Antidepressants are medications used to help alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety. In the United States in 2018, it was reported that 13.2% of adults aged 18 and older use antidepressant medications monthly and throughout the years the use has continually increased. Although antidepressants can help with certain mental health disorders, the potential side effects that are found are low libido or sexual drive. This can be extremely difficult and frustrating for those who are already struggling with mental health issues. However, there are ways to increase libido while on antidepressants.
How do antidepressants affect sex drive?
Antidepressants work by altering the balance of chemicals in the brain, also called neurotransmitters, to improve mood and reduce symptoms of depression and function. However, while the change in the neurotransmitter balance may make the individual feel better, it can also play a role in decreasing libido and sexual drive.
The different neurotransmitters that are typically targeted in antidepressants are serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine. These medications work by blocking the receptors that reuptake them thus increasing the concentration in the brain. Although neurotransmitters can affect libido, it is serotonin that has the most effect. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as fluoxetine (Prozac) and sertraline (Zoloft) are the most prescribed class of medications and are thought to decrease libido the most. The exact mechanism of how this side effect occurs in SSRIs and other antidepressants isn’t known but it is found that 30% to 70% of both men and women suffer from sexual dysfunction while taking these medications., The main effects that are experienced are a decrease in sexual desire, delayed ejaculation, and difficulty achieving an orgasm. Women can also have trouble with lubrication while men can have trouble with erection. Other side effects that individuals typically experience while being on antidepressants are dry mouth, dizziness, fatigue, and weight gain.
6 Natural Ways to Increase Libido While on Antidepressants
Although some individuals might need to take antidepressants to treat their mental health conditions, it does not mean they should always have to deal with the side effects that come with these medications. There are a variety of different ways to increase libido while taking antidepressants that are natural.
Talking with your healthcare provider can be very beneficial because it will allow you to discuss the side effects you are experiencing from the antidepressants you are taking. From here your provider will either suggest lowering the dosage of your current medication or changing it to a different medication and class altogether. Healthcare providers should be the only ones telling you to stop or change your current treatment. It is important to not stop your regimen without guidance from your doctor.
2. Re-assessing relationship with partner.
Although it might be easy to blame an antidepressant as the cause of low libido, sometimes it can be more to it than the medication itself. Sometimes it might be worth it to reassess your partner and to see if mutual feelings are still the same and to work on the relationship and identify any issues that you might be suffering with. Communicating with a partner about sexual needs is also important to help establish a deeper connection and mutual intimacy.
3. Decrease alcohol intake.
Not only does alcohol affect your cognitive function but it can also influence your sex drive as well. Typically, when you first consume alcoholic beverages, your libido might increase but then it quickly decreases. When this occurs, it can cause a less physical response to sex than normal. Not being able to orgasm, less vaginal lubrication, premature ejaculation, and erectile dysfunction are all things that can be experienced when drinking alcohol. Excessive drinking causes nerve damage in both the penis and clitoris leading to sexual dysfunction. Sometimes reducing alcohol intake or stopping for a while can increase libido and sexual drive. In addition, alcohol may interact with certain antidepressants and can worsen mental health conditions, so it is beneficial to talk with your healthcare professional or pharmacist about the effects it may have on your treatment.
Eating more foods rich in protein, fiber and less in processed carbohydrates and sugars can be beneficial for overall health but can also help with low libido as well. There are several types of different foods that can be implemented in the diet to aid in sexual dysfunction and increase sexual drive. Some of these foods can also boost libido instantly.
Eating certain foods such as oysters, bananas, and chocolate are considered aphrodisiacs, which can aid in driving sexual pleasure. High protein foods such as beef, chicken, and pork contain compounds, carnitine, L-arginine, and zinc that can improve blood flow which is important for sexual responses. Nuts and seeds such as walnuts, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, peanuts, and pecans are rich in omega-3s which can also help to increase sexual function. Apples have also been studied as having the potential to help sexual dysfunction. The reason is that apples contain a compound called quercetin which plays a role in promoting circulation and treating erectile dysfunction.
5. Trying natural supplements.
There are many natural supplements that can be used to raise libido in both men and women. Tribulus is a small leafy plant that has been studied to help with erectile dysfunction (ED) in men. Maca is a root vegetable that can enhance fertility and sex drive in females. Red ginseng may help with low libido and improve sexual function. Fenugreek may enhance libido and improve sexual function.
In addition to these supplements, Virectin is one of the best libido boosters for men as it has a variety of natural ingredients to help with erectile dysfunction. The main ingredient in Virectin, nitric oxide, dilates the vessels in the penis to aid in becoming hard and rigid during arousal. Virectin also enhances stamina as well to be able to last for a while engaging in sex.,
6. Implementing exercise.
Exercising in general has numerous benefits but it can also help with sexual health and libido. The physical movement of exercise increases blood flow to the genitals which then results in better arousal response and increased libido. Regular exercise also helps with energy and stamina to improve sexual performance and desire. It aids in sex hormone regulation, specifically testosterone which is critical for sexual desire for both men and women. Aim for at least 30 minutes a day of moderate-intensity exercise for at least five days a week.
Low libido can affect people of all ages and genders, but it is more commonly experienced in women. About one in three women in the United States experience low sex drive which can impact their quality of life and relationships. Similarly, it is just as common in men as loss of libido affects up to 1 in 5 men.
It is important to note that low libido can have many causes, including hormonal imbalances, medications, medical conditions, and psychological factors such as stress and depression. It is also important to seek medical advice if you are experiencing a persistent decrease in sexual desire or function, as this may indicate an underlying medical condition that may require further treatment.
Antidepressants affect libido by altering the balance of certain chemicals in the brain, such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. These chemicals play a role in regulating sexual function and desire, as well as mood and emotions. Antidepressants, particularly SSRIs, are thought to decrease libido by lowering levels of serotonin in the brain. Since one of the functions that serotonin affects is sexual desire when levels of serotonin are increased in the brain, it can lead to a decrease in sexual desire, difficulty achieving orgasm, and delayed ejaculation. Other types of antidepressants, such as tricyclics and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), can also affect sexual function and libido.
While some antidepressants are more likely to decrease libido than increase it, there are a few that have been reported to have a positive effect on sexual function and desire for some people. Bupropion (brand name Wellbutrin), for example, is an antidepressant that works by increasing levels of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain and has been reported to have a positive effect on sexual function in some people. Mirtazapine (brand name Remeron) is another antidepressant that has been reported to improve sexual function in some cases. However, it is important to note that not all individuals will respond to these medications in the same way. Also, some people may experience an improvement in their libido as their depression or anxiety symptoms improve with treatment, regardless of the specific antidepressant medication they are taking.
Talking to your healthcare provider, engaging in regular exercise, trying natural supplements, improving your diet, reassessing your relationship with your sexual partner, and decreasing alcohol intake are all-natural ways to increase libido while on antidepressants. In addition, getting more sleep and practicing relaxation techniques such as yoga and meditation will not only aid in increasing your libido but also will improve your overall mental and physical health as well.
Low libido is a common side effect of antidepressant medication and can have a significant impact on quality of life and relationships. While antidepressants are often an essential part of treating depression and anxiety, it is important to address any concerns about sexual function and libido with a healthcare provider especially if considering stopping or adding a medication or supplement. Communication with a healthcare provider is key to finding the right treatment plan that works best for everyone.