My partner and I have known each other for about half a year and had a very joyful sex life. Unfortunately, he suffers from depression and most likely bipolar disorder. When we first knew each other, he stopped taking his medication, having had a long stable period and his psychiatrist said he could stop. But a couple weeks ago he had a very bad relapse and started taking medication again. He’ll probably stay on it for life – it was his third bad episode. The medication is Cymbalta.

Is there any way of enhancing and improving sex life and especially normal libido (which was never a problem between us) – except for taking Viagra for the ‘act’ which we can hardly afford and always gives him a headache. I don’t want to accept that this is the end of sex for us.

I’ve read about herbal aphrodisiacs, but more powerful ones disclaim the use in combination with antidepressants (never use together with…). And can weaker ones be used together with Viagra?

What is the newest research to help people who suffer from the sexual side effects of antidepressants. What can you recommend?


  • Michael Castleman says:

    The good news about antidepressants is that they elevate mood and substantially decrease personal misery and risk of suicide. The bad news is that most of them, Cymbalta included, often cause sexual side effects: loss of libido, erection impairment, and orgasm impairment.

    However, compared with Cymbalta and other popular drugs (Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, Effexor, etc.), there is one antidepressant that carries a much lower risk of sexual side effects, Wellbutrin. It’s as effective at elevating mood, but much less likely to cause the problems you’re having with Cymbalta. Unfortunately, when Wellbutrin was first approved, studies showed that it raised risk of seizures more than other antidepressants, and doctors felt it was too risk to prescribe. The manufacturer of Wellbutrin tinkered with the drug and came up with a revised formulation that has the same very low seizure risk as other popular antidepressants. But the damage was done. Wellbutrin’s reputation with doctors remained bad, and many are still reluctant to prescribe it even though the seizure problem is history. I suggest that your partner ask to try switching from Cymbalta to Wellbutrin. If that’s okay with his doctor, I bet he’ll suffer fewer sexual side effects. For more on this, read the article on Wellbutrin.

    Now, about Viagra causing headaches. Yes, sometimes it does, along with other annoying side effects. But your partner might try the other erection drugs and see how they affect him. Options include Cialis and Levitra, both chemical cousins of Viagra, and Yohimbine (Yocon, Aphrodyne), a prescription drug derived from the bark of the West African yohimbe tree, a traditional herbal aphrodisiac. I know of no reason to avoid taking Wellbutrin and these erections medications simultaneously, but I suggest that before doing so, your partner consult his doctor and pharmacist.

    It’s also possible that one or more other herbal aphrodisiacs might help. You can read about all of them in the article on traditional herbal aphrodisiacs.

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