overcome erectile dysfunction, sex after 50, vaginal discomfort

Many people find that traditional antidepressants lower their libido and interfere with sexual pleasure. Drugs like citalopram (Celexa), duloxetine (Cymbalta), escitalopram (Lexapro), fluoxetine (Prozac), paroxetine (Paxil) and sertraline (Zoloft) can suppress a person’s sex drive and make orgasm more difficult. Is there an antidepressant that doesn’t muck up the sexual machinery? Bupropion just might fill the bill as a sex pill. One reader shares her story:

A Beneficial Sexual Side Effect:

Q. About ten years ago I began taking Wellbutrin for depression. Within two weeks I felt better than I had in decades.

I also experienced a welcome side effect. Though I have always had a healthy libido, I did have some trouble reaching orgasm, as many women do.

Suddenly I was able to have quick, easy, multiple orgasms. Because Wellbutrin works on dopamine rather than serotonin, my psychiatrist said it often has that effect.

What a relief! Why don’t people know about this? When I read about antidepressants, the only ones mentioned are the SSRIs that so often produce negative sexual side effects. Wellbutrin has been a solution for my sexual difficulty.

The History of Wellbutrin (Bupropion):

A. Wellbutrin was once called “The Sex Pill” because a controlled trial showed that the antidepressant improved libido and sexual satisfaction (Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, Winter, 1987).

People with low sex drives were divided into two groups. Half were given bupropion and half received a placebo. The researchers reported that within two weeks the people taking bupropion reported a greater interest in sex. By three months more than 50 percent were making love more frequently.

One of the investigators stated:

“the effects we saw in several women who’d had trouble having orgasms were stunning.”

Helen Kaplan, then director of the human sexuality program at Cornell Medical Center in New York City, believed that:

“Wellbutrin is really the first sensible sexual stimulant we’ve ever had.”

Another report (Diabetes Care, Feb. 2011) noted that patients with type 2 diabetes and depression responded favorably to bupropion:

“We found a high rate (71.1%) of sexual dysfunction in patients with type 2 diabetes and MDD [major depressive disorder] despite a modest rate of neuropathy (22.2%). SF [sexual functioning] improved significantly during BU [bupropion] therapy of MDD, with 58% of subjects experiencing substantial gains in SF during this interval. This effect was more robust in those with greater improvements in depression and glycemic control, but was still observed in approximately 20% of those with persistent MDD or hyperglycemia…

“In summary, this study is the first to report on the high rate of sexual dysfunction in persons with diabetes and depression. Significant improvements in mood, glycemic control, and SF [sexual functioning] were observed during BU treatment of MDD.”

Patient Reports:

The positive sexual reactions to bupropion stand out in marked contrast to most other antidepressants. As mentioned, other drugs prescribed for depression often interfere with sexual function.

KK reported lasting problems:

“I am a 23 year old female. I was on a normal dose of fluoxetine for less than 2 months before I decided it wasn’t helping me and I got off it. It’s been about 3 years now and my libido has not been the same since. I fear I may never again have the libido I had before this medicine. It has also caused a fairly high degree of genital ‘anesthesia.’ Orgasms are difficult to reach and my sensitivity is depressingly low. I would rather be depressed than have these side effects.

“Wellbutrin greatly reversed these issues for me but unfortunately also came with its own side effects.”

Emma in West Country has a similar reaction:

“I’ve been on fluoxetine for over two years now and my sex drive has completely gone. I have no sensation down below anymore. Everything is numb.

“This whole situation is killing me. I feel sexless. I’m in a beautiful relationship with a wonderful man who I love very very much and who is very understanding and patient. I fear that I will lose him over the lack of sex. I’ve even contemplated ending the relationship as it would be easier to be single. But I don’t want to lose the love of my life and have a life of loneliness just because I need antidepressants to get through life. I’m so sad. Surely there’s a solution out there.”

DO also had a long-lasting problem:

“I am a 28 y/o male with a post-Prozac problem. I took fluoxetine for close to eight years. About three months ago I decided to quit. I felt like I didn’t need an antidepressant anymore. I didn’t want to have to take pills for the rest of my life.

“I read online that quitting this type of medication abruptly is not recommended, so I slowly stopped taking them. I skipped a day, then two days, then twice a week I would take them, once a week, etc.

“I started experiencing sexual side effects. I had no sexual desire what so ever. Fast forward to today and I have passing desires but when it comes to performance there are problems. Once I am in the mood, it is difficult to achieve an erection. Once I have an erection, it is difficult to control and I have premature ejaculation.

“Before medication I never had any of these problems. While on medication my sexual libido was ok, not great. Now, I don’t know what to do.”

DH also reported post-pill problems:

“I am a 22-year-old male. I was on paroxetine for about 15 months. I noticed a few sexual side effects while on it.

“Once I got off of it, I had worse sexual problems than when I was on the drug. It has been something like eight months since I stopped taking it. I have seen some improvement with my arousal, but I still have a numb testicle, low libido at times, and reduced sensation from sex. It is very hard to live with this but I have to keep pushing on. I am very upset with my doctor and the drug company.”

VG experienced “genital anesthesia:”

“I am a 52-year-old female who also took antidepressants for an extended period. I never fully recovered my libido and suffer from genital anesthesia. A friend of mine reports the same.

“I think it’s terrible that prescribers don’t tell us about this side-effect before we begin taking these drugs. It’s been two years since I stopped taking the meds, but I’ve only regained a fraction of the responsiveness I’ve lost.”

Bupropion as a Sex Pill?

Doctors sometimes prescribe bupropion for low libido, although the drug has not been approved for that use (Mayo Clinic Proceedings, Jan. 2017).

One woman shared this unexpected reaction to bupropion:

“I just read a question about whether or not bupropion could serve as a sexual stimulant for healthy people. I’m only one person, but I can answer: for one healthy woman the answer is yes. A thousand happy times yes.

“I’m taking this drug to quit smoking. I have always had what I would consider an average libido. Now, however, I have an above-average libido–physically and mentally. I figure maybe it’s because the drug takes away any of those long-standing inhibitions that would otherwise impede and affect sex.”

Share Your Story:

What has been your experience with antidepressant medications? Have you had sexual problems on standard SSRI-type drugs? What about bupropion? Does it deserve a reputation as the Sex Pill? Share your story in the comment section below.

Read more about bupropion and other drugs that affect libido in our Guide to Female Sexuality.

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  1. Mark R

    I am a 61 year old male with Bipolar and I continue to take Wellbu tin 300 xl. My Depression is gone and my interest in sex is perhaps too high. I have had complaints of unwanted advances. The erecting can be temperarery but sensation during climax is a solid 10.

  2. Rebecca

    I’ve suffered from severe depression for over a decade and tried three different prescriptions in that time. None of them helped, and two had negative side effects. I started bupropion about 3 months ago, and it has been an absolute miracle worker. I’m happier than I’ve been in a very, very long time, and the only negative side effect I experienced was an increase in the migraines that I already had. Even that went away after a few weeks. As for increasing libido, yes. It definitely did that for me, although I honestly might consider that a negative too, because for a while it got to the point where I couldn’t focus on anything else. I guess some people would probably enjoy that though haha.

  3. Greeley

    As a practicing psychiatrist for 40 years, I learned by trial and error to use a serotonin releasing AND a dopamine releasing agent simultaneously. Escitalopram was the cleanest SSRI and bupropion (Wellbutrin in a slow release form: SR or XL), starting the SSRI first and adding the bupropion after a week. This eliminated all side-effects, including sexual SE’s. Wellbutrin by itself often was too stimulating, like using cocaine, which is also a dopamine reuptake inhibitor. Together both agents cancelled out the other’s side-effects and gave excellent results. All the other comments sound reasonable to me, although I don’t think I ever saw anyone develop sexual SE’s with Wellbutrin. Anything’s possible with these drugs!

  4. Hector
    Puerto Rico

    This is my third time trying generic Wellbutrin XL.
    I have tried almost every kind of antidepressant in a period of 21 years.
    My last antidepressant was Cymbalta but caused me to be very slow and lazy so my Pdoc. switched me directly to BupropionXL 300mg.
    I shall say that the first week was like honeymoon but after a week it turned into a nightmare: racing thoughts, confusion, bad temper, extremely irritable, lack of motivation, rage outbursts, very negative outlook towards life, etc.
    Do these effects ever go away or might it be that I need other type of antidepressant?
    Any advice please?
    I’m desperate.
    Thanks in advance!

  5. JD

    I have been on Wellbutrin off and on for 20 years. My doctor first told me that some people may not react to it well–whatever the reason–but for me it has been a small miracle in alleviating my depression. I think one’s reaction to an antidepressant depends on their individual levels of dopamine, serotonin, etc., which of course are difficult to know. Whatever the reason, it has worked for me, including helping me quit smoking (lost the obsessive urge), and it does not increase my appetite. Concerning sex, I have never had negative affects while on it.

  6. Dot
    Seattle WA

    The effect was just the opposite and dramatic on my son and his male cousin. Absolute shutdown of any interest in sex. Worse than Paxil. So while it may help women, buyer beware if you are male.

  7. Lucinda L

    I was prescribed Wellbutrin once in my early forties for chronic depression. Within days, the joints in my hands began to sting and ache. My doctor suggested I stay on it and see if the reaction would pass, but I got to the point where I couldn’t even grasp a door handle. My hands improved as soon as I stopped the drug. Twelve years later I tried it again, hoping for a better outcome, but unfortunately the severe stinging, aching and stiffness began again. Has anyone else had these side effects?

  8. Suellen
    Miami, Florida

    When I was in my 40’s , I took all those drugs – they shut me down sexually (especially Paxil). Wellbutrin restored me sexually but did nothing for my depression. it has been about 20 years now and I am quite surprised that the pharmaceutical companies have not been able to come up with something better than Wellbutrin which in my estimation is useless. People need to control depression without losing their joy in sex!!!

  9. Ezduzit

    Please publish the adverse side effects of these sex enhancing drugs.

  10. Lisa


  11. Anne

    I couldn’t get past the second day on this drug. I was dizzy and nauseated. I even tried cutting the dose in half. Of course, just try getting a brand name these days. Insurance companies force you to take a generic and, I swear they are not the same. I keep being told that the side effects which eventually diminish. But years ago, when I was able to take a brand name Prozac I had no side effects at all. I’ve given up on antidepressants.

  12. Mary

    Some possible side effects listed were arthralgia, and neuralgia. I took wellbutrin for 10 years. During that time I got a truly rare and frightening illness called glossopharyngeal neuralgia. It changed my whole life to one of fear.

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