I’ve posted some variation of this post more than once now. I felt moved to post it again since I had a conversation with a journalist friend who is thinking about this issue too. My last paragraph in this piece speculated about what antidepressants do to pre-pubescent and adolescent kids. What happens when the normal drive for sex and orgasm and romantic love is muted or altogether absent because the kids are on SSRI or SNRI antidepressants (and/or other psych drugs)? My friend talked with an adolescent counselor and she’s noticed that these kids are strangely uninterested in romantic love and sometimes even appear to be asexual. That is ALARMING and it’s right in line with what my speculative fears suggested. I don’t have much more to say about the topic but would like to raise the issue that more people may start to think about this very serious problem that effects a far too large percentage of our young population. (note: normal asexuality as part of the spectrum of human sexuality is not a problem — this seems to be affecting more kids than would otherwise be asexual naturally, who are also distressed by the issue)
The post as it was to begin with started out with Helen Fisher’s work which lays a good foundation for the point about the kids:
Helen Fisher is an anthropologist who has looked at how antidepressants effect romantic love, falling in love and most importantly ongoing attachment. The conclusion being that the love response and the human instinct for attachment are profoundly messed up. Antidepressants don’t just create sexual dysfunction, they wreak havoc with the whole emotional system that creates attachment to other human beings. In my experience it is not only the antidepressants that do this. As far as I can tell all psychiatric drugs do it. As is often the case antidepressants are more commonly studied when the mainstream is being considered. The fact is, however and unfortunately, that neuroleptics are going mainstream. Historically, neuroleptics (antipsychotics) and the other psych meds aren’t taken by as many “normal” people as the antidepressants do so they haven’t been studied by this woman who is basically making a social commentary. Someday perhaps such studies will extend to include all psychotropics, as there are more and more people effected by all these classes of drugs.
Below is from an article in the LA times about Fisher’s work from a few years ago:
Couples think about the other obsessively – on a roller coaster of euphoria when together, longing when apart.
“It’s temporary insanity,” says Helen Fisher, an evolutionary anthropologist at Rutgers University.
Now, from her studies of the brains of lovers in the throes of the initial tumble, Fisher has developed a controversial theory. She and her collaborator, psychiatrist J. Anderson Thomson of the University of Virginia, believe that Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil and other antidepressants alter brain chemistry so as to blunt the intense cutting edge of new love.
Fisher and Thomson, who describe their theory in a chapter in the book, “Evolutionary Cognitive Neuroscience,” aren’t talking just about the notorious ability of the drugs to damp sexual desire and performance, although that, they believe, plays its part. They think the drugs also sap the craving for a mate – perhaps even the brain’s very ability to fall in love. (read more)
And here is a video of her speaking on the same topic but emphasizing different things which I think are more important:
This fact alone about psychiatric drugs is enough to undermine society. Don’t think this doesn’t effect parent’s ability to love and bond with their children. And then when you think about all the kids on these drugs who simply don’t develop normally. Teenage hormones are part of growing up. What happens when you skip that developmental stage? What happens if you never enter it at all due to a lifetime of being on drugs? We are stopping the human experience from happening.
The above paragraph was my speculation about the issue from four years ago. It seems that I was right to be concerned. I find this issue extremely problematic and disturbing and think it should become part of the dialogue about these drugs. Pass it on, people. Let’s not harm young people coming of age in the psychopharmaceutical age. Let’s halt the direction it’s been going in and start learning to support these kids and everyone who takes these drugs in new ways.
My husband read this post and made this comment which I thought well worth sharing:
Very good post and a profound issue. You used the phrase “undermine society” and I would make that even stronger and say destroy society. If epidemiological studies were done, I would expect there is a direct correlation between the number of people living alone and the number on antidepressants (and other psych meds). I suspect that America (perhaps more than other countries) has blinkers on when it comes to acknowledging mass isolation as a problem because so much value is attached to autonomy. It’s as though if everyone is doing there own thing, then everyone is enjoying their freedom — except this is a freedom that atomizes society. Instead of their being one society, there is now a universe of societies-of-one, each separated by lifeless space.
**updated note. A young person who identifies as asexual took some issue with this post because they thought I was criticizing asexuality. To be clear I am not criticizing naturally occurring asexuality or asexuality that is experienced with great comfort.
I responded to their post with this:
I have no issue with asexuality per se…absolutely not…however if it’s iatrogenic (caused by drug damage) that’s another story and the reporter who was speaking to the journalist found that these kids were DISTRESSED by their asexuality.
A lot of adults with healthy sex drives also lose their interest in sex and that too is distressing to them.
Again, no issue with people who find asexuality is how they were born and it seems to be a natural thing…sexuality is fluid and asexuality too exists naturally on a spectrum…what I’m talking about is drug induced damage.
The link to their blog post is below in the trackback section. There is a longer discussion of this issue on that blog.
By Helen Fisher: