Depression And Sex – What Happened To My Libido?

Depression and sex“What are you writing?” My brother – in – law, who has recently moved in with us for a spell while he gets his feet back under him asks me as I type away and pull out chunks of hair.

“The folks at ToyWithMe asked me to do an article on depression. Since I live with depression, I was super excited, but now I don’t really know what to write!” I look at the blank screen where I’ve deleted about six somewhat decent starts.

“Ugh! Talk about how you end up with zero sex drive on your meds. Talk about how you never feel good or bad, just kinda hazy. Talk about how people go off their meds all the time, just to feel something!”

He made a compelling argument.

I have hereditary depression; that means that it runs in my family, and usually hits around the age of twenty – four. My husband and his brother both have anxiety disorders, which were acquired through… well, that’s a whole different article. The point is, we, like many people on the internet and the two million folks living in America with some sort of depression – related disorder, know the ups and downs of medications. Worse, we know the ups and downs of sex on meds.

Orgasms? Damn Near Impossible

Unlike other members of my family, I have managed to deal with my depression through Cognitive – Behavioral Therapy, diet, exercise, and a fucking fantastic support system. My case is manageable, but it wasn’t always. When my husband and I first met, I was well and goodly set on my Zoloft and Clonazepam prescriptions. He was very understanding, but we soon learned that those “sexual side effects” were no damn joke. I’d never had an overly difficult time having an orgasm before, but now it was near impossible. Things would start to chafe before I even got close to cumming. And even that was a victory, because for the most part, I had the worst time just getting wet. We should have bought stock in KY for the amount of lube we used in that first year! I’m surprised I didn’t receive a “Thank You” card from those people!

A Difficult Time

But you’re torn when you’re on your medications and your partner isn’t, because while you could give or take sex, they may really want it. It was very difficult on us, because while he wanted that “new – girlfriend” sex, I was ok just hanging out or going for walks. I was attracted to him, but no matter what he did, how good he was, what positions we tried, or what new kinks he suggested: Nothing. Happened.

If you have depression and you’ve ever been on medications, I’m guessing it’s the same for you. Maybe not, maybe you’re one of the lucky ones, in which case I kinda hate you a little. Just kidding. Sorta.

Sacrifice For The Greater Good

So how did we solve the issue? I wish I could tell you that we found some magical position that negated the meds for a couple of hours, just long enough for some good hanky – panky time, but didn’t have an adverse impact on my general mood. But the fact of the matter is that I didn’t have a good orgasm until after I stopped taking my pills. I have friends who have stopped taking their medications specifically for that reason, and I absolutely do NOT encourage that. If you have depression, are bi – polar, or Schizophrenic, do not stop taking your meds because you think you have to please your partner sexually. Do not stop taking your meds because you are sexually frustrated. Loads of us have been there, and if your partner doesn’t understand your needs, then you’re with the wrong person. Point – blank. If you miss those really good orgasms, join the club. Sometimes you have to make a few small sacrifices for a greater good.

Being Patient

My then – boyfriend and I solved the issue by being patient. I understood that to him denying sex was like refusing love (no, I realize this is not the same for all men, just for my future – husband), and he understood that there was only so far my body would take me at that point. We renegotiated things when I finally worked my way off of Zoloft, and our sex life changed significantly. I won’t say that there will never be a time in the future when I may have to go back onto medication, but for now my partner and I know that we can handle that possibility.

An Understanding Partner Is Key

I know there are a lot of people out there on the interwebs who live with depression and other mood disorders. I personally know how both depression and the meds can impact your sex life, and the resulting frustration both you and your partner can feel. If I could say anything, it would be that there is nothing more important than an understanding partner. Your sex life will have its ups and downs, and maybe you’ll be on and off your meds, there really is no way to know. But more important than anything is getting that support structure in place, surrounding yourself with people who love you, and working the physical details out later.

My brother – in – law peers over the computer screen at the article, “Did you talk about how much it sucks to jerk off until your arm hurts?”

Uhh… No. But I will now!

How have you dealt with your medications, and their impact on your romantic life?

The Kinky Jew About The Kinky Jew

The Kinky Jew and her husband got married last year, and live and work in the DC area with their two cats… who don’t actually work at all, but sort of freeload. KJ is a Consultant, and leads a very normal daytime job, which mostly includes Project Management, and working in a predominantly male dominated environment. The Kinky Jew also maintains a blog on PNN where she posts as Hannah Banana. She enjoys discussing sexuality, finance, religion, as well as any other topic that comes to mind.

Comments

  1. SG – I am FASCINATED!!! I’ve never heard of this, but I will TOTALLY ask my doctor about it. Especially considering my concerns about the postpartum period.

  2. scientist girl says:

    ask your doctors about the vitamin Deplin. It is used to increase the effectiveness of antidepressants. I was on zoloft for 7 years and lexapro for 3 and then weaned off the lexapro and use only the vitamin (prescription only). Its WONDERFUL, I haven’t felt this good in 20 years and the orgasms are unfreakingbelievable!!!

  3. “Drugs are a crutch. You NEED a crutch when you break your foot, but the point of a crutch is to help you walk again, someday without it.” Very well put KJ

    Delisha – What a good friend. Hopefully more people show those they know on certain meds. this article. It’s always a relief to know you are not the only one.

    Britni TheVadgeWig – Happy to hear you were able to manage your depression without meds. Glad you added your last statement “For some people, medication is a necessity.”

    Tom – Thanks for your insight.

    Rose – So glad to hear you have such a supportive boyfriend.

    ThatToyChick – Thanks for mentioning this very important advice. ” It’s always important to keep in close contact with, and follow your doctor’s instructions. Most importantly, don’t hesitate to discuss any side effect – including sexual dysfunction – with him or her to keep them in the loop.”

  4. I had a very brief period where I had to be on anti-depressants, and I could not orgasm no matter what. It sucked and made me even more depressed.

    I honestly think anti-depressants just make things worse. If the choice is between feeling sadness and feeling nothing, I’ll take sadness. At least I’m feeling something (and having orgasms!).

  5. KJ makes an excellent point – there are those of us who are fortunate enough to be able to use the drugs to get past a rough spot, and use alternative therapies (i.e. support network and other non-medicinal tacks)….and there are those who it definitely is not an option for. It’s always important to keep in close contact with, and follow your doctor’s instructions. Most importantly, don’t hesitate to discuss any side effect – including sexual dysfunction – with him or her to keep them in the loop.

    The drug companies ARE paying considerably more attention to the sensual impact of their MAOI inhibitors and the like than they did in years before. My stance is that there’s still a long way to go, and I’ll be happy when they make some breakthroughs. :)

  6. Someone might have mentioned this up there in a really long comment but I’m off my meds right now, hahah, and so my ADD is whew bad and my focus? zilcho.

    Where was I?

    Oh yeah. Try different meds. Try Wellbutrin, it’s supposed to be the least killing of sex drives. For my hub it reallllly helped him and helped him be more sensitive. At first it helped me, but I’m a complicated puzzle chickie so nobody should base themselves of what does and doesn’t work for me.
    Bottom line is: Sex and orgasms produce happy endorphins which make your mood better and your skin better and all that jazz. If your anti-d takes that away? Move along to the next drug. There’s a shit ton. One will be right, just try to get thru the hazing periods.
    Psych meds turn 85% of people into guinea pigs.

  7. Thanks everyone for your comments! I think if you have friends out there who think they’re alone, in either their depression or in the sexual side effects, you should ABSO-FUCKING-LUTELY show them this column. I mean, I can’t speak for other people here, but for me, I didn’t care either way about sex. It was like asking me if I wanted to wear a blue shirt or a red shirt; does it REALLY matter? Meh, probably not. Things get better though!!

  8. That was one of the most helpful post I’ve seen. My best friend suffers from depression and it really hurts her relationship with her boyfriend. For some reason she seems to think that it only happens to her. I’m glad I can finally show her its a problem with a lot of people.

    xoxo

  9. Just one more thing. Condoms – Bit of lube on the cock beforehand, the best condom you can find for feeling, comfort, pleasure (not too tight, too thick, etc). lube afterwards, lube for woman.

    If the female partner is ok with it (and don’t guilt trip them), you’ve checked up for STDs etc, then if the female goes on the pill or similar, the sensation from being condomless might help also.

  10. Absolutely! I am only 18 but I have clinical depression and have to take meds for it. Lemme tell you, the meds are a life-saver (literally) to me, and really help me function. I am extremely lucky, because…well, seeing as I am a teenage girl…I am horny like one, too. HAH! At first, I couldn’t care less, but with a new boyfriend? Impossible to keep my pants on. They kinda fall off when he is around. I am hoping that won’t fade *that* much over time, but you can only take one day at a time.

    Sometimes, I just don’t feel like fucking. doing. it. Sometimes, I am so emotional and wrapped up in my own anxieties and panic attacks that I just can’t function as a human, let alone have sex. But my boyfriend is extremely understanding of me, even if he has a monster of a libido. I really appriciate it from him. He holds my hand and is always there for me to talk to, and tries to make my day a little brighter when I am in the darkest of times. Sometimes, I can’t go on fighting, but I feel like he can catch me if I fall. So…I pay him back. ;) Not only do I want to, but I like to. It balances out nicely. We will see how things change as time goes on, though.

  11. Can empathise, sympathise with this.

    Couple of things –
    There’s no 1 antidepressive medicine fits all. Some work better than others. It’s good to and people are v. likely to have gone through a process of finding what antidepressive med works for them. Any given type can work with no side-effects for one person, and have untolerable side effects for another.
    The annoying thing is that you can have good anti=depressives, that give tolerable but frustrating side effects – e.g. feeling fuzzy/a bit out of it. i’d also class libido crushing as one of these. It’s a damned pain, as losing your libido is in of itself a) frustrating, b) depressing!

    Some find being depressed has killed sex, horniness, ability to come before hand. for some it was there, but the meds killed it.

    One thing you can do, and this is totally something you discuss with your doctor, GP, what have you, is to discuss about medicine vacations. Due to the half life (the length of time the ingredients in the meds that do their thing stay in your body) of (some) antidepressants, you can reduce your antidepressants you take say the day before you want sex.
    e.g. not take one on friday, aim for sex saturday evening, take them after sex, then get back to routine (i’m assuming once daily here).

    It’s something that needs to be balanced, but for some, it can be a relationship saver – Sex, libido is a big thing for guys, girls, and relationships. Being able to feel sexy, feel horny, feel sexual stimulatino, be able to orgasm can have been an assumed thing – but they can go from depression, they can be affected by anti-depressive (and other) medications.

    Another point – For the smokers out there… There is some talk, so go look it up, that there is off label use of Bupropion (Branded as Zyban in the UK). It’s not Over the counter, but prescription afaik in the UK. But, if you’re a smoker, you can get some of this via giving up smoking.

    This sort of discussion, like the article is promoting, is very useful.
    I’d highlight the advice of DIET, EXERCISE, and bolstering and using whatever support system you can get.

    Guys can in (and i don’t know the percentage, so let’s say) some cases still get fairly decent hardons. It’ll vary. But the ability to come can really be knocked for six. Much like women, who might find it hard/impossible to even feel turned on, and have prooblems with lubrication, sensitivity, lose the ability to lock onto and build up to orgasm that guuuuurd feeling of the pleasure working it’s way to orgasm that you know and love.

    Getting red sore, arm aching to physical exortion – collapse with exertion from what you could call frantic wanking (it seems the speed at which you have to masturbate seems can up by a fair bit if you’re able to sometimes come from pleasuring yourself).

    Thank fuck for toys for women if they help. A damned good vibe that might turn on the car alarm of a car in the street below might not feel as good on meds, but it might give some ohhhhhhhhhh thankhallejuahfuckforsmallmerciesgoddimissthatfeelingohthetensionisgoingifeelgoodforonceoooh orgasm, large or small.

    Impossible to near impossible. For guys? Well, let’s just say there ain’t no bloody vibrator for guys. A shimmying cockring with vibe ain’t the same.
    I don’t know about Tenga, flip toys, but could imagine the textured sheets you can get to help jack off might help. Lube, getting a decent blowjob as soon as you feel horny and get an erection can also help – For guys, a BJ might still work. Will take longer likely, but it can work.
    For women, same thing – cunnilingus might work, but take fucking ages, or be a good starter for sex with a vibe, or a vibe session.

    Some meds may have a damned good reason not to tinker round with dosing etc. But speak to your doctor – chat about options. Might Cialis, or Viagra give a boost to the chance of coming, or getting light relief?
    Could (um, i think i read ginko extract) do the trick?
    Put the person who’s needing to get better first. If it’s both of you, then you’ve got more to sort, but it’s still manageable. Work through it, keep trying things, and remember there is other stuff beyond sex. I know that sounds harsh, but for those being treated for depression, you can have periods when you do feel more alive, more up. Whether it takes bunjee jumping then romping in the car, or going to Alton Towers and getting frisky in the bushes. Maybe it’s just learning to be sensual, and fin out more about each other in that light.
    Don’t just mess arond with your meds. Don’t just stop for because of the frustration. It’s a hard thing to accept, but the likely temporary sacrifice of orgasm and sexis for a better thing – and that’s the getting better, improving management of you, your partner, your friend’s life.

    Talking it through is useful. I’d imagine it can affect women and men in all manner of ways. A man might want to retreat to his cave – his masculinity seemingly having taken a bodyblow. A women might feel guilt from not being able to pleasure his boyfriend, or guilt from not really feeling like they want to. etc.
    Don’t bottle it up.
    Understanding, communicating, is vital. Talk about what’s going on, silly emotions, silly thoughts whatever. It can help.

    You might be surprised at who, and how many people, have seen the dark side of things like depression.

    If anyone’s watched West Wing, i’d refer to the scene when Josh Lyman gets treatment for PTSD and Leo talks about him never losing his job whilst he’s around. person falls into a hole, and can’t get out. Their friend walks by, and seeing them, jumps down to them. Person who’s been stuck down there goes – But why did you jump down? Now we both are stuck! the other one goes – but I know ways up and out – i’ve been down here before.

    (It’s better when you watch it :) )

  12. This is very interesting, the post and comments. I have a friend who went off her anti-depression meds last year after being on them for a very long time. She said she now finally wants a boyfirend, whereas before she could hardly care less…she is now horny for the first time since high school…

  13. I’ll be honest– when I was suffering from a particularly bad depressive episode, I declined to go on meds strictly because I knew how badly it fucked with sex drives and ability to orgasm, and in my depressive state, wanking was the only thing that brought me any sort of pleasure.

    At one point, I switched birth control pills and the change in hormones diminished my libido significantly and acheiving orgasm suddenly became a chore. I was very quick to find a different pill that wouldn’t do that.

    For me, sex is too big a part of my life and identity to sacrifice it. However, I was able to eventually cope with my depression in other ways; not everyone can, and for some people, medication is a necessity.

  14. Awww, JM, that sucks. I mean, I’m glad that you’ve found a way to work around the sex issue, but I’m sorry that either the depression or the meds played any part in the dissolution of your marriage.

    Thanks for reading… and good luck with those multiples!! ;)

  15. Hmmm, great article–
    My wife and I were both on EffexorXR. I could only get to half mast and she was dry. Too many attempts, too many tears – No O’s for anyone.

    One day, out of the blue she told me our relationship was broken, she was leaving and we were getting a divorce.

    I’m not looking for sympathy, only to say Viagra really helped me! I get as hard as I have ever been, I can cum in less that an hour (or before my arm gets sore) and there are no ill effects. I think I might even have the potential for multiples!!

  16. Personally, I think the whole point of pills is (if you CAN) to get off of them. As my therapist used to say, “Drugs are a crutch. You NEED a crutch when you break your foot, but the point of a crutch is to help you walk again, someday without it.” Though, I am well aware that there are loads of people (a friend of mine included) who will never be off meds.

    In that case, TTC, I agree with you. Doctors need to find a way to look at the ENTIRE person. Not being able to orgasm didn’t do a lot as far as mood-lifting was concerned. It can put an extra strain on your relationship… and that doesn’t really help your recovery. Thanks for the comment!

  17. I’ve done my “time” with paxil and serazone and it was awful. My guy had much the same with his own experiences – you don’t feel that “grar!” kind of urge, and even if you do get around to it, there’s more chafing than sexytime.

    I wish they would consider the effect on a patient’s sensual life a little more than they seem to when they’re formulating these drugs. It sucks to be “happy” (read: unable to feel sadness/stuck in limbo) and have just as many issues because now you can’t get it on. :-/

  18. Little known side effect of Flomax is that it can prevent cumming. Not the orgasm itself just the results. Weird as fuck.

  19. Now THAT, Dario, is easily one of the most interesting comments I have ever gotten! I never thought of that silver lining before, but I really like how you see it; you get to use sex in a different way than before.

    That said, I wonder what your feelings would be about going off of your meds. Suppose your therapist said, “POOF! You’re cured. You can go off the pills now.” Would you miss that choice that Celexa has given you?

  20. I’m on Celexa and I can tell you, it does make it harder to achieve orgasm, though it doesn’t affect my erection. My wife think’s that great. :-) It just takes more time, and they’re not as intense, but so what? Better a few side effects than a cloud of depression hanging over me.

    To me this has been a good thing in some ways…you don’t have sex when you’re horny, you have sex when you want to have sex and feel close. There’s an intentionality to it that makes it more intimate in some ways.

  21. mepsipax – I haven’t heard of that either, but hey, I’m no expert on the topic. I would take an orgasm over cumming though ;)

    SkyddsDrake – Thanks for sharing. I hope more people do.

  22. Yeah. Um. It sucks really bad. I quit taking my meds just so I wasn’t quite so level. It sounds awful but I just didn’t want to be that blase about anything. Everything.

    Sex… DRY AS THE MOJAVE DESERT.

    Lube? Makes me dry up and burns like holy hell. OMG not a pleasant thing. My marriage suffered as he took it personally instead of understanding it truly was a me thing.

    We’re past it now, but it was ugly there for a while.

  23. SD – I’m glad you’ve found a partner who’s willing to support you… and even gladder that you’re both willing to look outside of the box (THE box, dear, not YOUR box ;) ) for a solution. It’s like holistic care for your pussy: lube without the artificial stuff!

  24. SkyddsDrake says:

    I’ve been on one kind of medication or another for depression and/or anxiety for most of the last 15 years. I had a brief two year period where I thought I was working things out on my own, but grad school tossed that out the window for me. What I’ve noticed is that as long as I’m feeling good emotionally (which can happen) I want sex and enjoy sex all the time. Unfortunately, when my anxiety is getting the best of me, all I want to do is curl up in a ball and weep myself to sleep all the time. It kind of kills the mood, you know?

    I think the biggest issue medication gives me isn’t necessarily my desire for sex, though. Even when I don’t think I’m in the mood, my husband can make me laugh and put me in the mood… (I swear, the man works miracles.) My main issue is the dryness. I mean… It’s HORRIBLE! It took me forever to convince my husband it wasn’t anything he was or wasn’t doing… It simply didn’t matter how turned on I was, I couldn’t slick up. I ended up with some UTI’s before I finally just told him we needed to use lube or else. That’s been helping. He’s been really patient and sweet about the whole thing… We now use lube regularly.

    Of course, he’s pointed out that spankings seem to lube the process up once we get going, so he makes liberal use of those. =P

  25. Oh wait. Read your blog. You’re a dude. Well, that just makes the Flomax thing even weirder to me.

  26. That’s really…. were you dry? Did you need lube? Or would you just not cum? I’ve never heard that one before!