Perl @ use strict wrote…especially for YWGB…a BRILLIANT post about sex and antidepressants…
I am a naturally fairly libidinous woman. At least, that’s the impression I’ve had from the various menfolk in my life who have been unable to keep up with my demands. Another thing I often am, however, is weepy and irritable, unbearable to myself and a worry to those who care about me. In order to deal with the latter set of problems, I take some little purple capsules. You may be familiar with this medicine yourself, after all, a large number of people in this world are, like me, reliant on long-term use of antidepressants.
Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors are regarded as one of the antidepressant classes least likely to cause side effects. However, in a large number of people they have one major side effect: that is, they can reduce libido and sexual function. Obviously for some people the remedy for this is to switch medications. This is certainly an option to be looked into and to talk to your doctor about. For myself, I have tried and failed to find a satisfactory alternative to my SSRI of choice, and have instead worked on ways to prevent the dying spark of my libido from being extinguished entirely by the same drugs that help me make it through the day.
I would like to share here some of the things that have helped me to maintain what I consider a satisfactory sex life while on antidepressants. My experience is that of a woman in a long term relationship, and I cannot guarantee that it will be of any use at all to men, or to single folk, but I share what I have and hope that it will help somebody.
The first, and most important, tool in my arsenal for combating the waning of my sexual desire is communication. You may have been with your partner for decades and think you have everything figured out, but when one of you starts taking antidepressants it can change all that and you need to be able to let each other know the new state of play. In my case, I find that my partner seems to back off a little too much, unwilling to put presure on me when he knows I’m struggling with my libido. Sometimes the lack of pressure to perform is ideal, but other times it leaves me wondering if he desires me at all. So we have to communicate about it: he to tell me, without pressure, that he does desire me and would still like to have sex with me, and me to let him know when I am receptive to his advances and when I’m not able to contemplate it.
It’s not only desire for sex which can change, but also physical needs and responses. Here again communication is invaluable. Having spent months with one partner faking orgasms because I couldn’t bring myself to simply tell him that what had always worked before no longer did the job, I have learned my lesson. Hopefully, if you had a great sex life before antidepressants, you will already be used to letting your partner know what does and doesn’t work for you, but when you’ve been with someone for a while and feel you know them well, it can be quite difficult to have to approach sex like you’re beginning all over again. It is worth the effort, however, and it rarely hurts (unless that’s what you’re into) to try something new, regardless of the reasons.
While I’m on the subject of changing physical needs, I should also bring up something rather unrelated to communication, but which I find invaluable. That is lube. You’re taking medication that is doing all sorts of strange things to your chemical makeup. Hopefully they’re helpful over all, but they can leave things rather parched. It’s not a problem to get a little help. It doesn’t constitute a failure on either yours or your partner’s part if you need a little added moisture. If you’ve gone to the effort of having sex instead of sitting in front of the TV, you might as well take this small step to make it easier and more comfortable.
It may also be that fingers, tongues and genitals are no longer sufficient to bring you to orgasm, or, as in my case, they may not get you there in a timely manner. The obvious solution in this case is, if you haven’t already, to introduce toys to your repertoire. There are all manner of ingenious devices out there which may be able to help you to reach that pinnacle of ecstasy you used to scale so easily. Once again, here, your communication skills can stand you in good stead when you broach this with your partner.
In essence, all I’m really getting at with my advice is that you should keep trying. When your sex drive is low it’s very easy not to bother. When it’s that much more difficult to become aroused and to reach orgasm it may seem like a chore. But honestly, it can be worth it, and if you make the effort you can use it as an opportunity to give your sex life a boost which will benefit you whether you stay on antidepressants or not. The biggest challenge I face every time I go back on antidepressants after a break, is dealing with the feelings of despondency that come with remembering how easy and appealing sex was and fearing that it will never be that good again, but I can honestly say that some of the most rewarding sex I have ever had has actually happened at times when I thought I would rather play videogames, but made the effort anyway
photo: courtesy of google