SSRIs, or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, are a common class of antidepressants. They’re also known for inhibiting sexual desire and making it more difficult to reach orgasm. Often, I see patients who feel like their sex lives have taken a hit after starting a course of antidepressants, and who want to get back in touch with their sexual selves. The good news is that, while it can be an adjustment, it’s still very possible to have a satisfying sex life while taking an SSRI.
If you’re trying to reconnect with your libido or experience some satisfying sex while on an SSRI, or if you have a client who’s in that boat, these are my recommendations.
- Let go of “shoulds.” You want to have a satisfying sex life. Part of that is recognizing that there’s no one “normal” level of sexual desire. Some people have very little desire, or no desire at all, and that’s ok. Your goal here is not necessarily to bring your desire up to a “normal” level; there is no “normal” level of desire. Rather, think about this process more in terms of what it is that you hope to gain from having more desire or more sex. Are you looking for more fun, more pleasure, more exploration, more intimacy, something else, all of the above?
- Recognize that willingness can be enough to begin a sexual interaction. If you’re typically the initiator in a sexual encounter, or if you usually wait until you’re really, really turned on to start a sexual interaction, it makes perfect sense that your sex life would take a hit if your libido decreases. Changing up that pattern can help. If you know that you want to have more sex, consider initiating an encounter even if you’re not feeling it quite yet. You may find that your arousal begins to pick up once the encounter is underway.
- Invest in a vibrator. SSRIs don’t generally stop you from reaching orgasm–rather, they raise the orgasmic threshold, making orgasm take longer to reach. Sometimes people give up on reaching orgasm because it’s harder to achieve–but investing in a toy like a vibrator, that can cut time to orgasm in half, can make a huge difference. Vibrators aren’t just for female-bodied people, either–there are plenty of vibrators designed specifically for male-bodied people. Nor does it have to be a vibrator; any kind of toy that feels good to you and reduces the time and effort necessary to reach orgasm will help.
- Explore. Now is a time to learn more about what turns you on. Explore widely: consider different kinds of stimulation, different activities, erotica, fantasy…explore a broad repertoire of pleasurable and stimulating things to do or imagine, so that you have a wider menu of options to choose from when you’re having trouble accessing desire. This can be an opportunity to discover something new about yourself.