Can my libido recover from two months of Zoloft?
November 5, 2009 7:54 PM   Subscribe

Choosing my penis over the pills. How long will it take my libido to recover after a few months of Zoloft?

First a bit of background: 26-year-old guy here, nonsmoker, fit as a fiddle, with no health issues whatsoever outside of an occasionally crippling mix of anxiety and depression. I was diagnosed seven years ago, but had always refused to go on anti-depressants. Instead, I've kept the mood monsters at bay with vigorous exercise, a decent diet, and regular talk therapy.

Which worked pretty well until this past winter.

I lost my job, then spent nine months unemployed, financially panicked, and generally terrified about the nosedive my life seemed to be taking. So after months of freaking out to my therapist, I finally took her advice, bit the bullet, and filled a prescription for Zoloft. Started out on 25mg for a week, then ramped up to 50mg. I had done enough research to know that the antidepressant was pretty much guaranteed to torpedo my sex drive. But I was desperate.

And the medication worked. I chilled out, managed to get my feet back under me, and even found some part-time work. Best of all, I met a beautiful girl, with whom I’m totally compatible, and we started dating—and making out, and getting naked together.

And that’s the problem. The Zoloft has snuffed out my libido, and my erection—once my most reliable companion—has grown a bit fickle. It isn’t a physical problem. I can still get it up. And I can even stroke myself to orgasm when alone (if I really concentrate and keep physical stimulation constant). But in the throes of some pretty heated foreplay, my mind seems to simply lose interest, and I can’t stay hard.

The thing is, even in my darkest periods before the Zoloft, my sex drive stayed constant. And voracious. Masturbating 4 to 6 times per week, morning wood, healthy erections. A few months ago, I would have jumped at the chance to jump the girl I’m with. Now I can’t make it to the condom phase.

And I can tell that my lack of sexual advances is starting to give my new girl pause.

So I’m getting off the Zoloft. I’m down to 12mg per day (cutting the 25mg pills in half). And I plan to be completely done with it another five days or so. I’d rather be a tad moody and getting laid than emotionally numb and celibate.

How long will it take for my libido to return? Has anyone out there quit an antidepressant to win their sex life back? How long until you felt confident again?

Also, what can I do in the meantime to facilitate stronger urges? I’ve started taking Korean red ginseng. I’m doing mad Keegles. And I’ve committed to not looking at porn for a week straight. Any other supplements I should be looking into? Ginko Biloba? Emergen-C?

And how can I bring this up with my gal?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Please tell me you have talked about this with a doctor?

If the Zoloft produced this problem, there are other drugs you can try that will produce the same desired effect without the side effects. You simply have to try two or three before you find the one that works for you.
posted by strixus at 7:56 PM on November 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

"Has anyone out there quit an antidepressant to win their sex life back?"

In part, yes. Two different times with two different drugs. And it took about 2 weeks after stopping each cold for things to return to normal.
posted by csimpkins at 7:58 PM on November 5, 2009

I'm a girl, but sometimes I would just skip a day, or take one pill early and the next one really late, and be able to orgasm. It was a pain, though, and I ended up quitting to get rid of the chastity belt and the 15 pounds. It took maybe two weeks or a month for things to return to normal.

That being said, be fucking careful when quitting antidepressants, and talk to your doctor. SSRI Discontinuation Syndrome can make you more depressed than you ever were before the medication. I'm glad to hear you're gradually decreasing the dosage. I hopehopehope this plan was approved by your doctor and you remember that it will pass.
posted by Juliet Banana at 8:25 PM on November 5, 2009

"Has anyone out there quit an antidepressant to win their sex life back?">>

Yes, a few times. It seems like a really terrible decision to have to make (your sex drive vs. dealing with the depression), even if you're not in a relationship. But, seconding what Juliet said - don't go off it on your own without consulting your doctor. You need to taper off in a specific way. And then ask, explicitly, for another med that doesn't have those sexual side effects (they exist, but you often have to ask). Anti-depressants are hit or miss - not everything works the same way for everyone, and there's a time investment required in finding out which one or combination works for you.
posted by FlyByDay at 8:48 PM on November 5, 2009

I was on Zoloft for several years and I reached the point where I felt it was time for me to be off of it. I had sexual issues with it as well, and those were part of why I decided it was time, but I made my decision in consultation with my psychiatrist and we slowly tapered me down to nothing. I don't recall it taking a very long time for things to return to "normal," so to speak... a few weeks at most. I really wouldn't fret over finding supplements or other drugs to restore your libido at this point. It should come back on its own (especially if you're young, healthy, and male).

Your psychiatrist will probably advise you of the potential effects of going off the medication, but be aware, as Juliet Banana said, that going off of an SSRI can be unpleasant, even if you do it "properly" by tapering off. Even if you're going from a really low dose to zero, it's still more of a shock to your system than going from a higher dose to a lower dose is. There's no need to be super anxious if you're doing it right, but be aware that it may take a little while for your brain to adjust to being without the Zoloft running through it.
posted by Kosh at 9:45 PM on November 5, 2009

You could just stay on the Zoloft and take Cialis or whatever, if emotionally numb and getting laid is acceptable.
posted by nicwolff at 9:59 PM on November 5, 2009

pay lots of attention to yourself as you do this. i had similar problems with zoloft, left the drug, then had another long bout of depression. i was so against pills that i lost a job before really seeking help. now i found a drug that is effective and does not have sexual side effects for me.

id advise finding a good psychiatrist who will work with you to minimize side effects -- which include feeling emotionally numb, loss of libido, sweating too much, basically anything that happening that you can't live with -- and still get you the help you might need.

best of luck. if youre not working with a doctor please tell some friends whats going on and listen to them if they start to get worried about you.
posted by cubby at 11:58 PM on November 5, 2009

Talk to an expert about switching you to a different SSRI. When a friend was doing his phychiatry training many years ago, he spoke of a grid they used with the most frequent side-effects for each SSRI. Depending on the patient's lifestyle they would try to find the one that least impacted on whatever the patient found most important.
All SSRI's have the potential for this side effect but it is really worth trying to find one that doesn't affect you as much?
posted by Wilder at 12:05 AM on November 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

Talk to your doctor about switching to a non-SSRI antidepressant such as Wellbutrin.
posted by timeo danaos at 2:40 AM on November 6, 2009

Ask your doctor about switching to Lexapro, too. Some people report a loss of sex drive, while others report the exact opposite.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:19 AM on November 6, 2009

You simply have to try two or three before you find the one that works for you.

The most frightening part of medicating psychological issues is that the science is still fairly vague about how it works, and this type of response is a common one. If you're not happy with taking chemicals until one "works for you", then please don't listen to this kind of advice. You absolutely should talk to your doctor, but the answer to being generally dissatisfied with a pharmacological response to depression, barring extenuating circumstances, is not to try more pharmacology.

To answer your question (which is not, "what other pills should I take?"), Zoloft has a roughly 24-hour half-life in the body, with a typical tapering-off period of about two weeks. In some circumstances, you may need more time to return to normal, but I would expect that you'll see a return to your pre-medication libido within a month at most.
posted by ellF at 5:39 AM on November 6, 2009

the answer to being generally dissatisfied with a pharmacological response to depression, barring extenuating circumstances, is not to try more pharmacology.

I would draw exactly the opposite conclusion here -- you really do generally have to try a few different pills before you find one that works for you, because they have differing and sometimes unpredictable side effects. I grant you this can be a frustrating and unpleasant process... but the answer to being dissatisfied with a single medication is not to immediately abandon the whole idea of pharmacology.
posted by ook at 7:38 AM on November 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

And how can I bring this up with my gal?

Oh, dude, you have to tell her about this! Just come clean, if she's a good girlfriend, she'll be compassionate. I mean, it's really not fair to start out a relationship one way, due in part to your medication and then turn into Hyde without telling her. This could really damage your relationship and if you do have a bad episode after the fact she'll feel betrayed and like you couldn't trust her.

It will be a tough conversation but just start it up like any tough conversation -- "hey, I want to talk to you about something and it's difficult for me." Tell her why you are on the meds and what you don't like about them, that they have changed your libido so significantly that you don't feel like yourself. Tell her that you're going to talk to your doctor (because you are -- that's what they're there for, don't make them waste their degree) and that you just want her to let you know if things seem "off."

Good luck with all this!
posted by amanda at 9:09 AM on November 6, 2009

And how can I bring this up with my gal?

Just do it. asap. Speaking as someone that knows, she'll stick around if she is worth it.
posted by soupy at 9:31 AM on November 6, 2009

And how can I bring this up with my gal?

Just tell her just tell her just tell her just tell her just tell her. Right away right away.
posted by fritley at 10:12 AM on November 6, 2009

Like everyone said, tell her. It ain't no big thing, and if you make it this big thing than it is. Here is my 2% as to how you should go about letting her know, but everyone is different, I'm no Ms. Manners, and I have just cracked a bottle of champagne.

This message is meant to be delivered not naked, and in a neutral zone; snuggling on the couch, making toast for breakfast.

"I really like messing around with you. I can't believe I'm getting to sleep with you; it's like a dream come true. The thing that sucks is the timing, though; I've been taking Zoloft, and the chemicals mess up my libido. Even though I'm so turned on by being with you and seeing you get off, the Zoloft numbs the action for me, and it's a bummer. The good news is I've talked to my psychiatrist and we're adjusting my dosage and trying something better, so I think things will be better soon."

Repeat some more "our sex is awesome and I can't wait to have more of it" language.
posted by Juliet Banana at 7:00 PM on November 6, 2009

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