Strange bedfellows: Sex, depression & the serotonin connection
Sex, a natural mood booster, and depression, a libido wrecker, have a complicated relationship with serotonin, a wonder chemical that impacts our brain function. Low serotonin levels are linked to depression. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as Zoloft and Prozac, increase levels or serotonin, yet up to 70% of people on antidepressants report such side effects as erectile dysfunction, vaginal dryness and low sex drive.
According to Johns Hopkins, a “drug holiday” (two days without your SSRI) could get your mojo working again. Prozac, however, stays in the body too long for this to work, making Prozac Nation one unsexy place to live. Another recommendation is to add a medication, such as Wellbutrin to counteract the sex smashing SSRIs. (Always talk with your doctor before changing the frequency or type of medication.)
Giving depression a helping hand
Perhaps this is why sexologist Betty Dodson is staunchly against antidepressants, pinpointing the serotonin link as nothing more than a smokescreen for government greed. Dodson champions masturbation as a way to become reacquainted with your body and feel good about sex and life. No arguments here! (Editor’s note: Learn about Dodson here, but take heed: Her site is not safe for work!)
Looking for natural serotonin boosters? Carbohydrate-rich meals allow the brain to absorb more tryptophan — yes, the stuff in turkey — a key component of serotonin. Vitamin B6 can accelerate the creation process. St. John’s wort has been shown to increase serotonin but may limit effectiveness of certain antidepressants and birth control pills.
Don’t forget exercise, which releases sexy, mood-enhancing endorphins (see related story).
Weigh your options and talk to a mental health professional. Also, masturbate. Often.