It is no secret that SSRIs and other antidepressants inhibit sex drive. It's just one of many side effects these drugs can have. Unfortunately, due to a stigma associated with mental health issues, there isn't much clear information or answers available about the connection between mental health and sex.
Our in-box is consistently full of messages from women who have lost their libido due to antidepressants; they’re lost and don’t know what to do. It’s extremely frustrating to have your depression or anxiety under control, only to find other areas of your life suffer as a result.
Since January is Mental Health Awareness month, Brides is addressing some these sexual concerns—because everyone deserves a healthy, thriving sex life. Here are some steps you can take to combat low libido while using SSRIs and other forms of antidepressants.
Always consult your doctor about symptoms.
Kristie Overstreet, a clinical sexologist and psychotherapist, stresses the importance of speaking to your doctor about a decrease in your sex drive. It’s critical that you’re able to communicate about what is going on with your body—the only way to find workable solutions is by first being able to discuss them openly.
“A decrease in libido and reduced genital sensitivity are just two of the many side effects that you may be experiencing,” Overstreet tells Brides. “Don't be afraid to tell your doctor and ask what options you may have. The worst thing you can do is stay silent and not speak up about what you are feeling.”
Your doctor may want to adjust your medication or perhaps put you on a different antidepressant. Even if your medication stays the same, the simple act of opening up can be a life-saver. When you feel less alone, you don’t box yourself in, hiding away your lack of desire, which in turn exacerbates the lack of desire.
Place a focus on intimacy and growth.
Instead of having your sex life be all about those screaming fireworks you miss so much, look at this as a way to evolve, Overstreet suggests.
Instead of making the orgasm as the center of your pleasure, “focus on being present, connecting, and experiencing intimacy.”
Remind yourself that this is a wonderful, multifaceted experience, not just a wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am thing. “Take this opportunity to remember to enjoy the journey (the intimacy experience) not what you expect at the end of the road (the orgasm),” Overstreet says.
You are not broken.
We tend to demonize mental health, pushing it into the shadows and ignoring the issues it causes in our lives. But self-blame is not the answer. Overstreet says that the last thing you should do is put unrealistic expectations on your sex life and add pressure to an already frustrating situation.
“Don't feel like you are broken or that you are flawed because your sexual self is affected by your medication,” Overstreet tells us. “You are a beautiful and evolving soul who deserves all the pleasure you can manifest. Stress and expectations will suffocate any desire you have.” It may seem like a big, fat Catch-22, but adding anxiety about your lack of desire is going to make your libido even lower.
Do something active several days a week.
There are a few things you can do to help boost sex drive, since you may not be able to change the medications you are on.
Exercise has long been shown to release feel-good chemicals like dopamine and serotonin into the system. While hitting the gym is definitely not a cure-all for mental illness, it can help with some of the downsides of being on medication, Overstreet says. Your mental health is the top priority, but that doesn’t mean you have to be stuck in a state of sexual stasis.
“Being active or working out can have a positive impact on every aspect of your body. For example, taking a walk can lift your spirits,” Overstreet says. “This can also improve your connection with your body and sexuality.”
Get your hydration on.
This may sound a little kooky, but staying hydrated is actually key to having a healthy sex drive. “You may be dehydrated and not even realize it,” Overstreet explains.
This happens far more than we realize—you should be drinking two to three liters of water every single day. (Carry around a 24-ounce water bottle in your bag, and aim to fill and refill it three times throughout the day.)
See more: 7 Causes of Low Sexual Desire in Women
“This can keep your body running strong and improve your mood,” Overstreet adds. This will definitely put you on the right track to getting your sexy back.