Did you know that there is a link between depression and your orgasm? It was shocking for me to read that, according to the National Mental Health Association, there are 12 million women in America that experience clinical depression each year. Not only that — but one in eight women can expect to develop clinical depression during their lifetime.
According to Dr. Michael L. Krychman, Medical Director of Sexual Medicine Hoag Hospital and Executive Director of the Southern California Center for Sexual Health and Survivor-ship Medicine, women are more likely to experience atypical depression — they eat more, sleep more and gain weight. Women are about twice as likely as compared to men to suffer from depression. Many factors are implicated in the origin of depression including biological, psychological and social factors. Medical problems can contribute to depression, so it’s always critical to get a comprehensive history and medical examination. Some cultural or psycho social problems that may lead to depression include poor self-image/self-esteem relationship dissatisfaction.
Luckily, there are a variety of treatment modalities that can safely and effectively treat depression. Selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors have become the first choice of antidepressant medications. Many experience life-changing results and return to normal once they have consistently taken these medications. According to the “USA Today” report on Americans taking antidepressants, the amount of Americans using antidepressants doubled in the past — to close to 50 million people.
Not surprisingly, we see that depressed mood and sexual concerns and difficulties — including changes in sexual desire and lowered arousal — are often intertwined. SSRIs can cause many types of sexual concerns, such as the inability to have an orgasm. Lowered sexual interest is common for both men and women. The sexual side effects of SSRIs have been underestimated and at least some health care professionals are reluctant to discuss sexual side effects with their patients.
In my clinical experience it remains critical for these women to maintain their SSRI medications. Depression is devastating. Sexual side effects are often troublesome, but can be addressed in a variety of ways. For instance, I recommend that if they take their medication in the morning, they enjoy morning sex play before their dose. The amount of SSRI in their system may be at its lowest level at this time, and may allow enough escape, so that they can enjoy orgasm. Another excellent solution to heighten your sexual response and improve sexual satisfaction is with Zestra®, a patented blend of botanical oils and extracts that has been clinically proven to be safe and effective. Zestra can be applied topically to help with latency to orgasm and has been reported by many women on SSRI also report improved sexual orgasmic response.
Okay great. We can use topical creams like Zestra or Sex Butter — why not? But there is more.
As a Sex and Relationship Coach, I also think that it’s helpful for women and their partners to separate the idea and concept of “climax” from the idea or concept of orgasm. We live in a very male dominated society — where almost every experience including female sexuality and orgasm are based on a male model. The male model for orgasm is all around ejaculation and climax — the entire experience can happen in three minutes! Women can have an entirely different experience of sexual pleasure — and their experience can be separated into “arousal,” “orgasm,” and “climax.” Women can have tremendous pleasure floating back into the pleasure of arousal and orgasm without a climax. It’s just that we think we are not having an “orgasm” if we don’t experience a “climax.” And that simply isn’t true.
It’s time to change this model for every woman — and for women on anti-depressants, introducing the concept of “The Arousal Principal”, “Slow Sex” or “Organic Orgasm” can be very helpful. Women also have an inner pharmacy and can be taught how to use it doing some very simple meditations that flood the body with endorphins and that can possibly support women in reducing or getting off of anti-depressants in some cases.
I also think that understanding the Orgasm Gap between men and women (which really should be renamed the “Climax Gap”) would help women better understand their sexual responses and reduce anxiety about experiencing feminine erotic pleasure. Men and women are different. Women who are experiencing depression can feel like their erotic response is also depressed. But using tools and information like understanding our arousal, experimenting with arousal gels, lubricants, sex toys such as vibrators, and re-educating ourselves about the female experience of orgasm and climax all can change the game and welcome back pleasure for everyone.
No one should have a depressed orgasm!
Pamela Madsen runs retreats around the country to help women re-connect to their bodies and sensuous nature and is author of the book “Shameless: How I Ditched The Diet, Got Naked, Found True Pleasure and Somehow Got Home in Time to Cook Dinner” (Rodale 2011).