Have you ever read the warning label on a bottle of Tylenol? It warns that a common side effect of acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol, may cause headaches. The first time I read this, I was popping open a bottle of the alleged pain killer to combat a monster…headache. The irony would have amused me if I hadn’t been so irritated.

A little talked-about symptom of depression is a decrease in sexual appetite. Some people might discount this as among the least of their worries, but in truth, sex is an essential cog in the machine of any relationship. When the sex goes, it’s not long before other things start to go too–or at least that’s how it’s been in my marriage.

When I was in the clutches of the darkest period of my postpartum depression, I could barely gather the energy for basic personal hygiene, let alone to be intimate with my husband. The lack of intimacy greatly impacted our relationship, but to be honest I was so lost in a haze of self-pity that I didn’t really notice. I’m sure my husband did, though.

When I finally got diagnosed with PPD and started on medication, most of my symptoms abated. I was able to shower every day, talk to my son and husband without completely losing my mind, and I only cried when something was sad. But the meds didn’t bring the sexy back, unfortunately. And now that I wasn’t spending all my hours thinking about how miserable I was, I could actually recognize the lack of a crucial part of my life.

The first medication I was put on made me sleepy, so I went back to my doctor for a different prescription. The second one seemed to be better, but a few weeks after starting it, I realized that I had no libido. And it wasn’t just a lessening of my sexual appetite; I’m talking my sex drive packed up and moved to Italy. The numbness in the place where I used to feel butterflies was so consuming that I went back to my doctor.

My doctor was completely unruffled when I told her that I wanted a new prescription because I wasn’t getting any. In fact, her exact words were, “You’d be surprised how often this happens. People will put up with almost anything: constipation, hot flashes, weight gain, even paranoid delusions. But mess with their sex lives, and they come running in here like their house is on fire.”

Just like the Tylenol bottle, the long list of side effects for many antidepressants makes for a couple of “WTF?” moments. One of the possible side effects, for example, is “changes in sexual desire or ability.” Out of the frying pan and into the fire with that one.

I had no idea that this was a possibility when I started taking my medication, and for this I fault myself. I have become much more vigilant about reading the warnings on my antidepressants–and all medications, for that matter–and for the record, change in sexual desire is not normal when taking antidepressants. It may be common, but it’s not normal; the warning label says to see a doctor immediately if you notice a change in your libido.

So to summarize: 1) sex is important 2) read the warning label on your medications very thoroughly, and 3) talk to your doctor right away when you notice that things aren’t quite as you’d like them to be. Medicating depression and other mood disorders is not an exact science, it’s more of a trial and error kind of thing. There’s a good chance you’ll go through different medications and dosages before you find the perfect prescription for you. Although it might seem like you just can’t catch a break and nothing will ever work properly, if medication is the treatment you choose, you owe it to yourself to give it a real chance.

Alexis Lesa

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