedroom. Antidepressants, especially SSRIs, make it harder for us to orgasm, and thus enjoy sex. Oftentimes, people can get so frustrated with this symptom, that it makes them want to skip out on sex in general.
Depression and Anxiety are very common mental health conditions, and many people deal with both conditions simultaneously. Luckily, there are lots of remedies and solutions that come in various forms. If one is diagnosed by a psychiatrist as anxious or depressed, they might be prescribed SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) or SNRIs (serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors). According to the Mayo Clinic, SSRIs treat depression by increasing levels of serotonin (and only serotonin) in the brain, while SNRIs work to regulate and/or increase levels of serotonin as well as norepinephrine in the brain. Serotonin and norepinephrine are both hormones and neurotransmitters, so they work by sending messages to the brain which affect how our bodies work both in terms of physical & mental health.
While these medications can be incredibly helpful, they also come with possible side effects, one of the most popular being sexual dysfunction. This dysfunction can manifest itself through decreased libido, difficulty orgasming, or difficulty maintaining an erection, among many other things. At Personal Fav, we are all about working to eliminate the shame and stigma that can come with mental illness and sexual dysfunction. We also believe that everyone should have the right to pleasure. Here are just a few of the ways that one might work to remedy this unfortunate side effect of antidepressants:
- Identifying the issue:
- First, it’s important to note that sexual dysfunction does not look the same for everyone, nor does it come from the same place. For some, it is a direct side effect of medication. For others, their lingering anxiety or depression can make it harder to experience pleasure. Before figuring out what to do to help your sex life, you should identify where the issue comes from. Talking to friends, partners, or doctors can all help one gain clarity.
- Homeopathic remedies
- There are lots of homeopathic ways to help this issue.
- Maca is a root vegetable, but it’s also known to have effects that can potentially increase your libido. In 2008, a study was conducted to look at how Maca can help SSRI-induced sexual dysfunction. What this study found was that people who took Maca (consistently), especially at a higher dose, experienced increased libido. There are obviously limitations to this study, like the fact that the majority of subjects were women. But the study also showed a very low risk factor that came with taking Maca. In other words, the side effects of this supplement are very low, given that Maca is consumed all over the world, especially in South America. Of course, more studies need to be done in order to confirm its efficacy. But trying maca might be worth a shot.
- Other supplements that might help boost libido are Horny Goat Weed (which you can find in our Whet serum ;) ), Fenugreek, and Red Ginseng, among others. But make sure to talk to your doctor before taking any supplements.
- Watching or listening to something
- Watching something sexy can also help get you in the mood, if that’s what you’re struggling with. Audio and Visual Porn can be great for some - we recommend Bellesa, Quinn, Sunroom, Playboy Centerfold, and Erika Lust Films, but there are also lots of TV shows and movies with steamy and/or intimate scenes that can get the vibe going.
- Self-pleasure is also really important. Understanding how to make yourself feel great is paramount. After all, how can you expect someone else to make you feel good if you don’t know what works on your own?
- Pleasure can also be enhanced through the usage of toys. There are so many unique toys out there beyond the classic vibrators, strap-ons, butt plugs, etc. Toys can also be used solo or with a partner. Take some time to find toys that excite you, and they can make sex more fun. Check out Lelo and Dame for their toys.
- Decreasing Alcohol Consumption
- It also might be helpful to re-examine alcohol intake. Interestingly enough, we see alcohol depicted in the media and in our culture as something that is often connected with sex, especially casual sex. However, alcohol is classified as a depressant. While alcohol may temporarily take away our focus from stressful things like work and personal problems, it is actually proven to make orgasming more difficult. In one study for example, while intoxication was shown to make women more temporarily aroused, their ‘orgasmic responsiveness’ decreased. This is, of course, the medical opinion of one group of researchers. By no means does it reflect the official opinion of Personal Fav or the medical world as a whole.
- Of course, you know your body better than anyone else. But it’s never a bad idea to take another look at how what you put in your body can affect your pleasure.
- *Important note: It is also always important to talk to your psychiatrist or other doctor about how alcohol interacts with your medications. SSRIs and SNRIs have known reactions with alcohol, and being cognizant of these reactions prior to drinking on medication is paramount.
- Meeting with a therapist
- Mental health can also affect how we feel sexual pleasure. Of course, medication can help. But therapy is also a great tool. Talking through mental blocks like anxiety, trauma, and the stress of work/life balance can all work to relax you both inside and outside of the bedroom. Therapists can also help work with you to tailor results specifically for your lifestyle, according to your body and your preferences. And if you want a therapist specifically to help you navigate your sex life, sex therapists exist too!
Although this was by no means an exhaustive list, we hope you can use this information as a guide to help you live a life with more pleasure, whatever pleasure may mean to you.
No matter what is causing your sexual dysfunction, we want to make one thing clear - there’s nothing wrong with asking for or taking help. There are so many great tools out there, and at the end of the day, everyone deserves to experience pleasure.
- Dording, C. M., Fisher, L., Papakostas, G., Farabaugh, A., Sonawalla, S., Fava, M., & Mischoulon, D. (2008). A double-blind, randomized, pilot dose-finding study of Maca root (L. Meyenii) for the management of SSRI-induced sexual dysfunction. CNS Neuroscience & Therapeutics, 14(3), 182-191. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1755-5949.2008.00052.x
- Anxiety disorders - Symptoms and causes. (2018, May 4). Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/anxiety/symptoms-causes/syc-20350961
- Depression (major depressive disorder) - Symptoms and causes. (2022, October 14). Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/symptoms-causes/syc-20356007
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). (2019, September 17). Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/in-depth/ssris/art-20044825
- Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs). (2019, October 5). Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/in-depth/antidepressants/art-20044970