Some time ago a friend complained, as he habitually did, about being single, still single, after a dozen years of dating, cruising, promiscuity, abstinence, personals ads, chat rooms, self-help books, shrinks, and — least sufferable — the advice of well-meaning, non-single friends. Having recently become both non-single and well-meaning, I felt justified in offering a suggestion.


    "Try Zoloft," I said. "In six weeks you'll have a boyfriend."
    What I did not go on to say: "And you'll never want to have sex with him, or with anybody else, for that matter, yourself included. Because Zoloft will put your sex drive into reverse."
    Selective serotonin uptake inhibitors (or SSRI's, of which Zoloft is a popular example), have revolutionized the treatment of depression over the last two decades. In my case, Zoloft may have saved my life: I have a distinct memory of thinking, before I got my prescription, that my life wasn't particularly worth saving. When you hear yourself thinking like that, it's time to either find God, quick, or start availing yourself of the blessings of modern chemistry. What could go toe-to-toe with the Almighty but a great drug?
    But like all drugs, great and otherwise, Zoloft has side effects. One of them is the introduction into your life of a series of intractable sexual paradoxes. Here are notes on an ongoing experimental evaluation that may never reach a conclusion.

On Zoloft, I am capable of having a boyfriend. And I am incapable of having sex with him.

    Three years of close, personal study have proven that, while on Zoloft, I can expect to be hit on constantly by attractive and intelligent men. I inevitably wind up partnered with one of them. A few months pass. I discontinue the meds, frustrated with the side effects, expense and residual stigma — not to mention insurance risk — they retain even in this heavily medicated era.

Being on meds is like having your erotic stomach stapled.

Just as inevitably, my relationship rapidly dissolves, the stench of sexual desperation swiftly gathers around me, and I wind up repelling all but the loosest of characters encountered in disreputable environments between the hours of two and four in the morning.
    This loveless, predatory sex life will continue until my therapist du jour prevails on me to resume a more monogamous, medicated life. Then the cycle begins again. Sex rapidly goes from a perpetual hunger to yesterday's oddly abundant lettuce. On Zoloft, I'm no longer hungry all the time in sight of considerable sexual supply — now I always seem to feel like I've just eaten. Being on meds is like having your erotic stomach stapled.

Only now that the thing I lived for is dead am I truly alive.

    I have felt the living death of my libido in every aspect of my life, for the straightforward reason that my libido ruled every aspect of my life before it became incapacitated.
    I see old flames who obsessed me for years and experience them as one does those light bulbs shaped to look like flame; I am no longer taken in. I am no longer aflame. This side effect has side effects of its own, and they are not so bad. When one is not on fire, for instance, one becomes somewhat more judicious. What a relief! Faulkner warned against writing from the "glands." Try living from them.
    All my adult life and even a few years prior to it, friends have glanced, wincingly, at my sex life and advised me to grow up. Suddenly, I have. The only trouble is that I seem to have gone, sexually speaking, straight from adolescence to senescence without a pause for adulthood.

On medication, I am born again — as an impotent, ancient monk.

    On antidepressants, I regain a clarity of mind and levity of spirit that three decades' worth of disappointment, death, betrayal, abandonment, artistic and personal failure and other ordinary life experiences have dulled. My youthfulness is restored, except in my erotic life. This came as a rude disappointment to the twenty-six-year-old boyfriend I found within weeks of resuming treatment late last year.
    "You've married an old codger," I plead in my defense as I rolled over away from sex for the third or perhaps tenth night in a row.
    He turned me toward him and looked at me severely.
    "OK, it's time to put a stop to that kind of thinking right now, because this is the youngest you're ever going to be in this relationship," he replied.

Without my sex drive, I'm clean and sober after twenty-five years of addiction and idiocy.

    Antidepressants may inadvertently give you not only erotic progeria, but premature sexual nostalgia. I dimly remember, as I sometimes do the hallucinations of a childhood fever, the humors that drove me out into the night in search of cock. I was happy in those searches, in a transient, miserable way, but do I really want the fever to return? The depression of my sex drive has become my liberation from it. I know the metaphor linking excessive sex drive with drug excesses is tired, but how else can I explain this feeling that without my sex drive I'm clean and sober after twenty-five years of being in a state of addiction and virtual idiocy?

Reduced libido is a side-effect of antidepressants. It is also the therapeutic agent of antidepressants.

    The first time I sought a chemical remedy to my lifelong depression — and a more recent experience with post-traumatic stress disorder brought about by the 1995 suicide of my stepmother — my new MD put me on Wellbutrin.
    I returned two weeks later for a follow-up, demanding to know why he had prescribed a drug that made me so anxious and agitated that I wanted to swan dive from the upper deck of the Bay Bridge. He explained that Wellbutrin was reputed to spare the libido, which he'd gathered was important to me.
    You, sir, are a dumb ass. God, I wish I'd said it. Even then, at the onset of my stormy love affair with psychopharmeceuticals, I knew the libido was a depressant, and a bloodthirsty one.
    After the terrible ten days of Wellbutrin, I swore off medication for at least a year. I remained depressed. Then a therapist explained that, considering the amount of anxiety I reported, Wellbutrin was the last drug I should have been prescribed. She recommended Zoloft. Shortly thereafter my happiness was reborn, and my horniness interred.

It wasn't just sluggish serotonin causing my malaise: it was sex itself.

    Newer SSRIs than Zoloft, like Effexor and Celexa, are reputed to have less severe sexual side effects. By the time I'd started writing this essay, I'd already switched to Effexor and had noticed fits and starts of randomly directed lust, renewed penile sensitivity and erectile function, and a general willingness to blow off important obligations to spend the afternoon sucking cock with the boyfriend, now my registered domestic partner with the state of California.
    But I stalled on making even this minor change for years after I knew the newer meds existed, and months after starting to date the RDP. I didn't believe that my depressed libido was a mere side effect of my medicated happiness. It wasn't just sluggish serotonin causing my malaise, my post-traumatic stress symptoms, my suicidal ideations — it was sex itself. And it wasn't merely my happiness I feared was vulnerable to my resuscitated libido — it was also the relationship.
    If it sounds like I'm a little down on sex, that's because I am. Unmedicated, I'm one of those promiscuous homosexuals, the kind who long ago ran out of fingers and toes with which to count sex partners and is now running out of pores. For years, I tried to stave off depression while actually reinforcing it with a regular diet of scruffy club kids who are as aggressively disappointing in daylight as they are alluring in black light and athletic in bed. Feeling bad about myself, my career, my body, my personality, my station in life, my artistic and intellectual capacity — a chronic seizure of self-loathing that peaks in intensity a few hours after sunset — I have found temporary relief in bars, parks and sex clubs, wherever these ratty urban boy-sluts loiter, lubricating our transactions with joints and booze. In therapeutic terms, that amounts to treating depression with a depressing activity in depressing surroundings chemically aided by known depressants.
    Pfizer, which declined to comment for this story, would be loath to hear its product described as a chemical castrator. But that's the way I've experienced it. The question is whether these drugs will be made obsolete by more sex-friendly successors, whether they become curious footnotes in the history of treatments for depression, or whether they come to be seen as a manifestation of psychopharmacological serendipity.
    Why shouldn't there be a market for antiaphrodisiacs? Aren't there other men who are tired of living amid the ruin left by their sex drives, candidates for those twelve-step sexaholics anonymous programs who would like to be liberated from that tawdry taskmaster without going to the icky meetings? Still skeptical? Imagine this country — imagine the world — if Bill Clinton had enjoyed the libido-wilting effects of Zoloft between 1992 and 2000.
    Let there be a new sexual revolution, a new chemical age, a new asceticism, a new men's movement soldiering forth under the banner of liberation from our libidos. We will be smarter, more judicious, more accomplished, more attractive. We will sack the bedrooms and the backrooms, crying out, in unison, "Come, you meds that tend on mortal thoughts! Unsex us here!"

The drug that made work pleasurable has made pleasure into work.

    It's not hard to imagine a Marxist critique of antidepressants: happy workers are good workers, uncomplaining workers; workers with serotonin flowing briskly through their neural networks are alert, engaged, focused, and not calling in sick so they can spend the day in bed facing the wall and crying. I know because I am one such antidepressed worker, whose productivity has at least doubled since restarting my 50 mg. daily regimen.
    When I wake up the morning, the supposed daily height of the male sexual appetite, I feel like Hillary Clinton: I'm certainly not going to let sex get in the way of my work! I find myself seduced away from bed by anxious fantasies about household projects. Uninvited, questions appear in the bed, muscling their way between me and my boyfriend. Where's that shopping list we wrote up the other day? and Have I faxed that thing yet for online billing with SBC? and Is that stain in the new sofa going to come out? I have been known to leap out of bed in order to pee, only to be discovered ten minutes later in the bathroom, reorganizing the toiletry shelves. This condition was known by the ancient Romans as coitus interruptus, carpe diem.
    One night, after a big meal, I asked my boyfriend to help me do the dishes. He dropped to his knees, positioned himself between me and the sink, and gave me a blowjob while I scrubbed and rinsed. It wasn't exactly what I'd had in mind when I asked for help, but I didn't object that night, or the next night, or the following. After that I bought him a knee mat which we kept under the sink. At first I thought it was hot, getting head while I did dishes, but then I realized that what I was getting off on was the productivity.

On Zoloft, I feel more like a man — everywhere but in bed.

    By "feel more like a man," I mean that I sail through my medicated life confident, assertive if not aggressive, and not particularly interested in the subject of my emotional well-being. By other stereotypical yardsticks, I fall short of true masculinity. I feel that I have medicated away part of my maleness, a part suspiciously located at the intersection of mood and lust. Is this the male essence produced by the symbiotic relationship of depression and libido, some evolutionarily tested and approved trait that sends men out into the night in search of places to deposit (or receive, in some less evolutionarily transparent cases) DNA? My medicated self is so functional that finally, at age thirty-three, I feel like a grown-up. But in bed I am anorgasmic.

My boyfriend says, Of course we can just cuddle. His boner is a different reply altogether.

     I have sex with consumer electronics and ulterior motives in abundance. In order to come, I need an arsenal of vibrators and dildos, arms and legs, all hands on deck, all power strips plugged in and powered up. Many nights, I don't really want to have sex with my boyfriend, but I know that in return for sex I will get love, companionship, support, stability. My boyfriend says, Of course we don't have to have sex, of course we can just cuddle. But his semi-constant boner is a different reply altogether.
    I want to know, but feel I shouldn't ask him, what he thinks I should do. Would he prefer to be with a brooding, faithless neurotic he can count on to fuck him every night? Or an emotionally functional, virtually sexless adult who does lots of household chores?

On Zoloft I am fearless, and very, very afraid.

    On Zoloft I am self-confident. In most aspects of my life I know what I want and how to get it. I believe in the essential goodness, or at least the neutrality, of the world around me. (Or if not, then at least the incompetence of my adversaries.) Where I used to limp and stumble through life, I now charge.
    Indomitable in the face of the present moment, I cower before the future.
    Will I go to my grave taking this drug or one of its relatives? What happens if I stop? If I do, what will prevent depression's warped, magnetic logic from swindling me out of the things I've accomplished?
    This is what I fear: when the drug wears off, my resurgent sex drive will use every argument in its bloated arsenal to tear down the judgments with which I have fortified my life as a sexless, antidepressed person. These include: I am worthy of being loved by a passionate, beautiful, brilliant person, and I am not only able but happy to leave the beguilingly fraudulent sexual marketplace in favor of sequestering myself with said boyfriend at home and My self-worth does not require a majority vote of an apparently infinite population of shiftless, heedless, chem-friendly sex addicts, of whom I was apparently a prime, nonvoting example.
    In the late twentieth century's great artistic representations of the future, sex was always neatly disposed of. In Sleeper, Woody Allen relegated sex to the Orgasmatron. When Barbarella wanted to come, she took a pill.
    I careen toward my future astride an untamed, unpredictable neurochemical beast. How will I get off?  

Read other features from the No Sex issue!

©2003 Paul Festa and

's essays appear in Nerve, Salon, the Best Sex Writing
anthologies for 2005, 2006 and 2008, and other publications. He is
the author of OH MY
GOD: Messiaen in the Ear of the Unbeliever
, which is based on href="" target="_blank">Apparition of the Eternal
Church, his award-winning and critically acclaimed film about the
music of Olivier Messiaen. A violinist, he has toured extensively,
given the U.S., Boston, New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles
premieres of Messiaen's 1933 Fantaisie, and performed with the
Stephen Pelton Dance Theater and the North Bay Shakespeare Company. He
is the official historian of the Presidential Memorial Commission of
San Francisco, and is revising a novel. More info at href="" target="_blank">

Commentarium (181 Comments)

Aug 28 03 - 1:56pm

Good overview of this common and annoying side effect of antidepressant use! No need for anyone to live without a healthy sex life--if physical health is a birthright, then why not sexual health?!

Both men and women who are depressed and/or on SSRI/MAO-indibitor/tri-cyclic medications to treat depression commonly find that their testosterone level is low as well. Returning testosterone levels to the normal range increases libido and reduces depressive symptoms.

If your T is low, try a testosterone gel - the newest and most potent one on the market is named Testim. There's info about this new drug on www dot auxilium dot com. It can be prescribed by your MD and is available at any pharmacy.

Not only does elevating testosterone result in increased effectiveness of antidepressants, it also increases the efficacy of erectile dysfunction medications! Drugs like Levitra and Viagra are pointless if you don't want to have sex in the first place, however, if you're using them and want to have sex but they're not working, check your testosterone level.

Aug 28 03 - 2:31pm

As a Psychology Ph.D. student that has done a decent amount of research on anti-depressants I feel that the situation described is highly unfortunate and prevalent, but not necessarily unavoidable. The sexual side effects of SSRI's are not universal, and some people only experience them with some of the SSRI's. It is recommended that you try changing your prescription(s) with your doctors aid to reduce side effects. Even for people whose libido is reduced by _all_ SSRI medications there are still other options for dealing with depression and still being randy. The so-called "atypical" anti-depressants such as Neurontin and others actually have _increased_ libido as one of their listed side effects. There are also non-chemical approaches for treating depression. Long term therapy has proven just about as effective as drugs if the person maintains treatment for a year or more. There are also some promising results from certain (neuro)bio-feedback treatments, though many of it's practitioners are quacks that will only teach you how to raise and lower your heart rate, not control your depression.

I hope this information helps you and others.

Aug 28 03 - 2:59pm

Great piece, an untold story of this side of meds. I'm a man on Paxil, but have actually had a rather odd side effect (apparently) . . . having gone on Paxil for several months on two separate instances in the past, my libido had waned and remained low once I came off it. I actually enjoyed this since, like the author of this piece, I was no longer dominated by a raging libido which not only drove me in constant search for sex, but also to drink/drugs/etc. However, after spending a good deal of time off Paxil, I realized it was becoming increasingly hard to even motivate myself to meet people, much less engage in flirtation/sex/etc. Not to mention I now had the added worry that my partner might not be completely sexually satisfied on account of my lack of sexual enthusiasm. In any event, I recently went on Paxil for a third time, but much to my surprise, I'm actually hornier than I've been in about two years (although by no means hornier than I was when I was 23) and my erections seem to be even stronger than before! (Perhaps I'm one of the lucky few benefited by the less likely side effects?) Not to mention I'm back off the fliration wagon and having a ball with it. Thanks Paxil!

Aug 28 03 - 3:49pm

I tried Paxil and Wellbutrin off and on for years to beat my depression.
With Paxil I lost my libido, some of my hair, but gained 50 lbs. Wellbutrin was just a mess of panic attacks, I had no time to care about sex.
It's taken a few drug free years of cognitive therapy, but I have sex, self confidence and a life, maybe for the first time in 38 years.
It's a lot harder than taking a pill to fix things and sometimes it felt like it wasn't working at all, but now I'm beginning to appreciate life's ups and downs and the fact that I can feel them.
I'm sure it's not for everyone, just as some pills actually work for some people and not for others, but if you are the type that quits their meds, as I did, there's other options.
I like sex. But I really like being able to feel all the love that goes with being physical with a longtime partner.

Aug 28 03 - 4:49pm

I got off Paxil and another drug ("medication" or "sedatives" are weasel words for drugs, let's face it) as my libido went south. Making love was like playing pool with a rope. But I know of one drug, Trazadone, that gave me a stiff erection for hours. Look it up in the PDR, as one should do for any prescribed drug. Drinking alcohol? Remember what one of Macbeths buddies said, "Alcohol may sharpen desire, but it dulls the performance"....Sometimes a penis problem can be a godsend...mine became quite curved, but I learned how to guide it to a womans G spot. She came back often for more naked fun as foreplay allows her to see her taking me orally in the mirror. The curvature really turns us on!

Aug 28 03 - 5:10pm

I recently had an annual physical during which my physician prescribed Prozac. I had ended a relationship, lost 15 pounds, suffered from insomnia, and basically felt like shit mentally and physically. My biggest concern was loss of libido which he said wasn't necessarily a side effect. Now after just one week on Prozac I feel better mentally. Now I want to stop treatment after reading this article and subsequent feedback. Why continue if I can't perform when in the company of the opposite sex. Thank you everyone for your honesty.

Aug 28 03 - 5:46pm

i remember having poor libido when i took antidepressants in stressful times in my life. it is almost like you are not alive but a zombie. better to talk to a shrink about taking measures to change your life for the better.
testosterone gel sounds interesting.

Aug 28 03 - 6:40pm

Of course, then there's those of us who take Zoloft and have happy, healthy lives, sexual and otherwise.

Ho hum.

Aug 28 03 - 8:39pm

i am a female and have been depressed nearly all of my life. i am now on zoloft as of 1 year ago and share many of the same concerns voiced in your article.

when i read your article i was releived (because i could relate to the frustration) and sad (because i could relate to the frustration) and laughed (cuz it was funny too). i have been single for 5 years (spatterings of dates throughout). i have also been in therapy for that same amount of time.

with or without depression, i feel like i am still incapable of dating or being in a relationship- i lack the sexual drive i once had to actively seek out partners now that i'm on zoloft but when i'm not on zoloft, i'm depressed and lack the confidence necessary to approach possible prom dates- oh, the dilemma.

the most life-affirming part of your article was the lack of resolution. i really enjoyed that you did not offer a solution. (in fact, i too would love to solve the problems of my love life, but i'm also too busy being productive (WORKING 70 hours per week, organizing, starting my own business plan) to figure it out. ironic.

i realize my sexual drive is different than that of a man, but i am a woman who is at her supposed sexual peak (31) and have no partner to share it with. sad day.

on the other hand, i am now working my dream job, in n.y. as a carpenter/designer...(satisfying alternative? i wouldn't know.)

anyway, thanks for your insight however affirming and sad, all at once.


Aug 28 03 - 9:22pm

Excellent article. It is truly, truly a quandary. I left my husband when Prozac did even that last resort in.

Aug 28 03 - 9:52pm

As Wicked Willie said it best "(Bro) I feel your pain."
I too went on or rather, was put on a myriad of SSRI's, all of which turned me into a Ken Doll, though some w/ more nasty side-effects than others, then again, as a former lover said: Why do they call them side-effects, when they're so frontal?!
I do agree it's a Marxist thing, in that while it's true you're a productive happy zombied member of society, there's little pleasure in it (for you/one) anyway.
I've gotten off of them all. Wellbrutrin was the one w/ the least side-effects, but for the anxiety, that is, which got me into Valium, then Buspar, then had to counteract it's libido-annihilating effects w/ Viagra, though that set my heart on to melt-down stage, not good. So, now, am off 'em, trying to reclaim my libido, acting as the (male)lesbian that I am & recovering my creativity in the process. There's got to be something better than these noxious pharmaceuticals. Don't believe the hype, y'all. But am glad it works for some of you.

Aug 28 03 - 11:59pm

They tell me that my prescription, Depakote, has no sexual side effects. However, I've been on it since the 10th grade, and I have never had an orgasm. Not once.

Aug 29 03 - 4:50am

in Buddhism they speak of suffering as being brought about by desire and ignorance. Desire can be many things, such as lust, or anything that we crave. Since anything we desire is fleeting (as the nature of the universe is change), we suffer. Addicts and people with chemical imbalances can experience a more extreme example of this, brought on not only mentally but chemically. We want, we desire, we bemoan what we can't have. But they the Buddhists say that to stop the cycle we must stop trying to desire (to try to keep what is fleeting). I'm not a Buddhist, but I like the philosophy and I think its important. Sex in and of itself is no bad thing, but to use it as a crutch (or to use anything as a crutch) is bad. Something to cure your chemical imbalance might be nessary for the rest of your life, but I would like to think that there are other options. Drugs can't cure everything.

Aug 29 03 - 10:43am

Try Welbutrine!

Aug 29 03 - 10:44am

Try Welbutrine!

Aug 29 03 - 6:54pm

What an interesting article....As a female, I have struggled with depression denting my sex drive--without the anti-depressants! I have never turned to the chemical solution and have seen several therapists (translate as over six). This summer was awful, and my current shrink (who is the best of the motley crew) asked about anti-depressants. After researching the side effects in light of the fact that I haven't had intercourse in over four years, I definitely decided against the prescribed options....

However, I did find a totally herbal, natural product suggested by the author of "Solving the Depression Puzzle," by Rita Elkins, M.H. It's called MoodPro, which has been clinically tested and had good results. I've been on it for five days, and I am taking 1/3 of the recommended dosage (because it's expensive). I don't know if I'm imagining this--but I feel better. It's not a be-all, end-all solution but I want to play music again and I feel a bit of a safety net around my emotions. Hope this helps anyone who wants to investigate a natural option without the sexual side effects--we'll see if it helps me to date again! :)

Aug 31 03 - 12:40pm

I've been on effexor for about 6 mos & i too have a fits & starts sex drive now... i want to sleep in flannel jameez one night, curled up close to the cat, and try rope bondage the next. Yikes!
I'm now weening off, and in a month we'll see what happend. GREAT article. Be well :)
Sher in Toronto

Aug 31 03 - 2:30am

I've been on medications on and off since I was 13. I have found that medications always seem to have an adverse effect on me, either I gain 60 pounds, feel the need to clean the whole house at 3 am or don't want to leave the bed, or do any activities that I enjoy. I'm bipolar, and swing rather dramatically off medication, at least I used too. I

Sep 01 03 - 1:48am

Interesting stuff. Despite feeling rather strictly against solving problems with pills, I got tired enough of my own personal roller coaster to try the latest and greatest Lexapro. Supposedly it's anti-erotic effects aren't as strong as some others. I tried 10mg at first, then 20mg, at which point I did notice a marked sexual shutdown. Back at 10mg now, hoping to find a point where both "myself" and my boner function properly.

The crux of the issue doesn't change though: by using drugs, we confuse the issue of _who_ we are, which would seem to make it difficult to make much "progress" in the long run. If I can't tell whether it's the drugs or my own waxing/waning libido, how am I supposed to know whether it's working?

If anyone hasn't yet seen this article, you might find it interesting.

Take the Red Pill: The Matrix by Prescription

Sep 02 03 - 2:39pm

good to read this essay see that sex/depression is being discussed. the bit about "help" with the dishes & productivity is damned funny! i myself have dysthymia (slow-boil depression). my libido was little to nothing and so was my confidence. this prevented me from learning all those things that you do in high school and college. i haven't made those mistakes that you learn from w/r/t dating, booty due to my condition. now that i have been on st. john's wort for half a year, i am feeling confident and damned horny. but i still don't have the social grace to get with the amazing women i meet. i am so used to being clueless about sex/interest that i am far more familiar with making friends with women than getting with them. st. john's wort has given me the foundation i need to undo the habits and cycles i've built up in my life that perpetuated my diminished libido and confidence. repression was the name of my game. just ask some of my college friends.
note: st. john's wort is not for severe depression, only for mild to moderate cases. SJW is worth researching.

Sep 02 03 - 2:54pm

in response to the buddhism feedback: buddhism rails against attachment. or at least it should, instead of desire. to me, desire is fine, if it is as fleeting as the object of desire. if one gets attached, then the doodoo starts to spray. humans are naturally curious, inquisitive creatures and depression can damage/remove that aspect of us. i think desire is a form of inquisitiveness and should never be squelched.

Sep 02 03 - 4:37pm

Before this article, I had not read such an articulate and accurate opinion on the effects (both good and bad) of antidepressants, and I am greatful that someone had the intelligence and bravey to admit that the terrible sexual side effects of the drugs actually are a rival to benefits of being on the drugs.
I am a 25-year-old woman who was on Prozac for over a year, and finally, when I could no longer take the denial of what was once a fulfilling and important part of my life, I stopped taking the pills. I can remember several times, I would stop in the middle of ex or masturbation because the lack or orgasm and futile feeling overriding the act became too much to take. The frustration led to more depression, whcih defeated the entire purpose of the medication.
I feel a little better about myself to know that I am not alone in the frustration of taking a drug that in some ways led to more depression about myself and my sexual being. I am also familiar with the feeling of wondering if the importance of sex to me was one of the underlying reasons I was suffering from depression, of wondering if I was a bad person because I enjoyed sex too much -- a feeling that was exacerbated because of stigma surrounding women who feel that way. I often wondered if the reason the sexual side effects and libido damper were part of the drug treatmentwas because that was the way ``normal people'' felt about sex -- take it or leave it.
Thank you for this article. It was enlightening and liberating on so many levels, and I am glad to have read it.

Sep 03 03 - 12:06pm

Hey everyone--

I just wanted to respond to what you've all written here and to my e-mail inbox and say thank you. I've read some amazing stories in the last few days, and I believe that only by telling these stories in the most public possible way are we going to get our doctors, our shrinks, our research scientists, our insurers and employers, our friends and our families to understand what we're facing with this set of diseases and this set of meds.

Good luck and be well--
Paul Festa

Sep 03 03 - 2:06pm

Paul: Have you ever considered acupuncture and oriental herbal medicine? Besides offering other therapies that may reduce "side-effects" (although they sound like major effects to me), oriental medicine might give you some fresh insight into the connections between all your symptoms, reactions, and abreactions. For example, it may be that your sex-drive was initially healthy and was then "shut-down" by your meds. Or, you may have been experiencing what an acupuncturist might term "false" sexual energy - a possible result of drug use and lots and lots of sex itself. This kind of "false" drive would commonly be accompanied by anxiety, and possibly exhaustion or depression. Kind of like a car without brakes: if it's going downhill it can still have a lot of speed. So the meds maybe pulled the emergency brake, but didn't fill up your tank. Chinese medicine can help fill up your tank.

Sep 04 03 - 1:25am

Thank you for your candor. I've been on just about every anti-depressant since I was thirteen. Now, at 23 and 4 years of Effexor, I'm still wondering what an orgasm feels like. Every drug has a trade-off, and while I am infinitely grateful to now be healthy, and dare I say happy, I wish it was something else besides libido that goes. It's ironic that even though I'm no longer depressed, I still feel like an outsider.

Sep 04 03 - 8:15pm

Gotta agree. Just got done telling a psychiatrist that wioth out my Libido I feel like I am flat lining. Even though I would complain that I was aroused too often, with no safe candidates around to appease exccept for myself... Oh JOy......with out it I don't feel whole...
I ma going to hang n for a while and hopefully they will figure out something. Some have said adding viagra to the mix or even some wellbrutin would help... <Maybe when mny lover gets back to town I will consider it. he gets so frusatrate when he can't please me.... Its about time I ghad that proiblem , figures its when my libido nose dived.
Trust me know one is more fustrated than me!!!!!!than you ....
I also tried weelbutrin and freaked out - made the walls cave in on me.....

Help from God needed here to solve this dilema

Sep 04 03 - 8:30pm

I enjoyed your piece. Or article. I am 48 yrs old and have had a very similar experience. No kidding, two months after I started Paxal I became a giant success in my field. That was only 11 years ago. You can do the math. I wrestle all the time with the this odd issue of relationships , sex and depression Verses no relationship, no sex and a feeling of stability. Who knows.

Sep 04 03 - 9:32pm

To the author:

I was on Zoloft for three years for depression and migraines. Although I found welcome relief from my migraines (for a year), I experienced the debilitating loss of libido that you did. My husband thought I had abandened him and I thought I had become useless as a woman. Each time I complained (to my doctor), I was told to increase the dosage or add a drug like Welbutrin. I eventually had to go off the medication on my own. I became suicidal within six weeks. I'm not sure how I managed to get thru it but I'm thankful I did.

I am aware that many people benefit dramatically from Zoloft. I am one it nearly killed. How many others.

Sep 04 03 - 10:45pm

fabulous writing. that's the thing about depression - it's self-involved, yeah, but let it never be said that all that self-involvement doesn't yield good insights about a whole lot. I was deposited at the antidepressant salad bar a few years ago and can't believe how horrid SSRIs are/were for me. wellbutrin saved just about everything and keeps me and my voracious libido ticking under the watchful guard of buspar, an anti-anxiety thing that helps neutralize that nasty OCD aftertaste of wellbutrin. good stuff. the crazy thing is that, like a lot of depression vetrans, I want to get rid of happy pills someday. we'll see. props for putting out what so many of us are just tired of dealing with. thanks.

Sep 04 03 - 10:53pm

Fantastic article. Its like you were pulling thoughts straight from my brain.

Sep 05 03 - 4:09am

Has any of you who use anti-depressants, anti-anxiety and anti-what-not, ever considered that there must be something *deeply* wrong in our society's (and/or your own) life-style for you to need *drugs* to have a decent/pleasant life?
Maybe it's time to change this life-style instead of trying to patch up your life leaks with chemicals...
Doesn't it sound wierd to you that a human being needs to put more than water and food in his/her system in order to have a normal life?

Sep 06 03 - 1:53am

Singing to the choir, my brother! After years of trying to find an antidepressant that didn't suck out my libido, I finally found that Wellbutrin DID work for me (thank god, because I would prefer to be dead than have no sex life!)

Sep 06 03 - 3:51am

This was just the ticket. You have delineated my own experience with my drug of choice, sex, and my drug of survival, Effexor as of today, with such accuracy. Bravo! I'll keep my eyes out for more of your writing.

Fabulously talented and unpublished

Sep 08 03 - 2:13am

Try Celexa. All my stuff still works and I'm 54.

Sep 08 03 - 1:51pm

Thank you for sharing what your going through and letting me feel as I am not alone. I saw so much of myself in your story the only difference being that I'm in a hetero relationship but everything else sounded like it could have been me writing. But I was never clear, did your partner encourage you to take the meds, or try to go on with your life without them? I respect the fact that you sought help considering all the stigmas that are attached. I wish I could but I'm in a profession that my career would be greatly affected if it became know I was on any meds. But, I congratulate you so much in being honest with yourself.

Sep 12 03 - 4:18pm

Found this essay v. interesting. I did a list of all the things you just wouldn't bother doing on anti-ds. Your piece rang true: you can read my short little essay on this subject at


Sep 15 03 - 9:41pm

Wow, i just started Zoloft last week and now i am terrified. I suppose it will be ok for now, since i never get laid anyways.

Sep 22 03 - 1:38am

I've rarely read something so depressing. Perhaps if the author got out of his own head for a minute then he would see how ridiculous his complaining is. The world isn't put together for your benefit; take the drugs, or don't; we (and ALL the other people who've dated pill-happy folks who are magic but libidoless) are tired of hearing how hard your life is. We're not shallow, we just want to date a human being and not some artifically drugged monk.

Antidepressants aren't meant to be used forever (although they often are.) You're not going to find happiness in a pill, although you will get enough stability to pull yourself together. Take that time, and use for something other than tricking people into dating this Zoloft-you.

Sep 28 03 - 6:22pm

i've been on zoloft for a few months and depressed libido is definitely a side effect.

however, i'd take this over being depressed any day.

Nov 07 04 - 4:52am

You got it. Your essay describes SSRIs to a tee. Like you, I periodically stop taking Zoloft simply so that I can actually complete a sex act (my partners describe me as the energizer bunny, until after 4 hours they collapse with the realization that an orgasm just ain't gonna happen to me, even WITH the industrial belt sander she has just, out of desperation and frustration, gone to Home Depot to buy and try).

Nov 07 04 - 5:01am

To those who belittle clinical depression, thanks. Must be nice to be perfect. However, for some of us (who have been deader'n a doornail on an emergency room table and PISSED as hell when revived) seratonin imbalances are a fact of life, just as insulin imbalances are to diabetcs.

Yeah, you are right. Life IS tough, especially when goofy brain chemistry is screwing with your perceptions.

Jun 20 08 - 1:19pm

I was hesitant to take Zoloft for depression when I found out it might decrease my libido but decided that this oversexed body and mind could use a drug to supress my overactive libido. Hopefully it won't completely wipe out my sex drive. I have heard that taking gingko extract helps improve a supressed libido.

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