I wouldn’t wish antidepressants on anyone — especially not anyone suffering from depression. It’s just unfortunate (and probably ironic) that the same medications designed to alleviate depression are also ripe to turn you into some combination of bloated, asexual, jittery, lethargic, suicidal, and manic.
And those are just the normal side effects. I’ve also encountered drugs threatening diabetes (unrelated to the weight gain, somehow), hair loss, and a nasty sort of rash that makes your skin fall off. (Remember the philandering ballerina last season of House? It’s that rash.)
I’m not saying that antidepressants never work. They do. But the journey from SSRIs to SNRIs to MAOIs and so on is trial and error methodology at its worst, begetting a roadway fraught with side effects and, you know, that depression you’ve been trying to cure.
And, although many of these drugs’ side effects fucking blow, I’d like to talk to you about one in particular: loss of libido.
It’s hard to find an antidepressant that doesn’t injure your libido, if not flat-out annihilating it. Barring the unusual, your psychiatrist’s first line of attack should be a Von Trapp-style procession of the SSRI family (Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, Lexapro, So Long, Farewell) — during which, I hate to say it, your sex drive doesn’t stand a chance.
It’s a deficit that, in my experience, hinders both interest and enjoyment. Still, that’s not so bad. It’s probably better than feeling catastrophically incapable of getting out of bed, or developing diabetes, or killing yourself.
Like most side effects, you have to weigh the pros and cons and make a choice. And if you choose to surrender your libido in favor of a life worth living, I don’t think anyone could tell you that you’re making the wrong decision.
The thing is, though, it should be a decision. For me — for years — it didn’t work that way.
From ages 15 to, I don’t know, 19, my stupid little brain weathered the perfect storm of libido destruction. Not only were SSRI’s zapping my buzz — they had been for a while, since before there was a buzz to zap. I was like that guy on Seinfeld who shaved his head for years only to discover he was going bald. I didn’t know what I was missing or even suspect that I was missing anything at all.
Why? Part two of the storm: I was (and still am) a huge intellectual snob. In high school, my “fantasies” involved getting boys alone in my bedroom and comparing Franny & Zooey to The Royal Tenenbaums à la sticky notes and highlighters.
JD Salinger and Wes Anderson — and Charlie Kaufman — and (ugh) Chuck Palahniuk had set my adolescent cogs in motion, inspiring me to seek out and embrace a world beyond bell bottoms and boy bands and Blink 182. And geometry. And all that other middle school shit.
I was discovering the Meaning of Life and all that crap. There was no time for copulation.
(Also, no one wanted to have sex with me.) (Also, most of the kids at my high school were pretty stupid, and so it seemed entirely plausible that my mind was too evolved to fall victim to any low-brow compulsion to bone.)
It’s just weird, you know? That I was on antidepressants from such an early age that I mistook their symptoms for de facto realities.
It took me until college to really understand the hype around this sex thing — sex is kind of like smoking, I think, in that you can feel cool doing it for months without ever learning to inhale — and a couple years after that to realize that I wasn’t actually a late bloomer. I was a regular bloomer on SSRIs.
The bottom line? You’re never above your baser instincts. If it ever seems that way, consult your pharmacist — and probably a Babeland employee — immediately.
Photo via bayat on Flickr.