How Antidepressants Impacted My Sex Drive

How Antidepressants Impacted My Sex Drive

When antidepressants killed my sex drive, I lost hope.

I went on antidepressants for the first time when I was around 19 or 20. Though I’d struggled with depression for most of my life, it was the first time I’d ever talked to a doctor about it. In fact, it was the first time a doctor had ever asked me about my mental health.

Adjusting to antidepressants was difficult for me. The first few days, Celexa, the antidepressant my doctor prescribed for me, gave me a strange feeling and made me extraordinarily sleepy to the point where I would doze off in class or become sluggish at work. Adjusting to it required taking it at different times and finding the one that best fit me and my lifestyle — ultimately, taking it right before bed helped me ease some of the most intrusive side-effects.

Slowly, Celexa helped get my depression under control. I stopped feeling near-constant dread and apathy and started having a clearer mind, a peace I’d only ever previously experienced on my better days. It wasn’t a miracle by any means and I still had depression, but it really made a difference in my life, allowing me to manage my symptoms for the first time.

After the first few months, I noticed another change in my body — my once high sex drive became nonexistent. I used to masturbate nearly every day before I started antidepressants but realized that I hadn’t in the weeks since I started taking them. The desire just wasn’t there. This realization made me feel really strange about myself, like a big part of my identity was just gone.

I can’t remember exactly when I started masturbating again, but when I did, I ran into a new problem. In the past, it would only take me about five minutes to orgasm, but my antidepressants made me unable to orgasm no matter what I did. After a half an hour, I would just collapse in my bed, sore and completely frustrated with myself.

For months I experienced a spotty sex drive and an inability to orgasm. I was embarrassed about it and kept it to myself despite being incredibly frank about myself in the past. I was single at the time but finally accepting that I might not be straight, so my sexuality became important to me in a way it hadn’t been in the past. My feelings for women felt new and I wanted to explore them a little even before I started dating.

My frustration with my situation began seeping into the rest of my life. I became short with people, easily irritated. At one point, my best friend joked that I needed to get off and soon. I burst into tears, crying about how I was broken and that it was impossible. She consoled me while I cried and told me that a lack of sex drive while on antidepressants was common. She suggested that I talk to my doctor about it. I’d been quick to contact my doctor about the way my pills were making me tired and dizzy, but was embarrassed to bring up how they impacted my sex drive.

Finally, after a few more frustrating days, I made an appointment with my doctor. In some ways, I felt more nervous about bringing up my lack of sex drive than I had been about saying that I thought I had depression.  My doctor was compassionate and, like my best friend had, reassured me that my lack of sex drive was normal and that it would likely go away in time. If it didn’t, we could try another antidepressant to see if that worked better for me. She gave me tips on how to redirect my frustration and transform it into something productive. I started crafting more often, making jewelry that I’ve since been able to turn into a business.

My doctor was right about my lack of sex drive eventually disappearing. It took months, but it slowly came back. I was relieved and started feeling normal again. Normal for me at any rate. I’m glad that I stuck it out because Celexa really helped me for years. I still have depression and am still on antidepressants and sometimes my sex drive still nosedives, but it doesn’t feel nearly as devastating as it once did. I’m more comfortable with myself, my sexuality, and my faults. It has made all the difference.

Cover image courtesy of Getty Images.