While it's common knowledge that anti-depressants can cause sexual side effects, a new theory suggests they may also suppress feelings of love and romance.
According to Wired, SSRI antidepressants may subtly alter the fundamental chemistry involved in romance:
"There's every reason to think SSRIs blunt your ability to fall and stay in love," said Helen Fisher, a Rutgers University biological anthropologist who has pioneered the modern science of love.
Years ago, when I was on Prozac, a friend who was also taking the drug asked me, "Can you cry? I can't cry. I think it's making it so I can't cry." She had a manic, giddy look about her. While I could, in fact, cry, I did feel that while the drug had smoothed out my rollercoaster emotions, I had become so even-keeled that while I didn't feel like shit, I wondered if it was because I couldn't feel like anything.
Wired's Brandon Keim writes:
According to Fisher, humans have three distinct but interconnected love-related brain systems: one for sex, another for attachment and another for romantic love. This is still hypothetical - nobody knows exactly what love does in the brain - but Fisher has been a pioneering researcher on romantic love's neurobiology, and dopamine indeed appears important.
Reduced dopamine levels, however, are an inevitable effect of SSRIs. Reduce dopamine, say Fisher and Thomson, and the possibility of love itself is reduced.
While I am no longer on Prozac (it's something else now), I have absolutely fallen in love. While Fisher's theory is biologically plausible, there's no definitive evidence. And I wonder if it's just different falling in love when depressed, as opposed to when not under the thick veil of despair. Could it be that when you're depressed, every emotion is so magnified that the overwhelming cascade of feelings washing over you when falling in love seems epic? When you're more level, are you less likely to lose your head? Not to say that the spark, magic and tingle of love isn't there — but is it less likely to be all-consuming to a stable individual?
[Image via Brent Moore's Flickr]