Depression is one of the commonest psychiatric problems in the general population. About 10% of men and more than double of women suffer from depression during their lifetime. How depression affects our sex life, this remains an impending question!
The brain is the body’s most sensitive "sex organ." Sex desire starts in the brain and works its way down. Neurotransmitters or chemicals of the brain help brain cells communicate with each other in order to increase blood flow to the sex organs to carry out sexual response. In a person suffering from depression, these chemicals are out of order. As a consequence, sexual desire is low or nonexistent. In addition to this, imbalance of some of these chemicals these chemicals can nullify the pleasurable feelings. The strain that depression places on relationships can further interfere with our sexual function and pleasure.
It is estimated that about 40 percent of people with depression face some sexual problems. The amplitude of the problem depends on the severity of the depression and the presence of other co-morbid disorders such as anxiety. For those with more severe depression, about two-thirds of them have sexual problems.
Do the Antidepressants Also Cause Sexual Problems?
Although antidepressant medications are strongly effective in getting you rid of depressive symptoms and help of feel normal again, many of these agents, like fluoxetine, have undesirable sexual side effects. Both for men and women they may cause the problem in form of, being unable to initiate, participate fully in or enjoy sex—and that again can lead to a vicious cycle of losing self-esteem and in turn, undermine depression recovery.
It’s estimated from the research studies that every third individual taking antidepressants experience decreased desire and difficulty achieving orgasm or climax. Some of the antidepressants may make it difficult for a man to have a proper erection. These side effects are dose-dependent and tend to increase with higher doses of antidepressants.
These medicines work by restoring the appropriate balance of chemicals in the brain, which improves the communication between brain cells, reducing depressive symptoms. Unfortunately, changing this balance of chemicals also cause sexual problems.
What Can Be Done to Restore Sexual Function?
There are many ways to help you out from the sexual side effects of these depression medicines, without compromising treatment. This includes switching to another class of drug that has less effect on sexual function. Some newer and novel depression medicines like Bupropion and Tianeptine, cause fewer or no sexual side effects. The other option is to decrease the dose of culprit medication to ward off sexual side effects.
To better manage the debilitating symptoms of depression, as well as the sexual side effects of treatment, you need to be open and honest with your doctor and your sexual partner. In my clinical experience, most people choose to continue treatment once they realize that the sexual problems they are experiencing are associated with the medicines and can be overcome.
Few media reports indicate that treatment of depression can cause more sexual problems than relief to the individual. This is not exactly the case. Research has shown that sexual problems in depression are much more associated with depression itself rather than the effect of treatment. So whenever you feel that you are suffering from depression, you should arrange your consultation as soon as possible.
Last reviewed at:
26 Feb 2019 - 2 min read
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