Playful, elegant, and not above the judicious use of the word “shit."

Wherein I answer a frequently asked question

So, hey! How about some oversharing! No? Too bad! You’ve come to the wrong website!

That is, unless you were searching for “antidepressant” and “sex drive.” Then, welcome! Hey-ohhh!

I get this question a lot, actually. Usually it goes like this: “So, yeah, I hope this isn’t too personal, and I totally understand if you don’t want to answer this, but I was just wondering if, maybe, you know, um…” And then there’s three more paragraphs of trying to get to the point because, as you might imagine, it can be a little awkward when asking a total stranger HOW HARD IS IT FOR YOU TO ORGASM?!

Let’s put it this way. I was on Zoloft for, what, nine years? And then I stopped taking it because I wanted to get pregnant and didn’t think it was safe for pregnancy. NOTE: DUMB IDEA. Well, dumb in terms of wanting to kill myself, but not so dumb for suddenly being as horny as a fourteen-year-old boy alone in his room with a poster of Heather Locklear in a bikini.

WHOA, did that just date me, or what? Fourteen-year-old boys are horny, right? I wasn’t ever one, so I’m no expert. But my brother was fourteen once, and that’s my only reference. On one wall there was Heather Locklear, on another there was Heather Thomas, and then above his bed there was Kathy Ireland.

Unrelated: I went back to blonde to hide all the gray in my hair.

Anyway, once the Zoloft was out of my system Jon had to sit me down and have a talk. He was like, dude, we can’t keep up this pace or you’re going to kill me. And I was all, why are you talking and not taking off my clothes?

Then the postpartum hit, and it was back to the sex-killing antidepressant. Prozac this time, and it was just like Zoloft. Meaning, no sex drive. But I didn’t want to kill myself. That’s the trade-off. And as a couple we work with that trade-off, meaning Jon is very generous. And I try to be the same in return.

Ahem.

So I casually mentioned to my psychiatrist about a month ago that sometimes not having a sex drive makes me feel like I’m not human.

Now that I’ve written that down I suddenly feel incredibly sad. Because so many of us who suffer from depression have to live like this. Like robots. The alternative is living in hell. So we choose robot.

Yes, we have sex. We have great sex, but every once in a while I’d like to feel a bit, oh, I don’t know, primal? I’d like to have rips in my clothing that I’ve self-inflicted. I want Jon to walk into the bedroom and be all, oh god, not again, woman.

So he suggested a change in meds. I guess this is my meds update! Yay for you!

I tapered off of Prozac for a week and then started taking Cymbalta. He said it was the one antidepressant that could claim that it might not reduce your sex drive. So far I haven’t felt a difference, but I’m going to give it some time. I’m hopeful. And I guess being able to say that, to feel that, is why I take the drugs in the first place. And it’s why, if I have to, I will live with the trade-off.

  • sweetpotatopie

    GREAT post, Heather. You’ve obviously struck a nerve; there are so many of us suffering with this “choice”.

    ((running off to research Mirtazapine and Wellbutrin…))

  • ShaBByVTcHiC

    My husband was taking Cymbalta (to combat back pain) and had a bitch of a time getting off it. The withdrawl was awful! Some people have actually needed to take other meds to help with the withdrawl. Of course, if it solves your problem- you’ll have no reason to stop taking it! Good luck!!

  • Tanzie F. Nielsen

    I take (generic) Celexa…aka Citalopram…and I have a sex drive and I haven’t beaten my kids. I think it’s working.

  • Rita Arens

    I have been on Zoloft for years, but I haven’t had that problem. I wonder if it’s related to dosage.

    Now that I’ve admitted that, I feel a little silly.

  • ReginaO

    I actually haven’t had that problem. I’ve been on Effexor XR for 7 years and it’s never affected my sex drive. I’m not sure if that typical or not but I haven’t experienced many side effects with this particular drug.

  • elsiemae

    Thank you so much for addressing this issue. I have the same problem due to my medication and I feel like a freak when my girlfriends are talking about all the wild, earth-shattering sex they are having while all I can do is wish I even WANTED a guy to touch me!

  • katstermonster

    I…had no idea. It just never occurred to me, as I’ve never been on an antidepressant. As usual, Heather, thank you for your overshares. I can tell from the scores of comments that you’re making people feel less alone in their struggles.

    I unfortunately have the sex drive of a 14-year-old boy…all the time. As you point out, this actually can be an issue. The only fights I’ve had with my boyfriend in the last year and a half have been because I wanted to have sex RIGHT NOW, DAMMIT and I AM NOT GOING TO TAKE NO FOR AN ANSWER and WHY AREN’T YOU ATTRACTED TO ME? I DON’T CARE THAT YOU WERE ASLEEP, WE NEED TO HAVE SEX. So yeah. There are some issues I need to work on. Maybe I can share my sex drive? There’s more than enough to go around.

  • BOSSY

    Diminished sex drive also = very young kids, even without the prescription.

  • lizgwiz

    I’ve never been on antidepressants. But, in my experience, sometimes LIFE causes loss of sex drive. There have been significant chunks of my life where I didn’t have the slightest interest in sex–no time, no energy, no one who really piqued my interest.

    I guess what I’m saying is, you may not be missing quite as much as you think you’re missing, if that’s any consolation. (I know, it probably isn’t.)

    Of course, the myth floating around that women hit a sexual peak as they approach 40 DOES seem to be true, so maybe THAT will break through the antidepressant effects.

  • Mari Chiesa

    Wowzers. What a brave post. Youse gots sum guts.
    Personally, I’ve tried them all. They are all pretty much giddy up and git it on busters. I take welbutrin now and I see a little improvement but not enough to break down Frederick’s of Hollywood’s doors.

    I’m guessing because Welbutrin works primarily with dopamine rather than seratonin that is what makes the slight difference.

    At any rate I’ll take not wanting to stick my head in the oven over being in heat all the time any day of the week.

  • Crazy Card Lady

    Wow you are on drugs….no mention or apology to your Dad for this post. Wait a minute, is he on anti-depressants now too!

  • trewqaz

    I finally registered for your community because I just had to respond to this post. First of all, like nearly everyone else here, I have to say bravo for having the courage to over share! This is one of the unspoken reasons why so many people are afraid to try antidepressants.

    I had zero sex drive before starting Cymbalta back in March 2008. In fact, I had zero drive in general – I slept 18 hours a day if I didn’t have to work. Although I had been warned that medication would zap my sex drive, I was surprised to find that for the first time in several years, on Cymbalta I had a sex drive!

    For other reasons, Cymbalta didn’t end up working for me. Although my moods were much more stable and the depression was gone, I started to have suicidal ideation that was related to absolutely nothing whatsoever. “Hmm, it’s 2PM, you know what would be awesome? If a plane landed on my house right now, bam…”

    So, I switched to Celexa, which has worked well for my mom for several years. Sex drive was gone. Zap! In fact, drive in general left me. I never really felt depressed; but then, I was never exactly happy either. It was a solid year of blah.

    Finally, after confessing to my doctor that I felt like I was just sort of going through the motions of living, he switched me to a newer drug called Pristiq. I guess it’s the newer form of Effexor, which is somewhat similar to Cymbalta.

    I feel better than I have ever felt in my adult life. I have a full range of emotions – one of which is horny fourteen year old boy – only the emotions have lost the power to dominate me. I’m suddenly this energetic, friendly, downright happy person most of the time. The only negative side effect for me has been that I get hot easy. So, it was a sweaty summer, but I’m actually enjoying not freezing to death in the Ohio Autumn.

    Considering the lack of wanting to kill myself, the fact that I no longer feel like a robot, and my newfound interest in shaving my legs regularly just in case: it’s been a miracle for me.

    As you know, the drugs work differently for everyone. A year ago, I thought robot was something I was just going to have to put up with for the rest of my life. Now I’m just praying that my body won’t grow accustomed to the Pristiq too quickly and I will be able to enjoy this feeling of “like everybody else” for many long years to come!

    Good luck and don’t be afraid to keep pressing until you find what’s right for you!

  • raspberryripple

    Could you please let us know if the Cymbalta is different? I stopped taking the Prozac for the same reason after the death of my father. The extreme sadness and depression is moving through but it rears its ugly head enough along with the insane stress I am under to warrant returning to an anti depressant. I have considered Cymbalta as well. Thank you for your honesty.

  • melizerd

    Cymbalta was horrible for my husband’s sex drive. He told me a room full of concubine’s could have been around and he wouldn’t have cared.

    He ended up on Wellbutrin XL and it made a huge difference.

    I have no idea if it’s the same for women as men but in case it doesn’t work then there might be another option.

    PS one of my captcha words was fisting.

  • sexylikeapeanut

    So, I’m really hoping you looked into the side effects of cymbalta.. I took it for a day and it made my eyes dialate so big that I looked like I was on drugs, of the non antidepressant kind. I stopped after that initial dose and it took a week for my eyes to regulate. I have a friend who after taking cymbalta developed brain shivers. He said it feels like he’s sticking a fork in an outlet, but the shock that results is only in his head. But, my mom is also on it and she said it’s the first antidepressant that has really worked. Just something to be cautious about I guess.

  • joycek

    Years and years ago i was on prozac for depression , it worked beautifully,but the sexual effects were terrible. (DH started on zoloft around 6 months later) i did research and found wellbutrin xl. was great for depression too. Great sex life and great, ahem, climaxes… for both of us. sometimes MDs put women on it around menopause to help with hot flashes….If the anxiety gets to be too bad, xanax is a relief…talk to your doctor…

  • joycek

    Years and years ago i was on prozac for depression , it worked beautifully,but the sexual effects were terrible. (DH started on zoloft around 6 months later) i did research and found wellbutrin xl. was great for depression too. Great sex life and great, ahem, climaxes… for both of us. sometimes MDs put women on it around menopause to help with hot flashes….If the anxiety gets to be too bad, xanax is a relief…talk to your doctor…

  • thephotofather

    I have now used Cymbalta for over 4 years but for what it was originally founded for, nerve pain. (I have MS)

    I’m up to the max which is 120mg per day. Otherwise I have the feeling of bugs or hair running up and down my face and body.

    I am just as horned’up/ romantic / nasty as I ever was.

    Now, here may be the difference.
    I’m a 50 year old GUY. An adult man. Ok, not like I was 18 anymore (can’t say 14 because that’s the age of my son, yuk) but I’m not far away.
    My dates and/or relationships are always, always happy.

    Tom

  • specialkrispy

    Oh my gosh. My poor husband. I just realized that that the only time we ever really had GREAT sex all the time was for a few months when I couldn’t afford my meds right before we got married. I hope he didn’t think it was him. It all makes sense now. Thanks for posting that.

  • Caro

    I commend your courage in undertaking such a colossal taboo. In our culture, I find, everyone talks about sex but no one addresses it in an honest fashion. The truth is a VERY large proportion of women feel the way you do. Many factors are attributable but one thing is for sure : when we lose our sex-drive we feel dysfunctional,resentful, abnormal and very , very lonely.

    You put a bunch of couples around a dinner table and seldom does the truth come out;that hardly anyone’s getting any. Everyone’s thinking : Man I’ll bet their sex life is so much better than ours…

    A beautifully illustrated book, The two-step: The dance toward intimacy, helped me a lot in dealing with these issues. I can’t recommend it enough.

  • martha

    Heather- your truths enouraged me to seek help for a battle with “double depression” (dysphoria topped off with depression)about 4 years ago.
    I have tried all the meds with a very patient and experienced psyc Doc.(specializing in pyscopharmacology).
    The 2 major side effects that have me totally pissed off are weight gain (have kept this to maybe an extra 10 pounds)(but gained 25 pounds in 6 weeks on Seroquel) and lack of orgasm. (never a problem before)
    The dreams, night sweats,nausea,headaches, agitation, sheer tiredness, reduced cognition,irritability, onset of saying exactly what i think (not a good thing at work)
    some daysthe inability to put-one-foot-in-front-of-the-other,anxiety and avoidance of family and friends are NOTHING compared to lack of sex drive.

    I have just started the damn Zoloft-my last chance.
    Pristiq had me horny but there was some other wicked side effect so I had to stop it.

    That all said,REGULAR emotion based cognitive therapy works the best- but I can only afford $1,000 a year- so that doesn’t take me far. I use it on an emergency basis, much to my therapists
    (but understanding) dismay.

    Thank you- for you.

  • MollyCT

    Just wanted to put in my plug for regular therapy sessions–the 2+ years kind, 1-2 times a week. Changed my life, my perspective, deepened my relationships…helped me find strength and peace. I know this conversation is about medication, and Heather mentions seeing a psychiatrist for a prescription, but I feel like one-on-one psychotherapy does need some advertisement too. Insurers are less likely to cover it these days, and I think many people first confronting depression think it’s not as necessary as meds. It’s also pretty scary to open up to someone that way, so a lot of people who don’t live in a culture where therapy is talked about avoid it. But it also freed me from depression.

  • GeorgiaMama

    First-time poster here!

    I saw a few comments from people wondering about anti-depressants during pregnancy and breastfeeding. I took Zoloft the ENTIRE time while pregnant and the EIGHTEEN months of breastfeeding that followed. My child is bright, happy and perfectly healthy. He’s seven (and a half!) years old and I have never once second-guessed the decision to stay on the big Z.

    I was a member of a mothers’ group for a few years during his infancy/toddlerhood, and one day we were talking about anti-depressants and quite a few moms were talking about how they went off them during their pregnancies and didn’t breastfeed so they could get back on the meds ASAP because they had been terrified of taking them while pregnant. I raised my hand and told them that I never stopped taking it. They looked at me, looked at my son (whom they’d all gotten to know), and someone said, “well, crap! I am TOTALLY staying on the meds for the next baby!”

    If your doctor thinks it’s best for you, don’t be too afraid of it.

  • afrin

    You know, I’ve read this blog for years.. I discovered it as a teenager in Mumbai, India and you were already pregnant with Leta then. And somehow even though I’ve always known you’ve been on anti-depressants, when I think of you as a person, and a wife and a mother, I think of a happy and wholesome person and not as someone who’s depressed.

    Maybe being from a culture where depression is not a common situation for people, maybe I just dont understand how powerful it can be, but a part of me just wishes that you’d stop the medication and feels that you’d be ok.

    You have a great big heart for life and love, and I think that is strong enough to wean you through… I hope I’m not just being naive.

    Love, an admirer.

  • tinacolada97

    I think (?) a more appropriate Heather Locklear substitute is Megan Fox. But I’m not sure for 14.

  • rwmorey71

    I am on medication for anxiety so I know its a little different than depression but the meds are in the same family. I am taking Paxil CR and that has not had the effect on my sex drive that my previous meds (Lexapro and then Zoloft) had on my sex drive. I know its different for each person too but just something I wanted to mention for you and your readers.

  • Ezza

    It’s a double whammy. SSRIs kill your libido and also make you drowsy. So when it’s good-times-o’clock… you’re not only disintered, but pretty keen on a snooze.

    My quack switched me to Lexapro and it was much better, but the anxiety crept back in so the dosage had to be upped. I’m not normal libido-wise, but I’m a lot closer to where I was at… y’know… fourteen.

    Zoloft is a miraculous drug for depression, but I found the sweet privelidge of being ‘normal’ came at an enourmous price – the price of being able to enjoy the benefits of normality.

  • Heidi D-M

    Hey, Heather,

    Thanks so much for posting this, and for being so open about it all. It sure helps the rest of us not feel alone. I’m still in ‘hide it all’ mode. Sneaking off to the counselor’s office, hoping my boss and co-workers don’t find out. Yeah, that feels grown-up.

    Anyway, I thought I’d let you know about something I’ve tried that has worked for me. I’m on Wellbutrin and alprazolam, and they kill my sex drive like a roach on a Raid can. I went to this spa for a couple of days, and they had this stuff called maca.

    It’s supposed to be an energy supplement, but it’s also supposed to help kick in your sex drive too. It has worked really well for me – the motor starts much more easily and it makes me actually WANT to, rather than do it because I think I ought to.

    I don’t take it all the time because I get kind of mood-swingy if I do, but I hit it during the weekends, and I gotta say, WOO-HOO!

    I never got into the whole supplementy natural herbaly new agey weird stuff, but if it works, why not? I get mine off Amazon. Anyway, just an idea.

    Thanks again for all you do.

    Heidi D-M

  • CatLady

    When I took Paxil I couldn’t even orgasm. I switched over to Celexa, no problems. It is similar to Lexapro but a little more gentle. I couldn’t take cymbalta (I tried) I had a weird atypical reaction to it. Can’t remember what it is called. Prozac helped my anxiety but not my depression. Effexor made me feel out of body. Lexapro made me feel anxious (more anxious, that is). I’ve never tried zoloft but since Celexa works for me with no side effects I’m sticking with it.

  • Lindsayanng

    I know this is an old post, but I just wasted the first hour and a half of my day reaching through your posts in backwards chronological order because I forgot about your blog and came back to check it out.

    I just wanted to suggest trying Welbutrin if you haven’t already. I did all of those meds you’ve listed so far and had the exact same reactions as you did. My doc put me on welbutrin (a slightly higher dose than anticipated) and it is amazing. No anxiety, very little depression.. Most if not all of my aches and pains are gone, and I only have a few sleepy days where as some days I couldnt keep my eyes open.

    Ohh, AND the best thing about it… My sex drive has returned and I feel like I did before me and my husband got married.

    Like i said, i dont know what you’ve tried minus what you’ve listed here, but it was a great mix for me.. Coming from someone who seems to have a similar reaction to drugs as you.