Antidepressants may dull the fire of romance, according to the Wall Street Journal. Do they also blunt committed love?
I'm catching up with an article byTara Parker-Pope on February 13. It's behind a paywall, so if you don't subscribe, here's the precis:
Antidepressants work by increasing serotonin in the brain; serotonin keeps mood, appetite, and sleep on an even keel. The intense state of romantic love, let's call it Love 1.0, is characterized by a decrease in serotonin and an increase in dopamine, another neurotransmitter with effects similar to amphetamines: focused attention, obsession, loss of appetite, increased energy and sleeplessness -- all the things we feel when we are madly in love.
Pope writes that an April 2005 study (and there have been numerous such) showed that antidepressants not only increase levels of serotonin, the calming hormone, but also can reduve the availability of dopamine, the exciter.
She quotes Helen Fisher, author of Why We Love:
These drugs blunt emotions and reduce obsessive-compulsive thinking, but those are also two main characteristics of romantic love," Dr. Fisher says.
Pope goes on to say,
In addition to the obvious toll sexual side effects can take on a relationship, the lack of sex means key brain chemicals involved in love and long-term attachment aren't released. All of this can make it tough to fall in love and stay in love on an anti-depressant.
Regarding the "staying in love" part, let's call it Love 2.0, Pope is saying that if someone taking antidepressants doesn't want sex or can't have orgasms, he or she won't experience the release of oxytocin that comes with orgasm, and therefore won't feel bonded to his or her mate.
She doesn't quote any research for this assumption, and I haven't come across any. I wonder, though, whether the steady levels of oxytocin to be had when one lives intimately, sleeps next to, cuddles and hugs one's mate might not be plenty to maintain the bond of Love 2.0.
It might depend on the person -- and on the relationship. I guess couples can fall out of cuddling, just like they fall out of sex.