Navigating sex while taking neuroleptics


Neuroleptics refers to a class of medication used primarily to manage psychosis. 

Nicole Mattson

*Names have been changed to protect privacy.

Antidepressants and neuroleptics have been known to lower sex drive among users. Two sources shared their experiences.

“I’ve been taking sertraline for nine years and trazodone and lamotrigine for one year,” said *McKenzie Felix, a 21-year-old college student.

Sertraline, often known as the common brand name Zoloft, is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) used to treat depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic attacks, post-traumatic stress disorder and more, while trazodone is used to treat depression, insomnia and schizophrenia, according to MedlinePlus. Lamotrigine is used to treat seizures, Bipolar I disorder, episodes of mania, episodes of depression and more, according to MedlinePlus.

*Claire Masse is a 21-year-old college student who has been taking Wellbutrin for four months. Wellbutrin is a brand name for bupropion. According to MedlinePlus, bupropion is used to treat depression, seasonal affective disorder, attention deficit hyperactive disorder and more.

Felix has dealt with a lower sex drive due to her medications as well as grogginess, weight loss, low appetite and dizziness.

“I definitely had a low sex drive when I first started sertraline; eventually, I adjusted,” Felix said. “When I increase my dosage, I tend to still feel those same effects for the first few weeks. Trazodone, I tend to have a low sex drive with all the time, so I just know not to take it that day if I plan on having sex. It’s for sleeping, so it’s not that big of a deal to not take it.”

Sometimes, taking new medications can cause side effects, but with time, the body adapts to them so they are less noticeable.

“I used to have a problem, but eventually, my body adjusted to the medications and I’m able to orgasm now,” Felix said. “It used to take me forever to be in the mood for sex, but after discussing the matters with my doctor and then adjusting the dosage, I was able to have a normal sex life.” 

Masse had to switch medications a few times to find one that helped her, while also looking for one with minimal side effects.

“With Wellbutrin, I’ve actually found it easier and I have a higher sex drive,” Masse said. “I’ve been on Zoloft and Adderall before, and both made my sex drive very weak.” 

Felix discusses the stigma around mental health and medication and how they have affected her relationships.

“Initially, it did affect my perception of myself,” Felix said. “I was diagnosed with depression, anxiety and panic disorder in high school. I definitely felt that I was crazy and had horrible self-esteem because of it. Eventually, I realized that all of those mental health issues are extremely common and it’s nothing to be ashamed of.”

Felix discussed the impact it had on relationships.

“I did have one boyfriend that made me feel like I was over-dramatic for having a panic attack one time,” Felix said. “He definitely made me feel like my emotions weren’t valid and that I was crazy. There was a lot of manipulation and gas-lighting in that relationship, so you can guess how long that lasted. Otherwise, my other relationships have been great because my boyfriends were very accepting of my diagnoses.”

There is often a stigma around being prescribed neuroleptics. For patients prescribed these medications, they can deal with feelings of embarrassment when talking about the side effects with those close to them.

“It was definitely difficult to talk about at first and let the close relationships in my life know that I was struggling enough to need medication, but once you get it out there and in the open, it feels so much better to have people in your life to talk to about it,” Masse said.

Pharmacist Jedidiah Bartlett shared his advice for people worried about these side effects. He recommends working with your doctor to figure out the best dosage for you.

According to Bartlett, it’s common for patients to try three different types of medications before finding one that has minimal side effects and works well for them, “So don’t lose faith if one doesn’t work for you,” Bartlett said.

Masse attests to this process.

“It takes going through some different kinds to realize what works for you and how your body reacts to them,” Masse said.

Bartlett also points to a possible way to find the right antidepressant faster.

“If there’s a blood relative also on that drug, it’s more likely to work for you,” Bartlett said.

Felix shares her advice for trying to work around these side effects while also treating diagnoses.

“I would say talk to your doctor to determine a good plan of action,” Felix said. “I have a great relationship with my doctor, and it has made all the difference when trying to determine what’s best for my mental and sexual health.”