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Can antidepressants blunt romantic love? [Comfortably numb]. Retrieved from: [Comfortably numb]. Retrieved from:
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A recent study by anthropologist Helen Fisher and psychiatrist Andy Thomson suggests that certain antidepressants, particularly those classes as SSRIs, may blunt our ability to experience romantic love and infatuation. While the sexual side effects of these drugs are particularly dramatic and well-known, both anecdotally and scientifically, some scientists believe that the drugs may also blunt the affects associated with romance. Indeed, SSRIs have become associated with affective blunting in general:

Blunting is an effect described in a recent study by University of Arizona researchers, who found that SSRIs can make it harder for people to cry, worry, or feel anger, surprise, or compassion. Thomson has heard these same complaints from patients. "People describe it like this: 'I just don't have the same range of feelings, and stuff that used to upset me doesn't upset me anymore,'" he says. But, on the flip side: What used to make them really happy now barely moves the needle—they feel indifferent. To most everything (Schmidt).

The most likely reason these drugs produce such effects is because...well...that's exactly what they are supposed to do. One of the most common reason for prescribing SSRI antidepressants, is not in order to treat depression, but in order to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder, one of whose most significant neurological correlates (and perhaps, biological causes) is a deficiency in the reuptake or amount of serotonin in the brain. "The main characteristic of romantic love is obsessive thinking—you can’t stop thinking about your sweetheart...These drugs numb emotions and reduce obsessive thinking. That kills romantic love," says Fisher, who refers to the rampant use of antidepressants "as the numbing of America."

The drugs, she says, are responsible for a dual effect, since they not only increase serotonin, thereby reducing our ability to become romantically attached, but also decrease the amount of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a particularly important neurotransmitter, highly studied for its role in addiction, passion and excitement.

...dopamine, the "wanting" chemical, is what makes us yearn for a piece of chocolate or a promotion at work, and, as Fisher learned in her study (published in 2005), which examined brain scans of 30 people in love, it's also the driving force behind budding desire—the stage when you're anxiously awaiting a call or an email from someone you can't stop thinking about. "When you take SSRIs and drive up serotonin, it stands to reason that you not only suppress dopamine but also romantic love," she says (Schmidt).

Schmidt, Hollace. Your Love Life on Drugs. Read more:

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