Original article posted on www.thecut.com
I was at Target on a mission. I’d never bought a sex toy before, but there I was, standing between shelves of pregnancy tests and shelves of condoms, where the store stocked a variety of tiny vibrators and lube. Here, I hoped, was where I’d find the tools to help me recover my orgasm, which I’d recently lost.
Several months earlier, I had started taking Lexapro for my anxiety, which was frequently so bad that I felt physically ill. The Lexapro worked for me: Once it was in my system, I could send emails without wanting to barf, and I could go to work without feeling lightheaded. I could sleep at night.
But I also could no longer orgasm. As everything else in my life began to feel better, sex had gotten worse.
Lexapro belongs to a group of drugs called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. SSRIs help correct an imbalance of the brain chemical serotonin, a lack of which can contribute to anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses; the drugs work by blocking the reabsorption of serotonin in your brain and allowing it to build up. (My doctor has described it to me as feeling like a constant low dose of Xanax, which honestly sounds pretty great). SSRIs are among the most widely prescribed anti-anxiety and anti-depression medications because they tend to have fewer side effects than other types of medication.
Unfortunately, the side effects they do have are often related to sex, and those side effects are common and can have serious consequences. In one 2003 study, 62.5 percent of men and 38.5 percent of women said they felt their medication was causing sexual side effects, and 41.7 percent of men and 15.4 percent of women said they stopped taking their medication at some point because of it. This study included SSRIs along with other types of medication, but of those taking SSRIs, 70 percent reported sexual side effects.
It can mean low libido, or it can mean problems with erections and lubrication, experiencing less pleasure, or taking longer to orgasm than it used to. Sometimes it means that you still have desire to have sex, but you don’t have the ability to orgasm at all.
That was me. Not to brag, but before Lexapro, I orgasmed pretty regularly. I’d been with my partner for years, and sex was great — we mixed things up and played around, and genuinely cared about and paid attention to what felt good for each other. And after years of practice, we had gotten pretty good at it. According to another study, the ability to orgasm from intercourse alone is relatively rare for women, with only 18.4 percent of women saying that they could. But it wasn’t rare for me. In fact, it was the only thing that worked for me, besides masturbating on my own.
But after Lexapro, nothing seemed to work.
Read the rest of Rae Nudson‘s article over at The Cut here.