themighty logo

When Antidepressants Make It Impossible to Orgasm

Editor's Note

Please see a doctor before starting or stopping a medication.


Have I got your attention now?

Orgasm is defined in the Meriam-Webster online dictionary as:

intense or paroxysmal excitement; especially: the rapid pleasurable release of neuromuscular tensions at the height of sexual arousal that is usually accompanied by the ejaculation of semen in the male and by vaginal contractions in the female

Honestly, they couldn’t make it sound less sexy if they tried. Do lexicographers actually have sex? The urban dictionary says:

The meaning of life. And… That awesome feeling between sex and having to go pee. Good sex leads to a good orgasm which makes you wanna go pee.

Clearly there are things this old duck still needs to learn. And apparently female orgasm is:

Often dismissed as a myth, much like the unicorn or healthy fast food, the female orgasm does in fact exist. It just takes a little skill and effort to make this elusive event appear, but most men (or women) just can’t put forth the effort.

Female orgasm = real

Three Toed Platypi = Myth

Mystery, ignorance and a shroud of secrecy still accompanies many societal expectations of sex – a fundamental biological need in the animal kingdom. While sex without orgasm happens all the time, there’s an expectation frequently put on ourselves – or partners – that climax is essential. Which is why so many women fake it. If you ask the next woman you bump into about orgasm, a lively conversation may very well ensue.

From my own conversations with friends (and strangers) I’ve learned a lot of us are over sex, while others yearn for the deep emotional connection sexual encounters can offer. Not to mention the “intense or paroxysmal excitement” if you’re fortunate enough to have an orgasm. But I believe as we get older, the emotional connection is vastly more important for a lot of us, and it isn’t dependent on the final orgasmic hooray.

There are lots of reasons women – and men – might experience anorgasmia. I’m only going to talk about one – because it’s the one that affects me. Medication. Specifically, SNRI antidepressant medication.

All medication has an effect – that’s why we prefer prescriptions to placebos. Side effects are unwanted consequences of medication and when we treat conditions pharmacologically, we often weigh the pros and cons of our options. I’ve been on my current antidepressant two years. At the lowest dose I struggled with orgasm, and at my current dose it is an impossibility.

[Before I go any further, I want to definitively state this has nothing to do with “technique” and isn’t about good or bad sex. It’s categorically a side effect of medication.]

I won’t bamboozle anyone with how and why medications cause this particular effect, but it’s well researched and documented. Trust me. Orgasm has become a physical impossibility. My body doesn’t have the capacity to transmit the appropriate messages at the appropriate time and no amount of effort will get me over the line.

So is sex worth bothering about? If I was single, I wouldn’t care. Without the big finale I can’t be bothered. But I’m not single. I’ve been married 25 years and there are two of us in this relationship. Sex is an important part of intimacy between couples, but what constitutes healthy and normal varies for all of us.

Currently, my husband and I have mismatched desires. Or to articulate that more clearly – he desires sex and I don’t. I recognize it’s an important part of our relationship, so we set the time aside anyway. Regardless of sexual dysfunction, plenty of men and women have limited or non-existent libido. There are also loads of people who never orgasm during sex, but can move the earth, moon and stars all by themselves. And they still enjoy sex despite the absence of a finale. I know this, because I’ve asked around. A lot. The frustration with anorgasmia, is climbing to the heady heights of swanky swirling and never dissolving into la petite mort. There’s no sating of the desire. And as my sex kitten days are now more like sex slug, finding desire is a monumental effort.

[To be perfectly honest, I’ve never been a sex kitten… Maybe a sex panda once upon a time.]

The mismatched sexual desires and detonations in our marriage means I need to weigh the pros and cons of an antidepressant versus my husband’s desires. We both agree my sanity is more important than firing my rockets. We could choose not to indulge in afternoon delights at all, but we also agree sex offers important intimacy for both of us. I have of course discussed this with medical professionals who look across their desks at me very sympathetically, then reassuringly say it’s common and might get better with time.

For now, doing the deed remains an important part of our relationship, and we both accept I won’t be left quivering with the after delights of a raucous tsunami. Perhaps one day I’ll once again dip my toes into those tantalising waters, but sex is about so much more than a shuddering conclusion. For us, it’s about mutual respect and intimacy – not just oscillating the unmentionables.

[Thanks to Thought Catalog for all the entertaining euphemisms. I’m sure the journalist in charge had a “schnoodlypoopingtime” with that article.] 

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Getty image via LightFieldStudios