I feel like I know you guys well enough now to pull up a cocktail, kick off my shoes & indulge in a good ol’ chat about “sexy time”. There’s a point in every good friendship where someone broaches the topic of sexuality and the reaction of the other person determines the relationship forevermore. A shared laugh makes a sex-friend for life, one who you can tell your funny “vibrator in my handbag on the tube” stories to. An embarrassed silence puts that friend firmly in the “hobbies & shopping chats only” file. And maybe you might wait a week or so to call them again. So lets jump right in and see where we end up!
You’ve made it past the first hurdle. Your partner lovingly caught your hand as you walked down the street, or caressed your neck from behind while you were cooking dinner. Whatever the trigger, you’ve made it all the way to the bedroom (or couch, or balcony, or…ahem, I digress!). You can feel the tingle in your “special place”. That football shirt your partner is wearing is suddenly as sexy as anything worn by Colin Firth in Pride & Prejudice and you are the sexiest woman alive. Bow-chica-wow-wow! Forget the FHM 100 list cos they ain’t got nothin’ on you right now. You strip off your “round-the-house” leggings and hell, you might even leave a light on tonight (dimmed of course…let’s not get too carried away). For a moment in time you’re the star of your very own porno (a classy one, well scripted) and with a twirl of your nipple tassels you turn expectantly to the door as a stranger enters. The third participant in your sexy party has arrived. He saunters into the scene with a sly grin on his face and a swagger in his step. You take a moment to regroup, to register his presence, to assess the situation. And faster than you can say “lube me up” you’re launched slap bang into the middle of your very own farce. The score changes from “I wanna sex you up” to “Ice Ice Baby” and as the rose-tinted glasses are ripped from your eyes you see your surroundings for what they are. No porno movie. No fancy lighting. No FHM Top 100 model. Just you, hairy legs and stained t-shirt, straddling your partner in your untidy room with the cobweb on the ceiling. Mr D. Pression has arrived.
Yes, I want to talk about sex, but more specifically I want us to talk about that all-too-common and not-so-understood side effect of being a tiny bit crazy: sexual dysfunction.
Antidepressants are not known for their sexy qualities. SSRI, SNRI, MAOI….whatever you’re taking, none of them add up to S.E.X. They murder your libido and if abstinence could reverse virginity, well we’d be the purest damn people on the planet. For men getting or maintaining an erection can be impossible and for women, well lets just say the Sahara should remain a desert in Africa. And probably most insultingly of all, should you miraculously make your way over all of the hurdles, with your end goal in sight, so close you can almost touch it….almost….almost….almost….ooooooohhhhh bloody hell…..nothing! Anorgasmia is the final insult in our tale of woe. And the evil doesn’t stop there, it can continue even after you no longer take them. The wisdoms at Wikipedia tell us:
Post-SSRI sexual dysfunction (PSSD) is a name given to a reported iatrogenic sexual dysfunction caused by the previous use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants. While apparently uncommon, it can last for months, years, or sometimes indefinitely after the discontinuation of SSRIs. It may represent a specific subtype of SSRI discontinuation syndrome. This condition has not been well-established or studied in the field of medicine.
Indefinitely?! Are you frickin’ kidding me?! Any why is it that the condition has not been well established or studied? I am often struck by how sparse any real, helpful medical information on sexual side effects is while at the same time being bowled over by the sheer volume of anecdotal evidence on the topic (i.e. patient forums, questions on google, etc.). Not to mention how unhelpful medical advice is. Don’t get me started on the article that advised me to “schedule your sexual activity to occur before you take your medication”. I question why this imbalance exists. Are we ashamed to admit that we are having sexual difficulties? Are we suffering through the very worst type of “keeping up with the Joneses” phenomenon? In this day and age it’s hard to believe that so many of us feel that we shouldn’t prioritise our sexual selves. That if we are mentally well and our medication is working we somehow don’t have the right to complain because we don’t feel sufficiently lustful. Would we be more likely to express ourselves about side effects such as heart palpitations, fainting or low blood pressure?
I am a (physically) healthy 30 year old woman in a relationship with a kick-ass bloke. I fancy him. I am confident that he finds me at least a bit attractive (he assures me that he does in fact want to have sex with me). I know that I want to have sex with him. I just can’t seem to get my mind to play along. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with me complaining about that.