sex

"I started taking antidepressants and stopped having orgasms."

This post discusses anxiety and depression and may be triggering for some readers. 

The thought of taking antidepressants had lodged itself deep in the back of my mind for quite some time before I mustered up the courage to share it with my GP. 

I was embarrassed of turning into a blubbering mess as soon as the question "what brings you here?" was asked, and scared of being told by yet another person that the way I’d been feeling was just 'all in my head.'

I remember finally going to the GP and making a case for why I needed antidepressants very well. The world was only two days into the god-awful year we’ve come to know (and not love) as 2020, and I was back in my hometown. I’d been in the throes (the very dark throes) of a full-blown anxiety disorder – and I had felt less myself than ever for the better part of half a year.

I struggled to regulate my emotions and experienced panic attacks on more days of the week than not. I lost my appetite at any hint of distress and at my worst; I weighed a meagre 44 kilograms. Grossly underweight and unwell, mentally at least, the dark cloud that had formed over me was not far off swallowing me whole. 

My GP could see this dark cloud too, so he prescribed me with an antidepressant.

Watch How to talk to people with anxiety. Post continues after video.


Video via Mamamia.

I was told the undesirable side-effects that I would likely experience as my body adjusted to balancing neurotransmitters: headaches, fatigue, nausea, insomnia and increased feelings of anxiety and depression. 

I was then told that these side-effects could stick around for up to six months once you first start taking any form of SSRI. However, as I sat in the chair next to my GP’s desk, what I was not told was the impact that antidepressants could have on sexual function and my sexual wellbeing as a whole.

My libido had already taken a bit of a dip due to the anxiety I’d been experiencing, so I wasn’t really in the business of getting down to business (if you know what I mean). But I do not remember fondly one of the first times I masturbated since being on the antidepressant. Not to be hyperbolic, but trying to cum (with a vibrator, may I add) felt like climbing up the steepest part of Mount Everest.

Prior to being on the antidepressant, I’d been pretty lucky when it came to having an orgasm. During masturbation, it was a rarity for me not to cum at least three times. While not being able to have an orgasm was an exercise in me recognising my past privilege, it was just as much an exercise in me thinking that there was something wrong with me. 

ADVERTISEMENT

Maybe it was my hypochondria, or maybe it was my mind getting used to the antidepressants, but I was well and truly convinced that I’d never be able to cum again.

In hindsight, this was a bit of an overreaction as I would be able to get there again, but it would take me at least three months to do so – and don’t even get me started on how long it would take me during partnered sex because that’s a whole other story that I continue to struggle with to this day. 

There are a few things that I’ve done in the past, and still continue to do, that allow me to experience sexual pleasure despite the stumbling block that is antidepressants. 

The first is being upfront with who it is I’m having sex with about the fact that I’m on an antidepressant, and what that means is that it’s likely that I won’t have an orgasm at all, or it will take me a bit more time. 

The second is suggesting that I would like more time to be spent on foreplay. Selfishly (or perhaps unselfishly really) their response to my suggestion also gives me a clear insight into what sex with them will be like. If I’m met with an eye roll or an unenthusiastic "yeah," "okay" or "whatever" it’s safe to say that while I still may choose to have sex with them, I likely won’t choose to have sex with them again in the future (for obvious reasons).

The third is shifting the focus away from an orgasm being the end goal of the experience. Funnily enough, knowing that there isn’t any pressure for me to orgasm has actually made it easier for me to orgasm. This has also led to experimenting more – often with the addition of different sex toys in different positions – and I’ve never enjoyed experimenting more than when just experiencing sexual pleasure, rather than reaching orgasm has been the main focus.  

Listen to hosts Emily and Lucy on Mamamia's podcast The Undone, where they discuss orgasming without touching yourself. Post continues after podcast.


To this day, you’ll still find me trawling through my kitchen pantry at about 8:00am to cut a 20mg pill of my medication in half – I take 10mg every morning with breakfast to keep my mental health under lock and key (along with some mindfulness, exercise, gratitude journaling and the occasional therapy session). 

And while I’m sure the day I stop taking antidepressants and (hopefully) have an orgasm during sex with more ease than what I do now will be unforgettable, I’m not prepared (and nor should anyone be) to forego my mental health just to cum anytime soon.

This post was originally shared on Truli and has been republished with full permission. 

Feature Image: Supplied. 

Like a $50 gift voucher for your thoughts? Take our survey now.