Fact or Myth: Do Antidepressants Inhibit Romance?

This is a FACT.

Did you know that antidepressants not only lower libido, but also blunt romantic feelings, adversely affecting marriages and relationships and hampering the development of long-term attachment bonds? The drug companies would have you believe that it is the depression itself that dulls the romance, but research suggests otherwise.

antidepressantsThe Dopamine Dilemma

It is a well-known fact that antidepressants decrease sex drive, cause arousal problems, stifle the ability to achieve orgasm and promote delayed ejaculation. Over 31 million Americans take SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), and of them about 30% succumb to the sexual side effects of these drugs. The key chemicals that fortify relationships are released in the throes of passion; let’s face it, without sex, romance goes to the dogs. But low libido is only one part of the antidepressant problem.

Antidepressants alleviate depression by increasing serotonin levels in the brain. Serotonin is a hormone that helps regulate mood, sleep, appetite, learning and memory. Unfortunately, antidepressants also decrease dopamine. Dopamine is the brain’s pleasure hormone, responsible for arousing emotions. MRI scans have shown that a brain in love lights up in the areas involved in dopamine production and reception. Get in dopamine’s way and you likewise stand in the way of romance.

A 2005 study revealed that not only do antidepressant drugs stimulate the production of serotonin, but they also take over control of dopamine signaling. What this means is that serotonin hitches a ride with brain transmitters that are supposed to be carrying dopamine only. Scientists theorize that hitchhiking serotonin may blunt emotions.

A study published in the International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology revealed that participants taking antidepressants reported an 80% decrease in the ability to cry, get angry, worry or care about another person’s feelings. Rutgers University anthropologist Helen Fisher and psychiatrist James Thomson conducted a study that showed how women taking antidepressants judged extremely attractive men as not that attractive. Any feelings of passion and romance had been dulled—the side effects of antidepressants!

Having conducted numerous studies on the brain’s link to love Fisher concludes that antidepressants “can jeopardize your feelings. You are tampering with the mechanisms that can help sustain feelings of romantic love and deep feelings of attachment.”

Antidepressants in effect are designed to dull the pain… making depression more manageable and neutralizing anxiety in the process. Unfortunately, feelings of romance and love are dulled as well. It’s up to you to decide if this side effect is worth it.