Antidepressants & Sex: 10 Tips for Bliss

psych meds and sex

One of you has depression and the other struggles with panic disorder. You both take an antidepressant. The good news is they’re effective. The bad news is your sex life has tanked. Well. don’t worry, all is not lost. Let’s talk about it…

‘You don’t necessarily need to experience desire to be physically aroused.’

Some 40% of those using an antidepressant report sexual side effects. How’s that for an opener?

For those living with depression or an anxiety disorder, it comes down to a tipping of the scale. On one pan is symptom relief. The other pan holds satisfying sex. Which way does the scale tip for you?

But wait! It doesn’t have to be an either/or thing. Would you believe me if I told you can enjoy symptom relief, as well as satisfying sex?

Here we go…

10 tips for bliss

Dr. Edward Ratush is a practicing psychiatrist in New York City. One of his specialties is the elimination and management of the side effects of psychotropic medications.

I came across his 10 antidepressant sexual side effects management tips and I’d like to share them with you. I’ve done some editing and put in my two cents…

  1. If climax issues are a problem, take a perspective break. You may believe you’re unable to climax, but it may only be a matter of delay. To prove the point, time how long it takes to climax in self-pleasure. Compare it with your climax time during partner activity. Okay, it may take longer, but you’ve assured yourself it’s an issue of delay, not absence. The idea is to keep your worries from altering reality (we never do that, right?).
  2. Communicating your concerns with your partner is essential. If s/he truly cares about you, hanging in there with you ought to be no problem. Work together. And keep in mind what Dr. Ratush says: “You don’t necessarily need to experience desire to be physically aroused.” So, even if you think you aren’t in the mood, have at it and let the sex itself generate arousal.
  3. Switch medications. We know that the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) can be awful when it comes to sexual side effects. But some of the SSRIs are less challenging than others. Dr. Ratush suggests switching from fluoxetine (Prozac) to sertraline (Zoloft) or citalopram (Celexa) to escitalopram (Lexapro). Of course, you’ll have to chat with your prescriber. By the way, bupropion (Wellbutrin) is known to have few, if any, sexual side effects (the same applies to weight gain and sleepiness).
  4. Knock down your dose a notch or two. Again, touch-base with your prescriber.
  5. Be patient. It’s quite possible that with time, the sexual side effects will subside or stop.
  6. Be creative with your timing. Sexual dysfunction may not be as severe a few hours before your next scheduled dose. They could be much worse two hours after. Take advantage of times when you’re more sexually excitable. If you don’t already know these times, chart your pattern.
  7. Ask your prescriber if there’s a medication or supplement that can reverse your sexual side effects issue(s).
  8. Use a sexual enhancer. Typically, enhancers work to improve excitement via desire or blood flow. Of course, these medications may have their own side effects. Nonetheless, chat with your prescriber.
  9. Do a sexual warm-up. It’s a technique of arousal generation that intentionally doesn’t lead to climax. The idea is the process of getting aroused will increase your ability to generate sex-necessary hormones later in the day or later in the week.
  10. Change your perspective. For some people, sexual side effects can be a welcomed change. For instance, a man who’s prone to premature ejaculation may find it glorious to experience delayed climax. Another angle is to think back to when you weren’t taking meds. Did you feel sexy and energetic in the midst of your depression or anxiety? Likely not. But after addressing your situation, you’re interested in sex again. Why else would you be worried about how your antidepressant is affecting your sex life? Sure, your perceived lowered sex drive may upset you. But consider how you felt before. In a way, your libido has actually increased.

Pretty simple

There aren’t a whole lot of people who wouldn’t freak-out in the face of sexual dysfunction. “Yikes, my life is over!” Of course, it’s also terrifying to think that having depression or an anxiety disorder mean it’s the end of the world.

Neither is the case.

Hey, relax and absorb what Dr. Ratush has to say: “In the end, you don’t have to sacrifice your sex life in order to have some sanity.”

Pretty simple.

A big “Thank you!” to Dr. Ratush for the excellent information.

Are you looking for more helpful mood and anxiety disorder goodies? Check-out the Chipur titles.