For months, every time Susan’s boyfriend tried to touch her or initiate sex, she grabbed a beverage. The 34 -year-old required two glass of wine and a solid buzz to feeling even remotely turned on.
More often than not, intercourse was simply off the table. Weeks passed without the couple touching or kis. Susan never got aroused. She stopped having orgasms. She never masturbated.
“It was the complete opposite of who I am, ” Susan told The Huffington Post. “I’m unbelievably affectionate. I love sexuality. It wasn’t me.”
It wasn’t: It was Susan’s serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor. And as is the case with up to 70 percent of adults who take antidepressants, the drug had gutted her sexuality life.
Reading the common side effects of popular antidepressants is like flipping through a grim catalog of potential sexual dysfunction. Decreased sex drive. Decreased sex performance. Men can experience impotence. Women can lose feeling in their vaginas and nipples. Study have shown that both sexualities can experience diminished and delayed orgasms, or none at all.
Reading the common side effect linked to popular antidepressants is like flipping through a grim catalog of potential sex dysfunction.
“We’re still not completely sure what causes depression, what the exact mechanism are, and that same lack of lucidity gets extended into the sexual side effect[ of antidepressants ], ” Vanessa Marin, a sex therapist, told HuffPost.
The medications target certain neurotransmitters in the brain, which can in turn affect sex drive and a person’s ability to orgasm, Marin said — but how exactly that all runs is still something of a guess. Then there’s the complicating factor that depression itself can take a toll on sex drive.
What is abundantly clear is that these problems affect many sexually active adults, though of course not all of them.”It’s incredibly common, ” Marin said. And girls are two-and-a-half times more likely than humen to take antidepressants in the first place.
But many health care providers don’t broach the health risks sex issues with their patients, surely not in any detail.
“My doctors haven’t brought it up at all, ” said Ashley, 31, who began taking Paxil in her early 20 s to help with crushing panic attack. At one point, they were so severe she had to stop driving. Paxil is the only thing that allowed her to function, Ashley said, and she has been on it for roughly a decade. In that time, she has ensure several physicians who’ve helped her in many ways, but have all but dismissed the complete disintegration of her sexuality life.
“They’re only kind of like’ Oh yeah, it’s a known side effect’ and that’s it, ” she said. Meanwhile, Ashley has no sex drive. When she and her boyfriend do have sex — and it has been months at this phase — she seldom orgasms. The same runs for masturbation.
“I think that prescribers are aware of the sexual side effects, but what they’re not cognizant of is the importance of sexuality in their patients lives, ” said Kate Thomas, co-director of the Sex Behaviors Consultation Unit at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. “If patients don’t come back and say,’ Gee. I really have no sex life, ‘ or ‘I’m not able to orgasm’ — which is very common — the questions are not being asked.”
When they are, there are no easy answers. Sex therapy going to be able to, Marin exhorted, if for no other reason than it can surface practical tips. For instance, a woman experiencing decreased vaginal sensation may find a particularly strong vibrator helps.( Marin mentioned the Magic Wand Original .) “Were not receiving” data yet on whether Addyi — the contentious women’s libido pill often known as the “female Viagra” — could helo, in part because clinical trials specifically excluded women on antidepressants, Thomas explained.
Much of what ensues, hence, is simple trial-and-error. “There is definitely an element of patience that comes into it. Doctors can change your specific medication. They can change the class of drug. They can change the dosage of medication, ” said Marin, adding that one of the things she’s is necessary to do in her practise is simply connect women with mental health providers who take sex severely.
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors( SSRIs ), which happen to be the most commonly prescribed antidepressants, are also the most likely to have sexual side effects. Other options, like Wellbutrin, may help offset sex side effects for some women, but as with everything to do with sexuality and with brain chemistry, it’s highly individual. What works for one girl may be disastrous for another.
She has been forced to make a choice: Sanity over sex.
And nothing Ashley’s doctors have tried has helped. She has been on three or four different drugs. She has gone off Paxil for stretches of up to six months, only to experience withdrawal symptoms and a return to panic attack. So “shes been” forced to make a choice: Sanity over sex.
“I hate this decision, ” Ashley said. “I detest it for myself. I hate it for my boyfriend. I hate it.”
Other women, faced with a similar conflict, arrive at a different, but no-less imperfect answer. Sarah, 22, has been on an SSRI for about two months to help deal with what she describes as pretty mild depression. In that time, she has run from having sex with her boyfriend multiple times a day to having none at all. They’ve tried employing sexuality dolls and watching porn, but she simply cannot get aroused.
“When I go to my next follow-up appointment, I’m going to tell my doctor to give me something that will help my sex drive, or to take me off the medicine, ” she said. “I’m 22. I should not be having a hard time get turned on.”
Susan also decided to go off her drug largely because she wanted her sexuality life back, slowly tapering her dosage under her doctor’s supervising until she stopped wholly six weeks ago. For now, everything seems OK. Her mood is stable. Sexually, she has snapped right back.
But depression is something she anticipates having to manage for the rest of her life. Just about everyone in their own families has battled major depression, which has a strong genetic component. And she dreads the day when she must go back to an orgasm-less version of herself.
“I know it’s bound to rear its ugly head again, ” Susan said. “My hope is that they’ll have found something better by then.”
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