Seventy percent of people taking certain antidepressants complain of negative sexual side effects — but a new drug, and a few intimacy boosters, could help change that.
By Madeline R. Vann, MPH
Medically Reviewed by Pat F. Bass, III, MD, MPH
What sets Viibryd — an antidepressant approved by the FDA in January 2011 — apart from other depression medications on the market? Unlike most antidepressants, this one comes without any apparent sexual side effects.
Back in the 1950s, when antidepressants were first introduced to treat depression, physicians and patients didn’t talk much about sexual repercussions — this first generation of drugs had many unpleasant side effects. So when a new class of medications, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as fluoxetine (Prozac) and sertraline (Zoloft), came to the market, their fewer side effects were enthusiastically welcomed.
But it didn’t take long for patients to feel the brunt of SSRIs in the bedroom. Today, as many as 70 percent of patients taking certain antidepressants will say — if asked — that they have experienced changes in their sexual lives, from loss of sensation to lack of desire.
The sexual side effects of antidepressants may include
Reduced genital sensitivity
Delayed or absent orgasm (for both men and women)
The reasons for these sexual side effects are not fully understood. One theory is that SSRIs appear to interfere with nitric oxide, which plays a leading role in arousal and sexual response, resulting in lowered libido.
Experts acknowledge that it can be hard to tell whether sexual side effects come from medication or from the depression itself, which can also have an effect on sex drive. However, while depression may cause a lack of interest in sex, it typically does not cause physical difficulties with achieving orgasm or ejaculation.
5 Ways to Revive Your Sex Drive
There are several ways you can improve your sexual life while managing depression:
- Try other treatments. Treating depression is essential to your long-term quality of life. If you’re concerned about problems with antidepressants and sex, talk to your doctor about other treatment approaches, such as cognitive behavioral therapy.
- Lube up. For women, vaginal dryness can be a sexual side effect of antidepressants. A water-based vaginal lubricant may make sex more comfortable.
- Fool around. You may find that spending more time becoming aroused during foreplay helps overcome a delayed physical response.
- Talk it out. “We’ve found that people who communicate with their partners about their antidepressant side effects and who stay sexually active are less likely to let temporary problems become permanent,” says Tierney Lorenz, a researcher in the Sexual Psychophysiology Lab at the University of Austin in Texas.
- Get physical in other ways. Lorenz says she and her team are studying one potential cure for sexual side effects of antidepressants — exercise. “In the lab, we’ve found that exercising for 20 minutes before watching a sexual film doubled measures of sexual arousal in women taking antidepressants.” Consider working out as a couple — a romantic walk or an invigorating hike could put you in the mood.
Other Options for Antidepressants
If lifestyle approaches aren’t doing the trick, consider one of these medication-related strategies:
Ask your doctor about a different dosing schedule. “If you aren’t taking an extended-release tablet, you can try taking the meds at night just before sleep,” says Lorenz. “That way, the effect of the drug during the daytime will be lessened.”
Think about erectile dysfunction medications. Drugs known as PDE-5 inhibitors, such as sildenafil (Viagra), can be taken before you have intercourse and are effective in countering lowered libido. Although sildenafil is often thought of as a man’s medication, it has shown some promise in helping to improve women’s sexual response as well.
Rebalance changing levels of serotonin and dopamine. Your doctor may recommend daily doses of either buspirone (Buspar, Vanspar) or bupropion (Wellbutrin), both of which could counter the sexual side effects of SSRI antidepressants.
Switch antidepressants. People who take only bupropion to treat their depression are significantly less likely to report sexual side effects than people taking SSRI antidepressants. Another option is nefazodone (Serzone), although this medication appears to have a slightly higher risk of liver damage. In January of last year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the use of vilazodone (Viibryd) for depression treatment, which results in lowered libido in only about 4 percent of patients who take it.
Talk to your partner and your doctor to find the best option for you. And one word of caution: Don’t stop taking antidepressants on your own. Follow your doctor’s guidance for cutting back and ultimately stopping medication so that your depression can be resolved.
Last Updated: 5/14/2012
I read news from several health sites every day so I can share the best with you. I have been taking these medications for 25 years now and I can safely say that the side-effects are manageable and the medication has enhanced my life experience immeasurably. ~Sylvia
Read on to discover six more sex myths doctors hear all the time — and the truth about how to have a satisfying sex life at any age or stage.
By Sylvia Wells, March 12, 2015
Laura Berman, PhD, is a leading sex and relationship educator and therapist, popular TV and radio host, New York Times best-selling author, and assistant clinical professor of ob-gyn and psychiatry at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University in Chicago.
I receive messages from her frequently, and I approve of her sensitive and accurate advice. I don’t always agree with her, but that means I mostly agree with her.
Her advice is as relevant to the SexyAt60 crowd as it is to all the rest of us.
Here is a link to her article How can you encourage sexual energy in your relationship?
Q: My wife keeps telling me that women don’t want sex as often as men do. When we have sex, she enjoys it, yet she often says she is too tired or not in the mood. I love having sex with her, but at the end of the day, it seems like it’s the last thing on her mind. Do women really just not want sex as much as men do, or is there something I can do to help her be in the mood?
A: When it comes to libido, there are no rules for what is “normal.” Some women crave sex more than their partners, while other women find that their libido lags behind their partners’ desires. In fact, the issue of libidos (when one partner wants sex more than the other) is one of the most common that couples confront. The good news is that there are several things you can do to help inspire more sexual energy in your relationship, and as long as both you and your wife are on board, there is no reason why you can’t create the frequent and passionate sex you desire.
As toddlers, preteens, adolescents, we girls are all taught the same lesson, over and over. Men are brutes who can’t think about details, will lie to get sex, and we need to settle for what we can get over that. Our only other choice is someone who is overly controlled by a religion or ideology.
Among the qualities recommended to us there was “looking more like a girl,” which always got the most votes. There’s a reason that Paul McCartney is the most famous Beatle: he looked like a lady with those big eyes and long droopy eyelashes.
I stopped trying to find men who acted like and looked like women and accepted the fact that I had no other choices, being a natural hetero. By that I mean that I did not wake up one morning and decide I was attracted to guys. This argument serves me well when I get into a dispute with a homophobe. Use your imagination.
Once I figured all of this out I just started concentrating on men’s auras in the online dating world. Being a smart girl in the years before women’s lib was a guaranteed no-prom-date scenario. I mainly wanted full-time what I had part-time in my 25-year-marriage.
After joining OKCUPID I found thousands of possible matches. Tens of thousands of men have read my profile. Thousands have written me. My hope of finding suitable romantic partners has grown immensely.
Lotsa brainiac dudes out there looking for girl geeks and boffins.
Now that I have freed my mind, something as simple as the angle of a stance can set me off. I don’t have a set of characteristics I require. I am free now to make the best choices for me, not for the other person alone.
I am free to play only with the boys who play nice when they are naughty. No drama, no drama kings. Life is too short. Oh, one more thing. No more Scorpios. I mean it.
I have come to delight in the common traits that my men share. Traits such as voraciousness, insatiability, curiosity, delight, silliness, cameraderie. Yes, I adore your man-traits. I love that you are visual and use that to my advantage. Yes, I want to give you mind-blowing head. I want you to explore me to your heart’s content.
It makes me healthier, and you too. I like dating married men. They have proven they can get along wit women and can keep committments. They don’t need training. (My rant about the unsuitability of the nuclear family will appear here in the near future.)
Here are some rules for brainiac guys who seek smart women.
- Write to me lots!
- Take lots of OKCUPID quizzes.
- Answer lots of OKCUPID questions.
- Tell me what gets you out of bed in the morning besides needing to use the loo.
I want to know how your brain works. I want to know if you are neurotic or nice before I let you get close to me.
At 62, I find myself incredibly popular. I do not understand, but I am not complaining. All of these conversations enrich me, even if we don’t “click.” I have met hundreds of men who find me charming and date-able in the last 8 months. I had to withdraw my profile so I could concentrate on my tax practice.(1)
My health is a little worse than when I last updated my profile. Nevertheless, I still have an active and joyful romantic life. It sustains me through bad times to know that there are people who care.
I now know that there are so many men who are seeking the same love, romance, and peace that I seek.
I want that when you decide you no longer want to keep seeing me, you just say so. You don’t need to invite me out to dinner to do it. I won’t think you are rude. I WILL think you rude if you try to get me to break up with you by acting like a jerk. Just do it.
I do not want to get married again. I like not being property. My self-esteem and my protective instincts operate better when I control my own space.
For example, my building super indicated that he found me a tasty morsel. He’s quite sweet, but I could not afford to surrender my autonomy to that degree. After all, he could enter my apartment any time.
(1) An EA (Enrolled Agent) designation is in my near-future. I have purchased the study materials and have two months to complete the study and the live exams. I am confident of my success.
Learn to Make Your Love Feel New Again is an article written by Dr. Laura Berman on the Everyday Health website. Dr. Berman specializes in the study of human sexuality. She has created a website featuring her work and that of others in her field. Every weeknight she hosts a radio show.
Why Men Love Women’s Bodies
By Laura Berman, PhD
Published Nov 2, 2013
Whether a man is a “breast man” or a “leg man,” it’s hard for them to resist the female figure.
If you ask your partner what he loves the most about your body, he might give you a politically correct answer like “your smile” or “your eyes.” However, if he is being honest, he might admit that your womanly features (such as your breasts and your curves) are what really draws him to you.
A recent study from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln examined exactly where the male gaze tends to fall on the female body. The researchers asked men to sit in a photo booth where they were shown an array of different women, some of which altered to have even “curvier” bodies and some of which were not altered. The researchers found that the men spent more time eyeing the women’s bodies then they did their faces, quickly zeroing in on their curves instead of other attributes such as their smiles or their hair.
Men use a lot of words to describe a woman and her attributes. My love calls me a tomato, a hot chick, gorgeous, bodacious, beautiful, sex goddess, fox, etc. etc. etc. Add your favorites below!
When I plumbed my mind for similar complimentary terms for my love, however, I came up short. Sweetheart, dreamboat, dreamy, hunk, hottie, and then I just got bogged down. In search of more terms of endearment for the male I ran across this site. Again, add your favorites in the comments section.
I do not mean to be a genderist here. Any couple will have their favorites regardless of sexual orientation.
25 Compliments for Guys They’ll Never Forget
Want to compliment a guy with a line that’ll leave him with a wide grin and an instant attraction towards you, just use these 25 compliments for guys. By Kirsten Cole
It’s easy to make a guy fall for you or make him feel more affectionate towards you.
All you need to do is compliment him with the appropriate line at the appropriate time.
Compliments make girls feel good about themselves.
But to a guy, it does more than that.
It leaves him thinking of you and your compliment for a long time.
[Read: 30 super sexy ways to keep a guy interested in you all the time]
Compliments for guys and why they work
Compliments make anyone feel happy.
But when you’re a guy, you don’t get complimented too often.
Men may crave for compliments, but that’s not because they’re needy or attention seeking.
It’s because they hardly ever get complimented.