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 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 the sexual responses. 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, an imbalance of some of these chemicals can nullify 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 comorbid disorders such as anxiety. About two-thirds of those with more severe depression have sexual problems.
Depression causes stress, anxiety, low moods, and anxiety. So people lose interest in activities they once loved doing. This includes sex too. These depression symptoms eventually cause decreased libido or desire to have sex, inability to become aroused or maintain arousal and reach orgasm in affected individuals.
Although antidepressant medications are strongly effective in getting you rid of depressive symptoms and helping you 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 the 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. Some antidepressants causing sexual dysfunction as a side effect are;
Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs).
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).
Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs).
Tetracyclic and tricyclic antidepressants.
It is 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 causes sexual problems.
State of mind is crucial not only for physical and mental well-being but also for sexual well-being in specific. Depression and low moods can cause sexual dysfunction in both men and women. Some sexual problems that depressed men and women experience are;
Difficulties with arousal.
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.
Both depression and depression treatment can cause sexual dysfunction as an undesirable effect, but the benefits of treating depression outweigh such undesirable effects. Most people think treating depression with antidepressants is the sole cause of their sexual dysfunction. It is not deniable, but antidepressants alone are not the cause. Both preexisting depression and antidepressants together contribute to sexual disinterest and problems with sex.
So do not worry about reduced sexual performance during the depression treatment period. The initial goal is to make you feel back to normal and stabilize your mental well-being. Once you start feeling good, your physician will address your residual sexual symptoms.
Self Helf Tips to Overcome Depression-Related Sexual Dysfunction:
Talk to your partner. There is nothing that could not be sorted out with a hearty conversation. Though it might be difficult to meet your partner's expectations, do not fear being judged and just open up your heart. Even if you are unable to satisfy your partner, you might at least be able to make yourself free from the thoughts of guilt.
Consult with your physician and, if needed, take medicines to boost sexual function (for men).
Exercise regularly. Join people with common interests to exercise with motivation.
If you are under antidepressants and experiencing worsening sexual function, contact your physician for dose or medicine alteration.
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:
17 Jan 2022 - 3 min read
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