Are Antidepressants Ruining Your Relationship?

Do you take an anti-depressant, or know anyone who does? Anti-depressants increase Serotonin levels, and block Dopamine levels. Did you know that is the opposite chemistry of what is neuro-biologically created in the brain of someone who is in love?

I was at a conference yesterday titled “The Brain in Love: The Neurobiology of Attraction & Love, presented by Janice Funk PhD.  Because it was a science-based presentation, there were many descriptions of experiments, names of hormones, and slides of the brain, followed by some surprising insights that come out of those experiments.

One insight has me up early this Saturday morning to write about: its the scientific insight that SSRI’s/anti-depressants, are potentially dampening the interest in pair bonding. The chemical responses in our bodies (lower serotonin, higher dopamine) that drive us to bond and have sex–are reversed with SSRI’s.  When people can’t feel this natural drive–to connect, bond, have sex–what happens? They grow disinterested in their relationship. Whats next? Divorce? Could Anti-depressants could be silently sabotaging marriages and families?

Its an interesting question for a marriage therapist, like myself.

Prozac is one such SSRI.  How many clients do I have on these medications? A lot. I’ve been dubious about the real nature and longterm effects of psychotropics, and this is just the sort of scientific correlation that I dread. Did you know Prozac does not break down in fresh water supplies, and that many people are eating fish/serotonin from those waters?

Interesting questions for more research:

  • Would reducing your anti-depressant increase attraction in your relationship?
  • Does the emotional lift from an anti depressant out-weigh the chemical insights about bonding to others?
  • What’s a world without the drive to bond? Can chronic low serotonin eventually lead to anti-social behavior? Staying home, avoiding people, hunkering down?

From my view, I think psychotropic medications should be considered in the Right5 mentality:

    1. Is it the right medication?
    2. At the right time?
    3. Is it the right dose?
    4. For the right amount of time?
    5. For the right reasons?

If psychotropics were used like antibiotics, which are rigorously put through the Right5 mentality before use, then maybe fewer people would be on psychotropics, with lower doses, for less time, for researched and accurate reasons. Something to think over.

Here’s a long quote by Helen fisher, PhD, and if you’re interested in the topic of love and attachment, Helen fisher is a very engaging scientist with a great blog. She is a Research Professor in the Department of Anthropology at Rutgers University (she has a great TED talk on Love too):

Some 100 million prescriptions for antidepressants are written annually in the United States.  Because these drugs are becoming generic, they will soon be widely used worldwide as well.   Many are SSRIs, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors.   These drugs raise levels of serotonin in brain–a good idea when you are horribly depressed:   These drugs blunt the emotions, curb obsessive thinking and help you sleep.

“BUT serotonin enhancers also suppress the dopamine system in the brain.  And dopamine circuits become super active when you feel intense romantic love.  We all know these drugs cripple your sex drive (in 73% of users).  So, connecting the dots, I hypothesize that when you take these drugs, you can jeopardize your ability to fall in love and/or stay in love.

“…This apparently stimulated a medical doctor  in Texas to write the Times the following letter: “After two bouts of depression in ten years, my therapist recommended I stay on serotonin-enhancing antidepressants indefinitely.   As appreciative as I was to have regained my health, I found that my usual enthusiasm for life was replaced with blandness.  My romantic feelings for my wife declined drastically. With the approval of my therapist, I gradually discontinued my medication.  My enthusiasm returned and our romance is now as strong as ever.  I am prepared to deal with another bout of depression if need be, but in my case the long-term side effects of antidepressants render them off limits.” -HF

Some people are chronically depressed.  They may need to take one of these drugs for life.  I am not trying to downplay this group’s need for basic emotional balance.  But, many “typical” folks are taking these drugs for reasons of temporary malaise, brought on by life changes, loss, angst, being stuck—and then continuing to use them after the depression has lifted.  These are the people that should reconsider life coaching, therapy, natural herbal remedies, etc –toward lifting their mood and outlook.

Original article can be read here:

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