Treatment is an important step for those suffering from depression–but treatment can also present an additional host of unexpected and uncomfortable circumstances for patients. Regardless of the side effects, treating depression is critical to maintaining optimal mental and physical health, and the benefits certainly outweigh the consequences. It can be frustrating, however, when treatment interferes with a patient’s sexual health. Commonly prescribed antidepressants can have a negative impact on libido and/or orgasm–but there are solutions that mean you won’t have to sacrifice your sex life to maintain your mental health.
Depression and sex
Anyone that has suffered from depression knows that it can have a significant impact on your overall physical well being. Oftentimes, this means a decrease in energy. Coupled with lower self-esteem and feelings of inadequacy, depression is a recipe for a sex drive disaster. From this perspective, there’s generally no place to go but up in dealing with depression; but patients undergoing treatment are often surprised to find that while other areas of their life are improving, their sex drive remains low and they may experience decreased sensitivity during intercourse.
Sexual side effects
Approximately 30-70% of patients taking an antidepressant experience some form of sexual dysfunction as a side effect of their medication. Typically men may experience a lower than normal sex drive or that it’s hard to achieve an orgasm during intercourse. While side effects can certainly contribute to sexual issues, low self-esteem or self-image may also be a factor. These negative thoughts can persist even after depression has been treated. Feeling bad about your body or yourself can be equally as damaging to a healthy sex life as the chemical impact of medications.
Reduce the impact
A study from the American Academy of Family Physicians found that “Decreased libido disproportionately affects patients with depression. The relationship between depression and decreased libido may be blurred, but treating one condition frequently improves the other.”
In addition to taking prescribed medication, therapy can help patients break out of negative thought patterns. Therapists can teach patients healthy coping methods to deal with the depressive thoughts and low-self esteem that impact sexual performance. Couples therapy can also be a good way to open the lines of communication between a patient and their partner.
If you’re still experiencing lowered libido, talk to your doctor about other options available to you. They’ll help you identify whether or not it’s your SSRI or some other factor that’s impacting your sex life. Under the direction of your doctor, you may be able to switch or reduce your medication, experiment with the time of day you take your prescription, add erectile dysfunction medication, or take a doctor-supervised “drug holiday,” a temporary break from your medication. There’s no reason to suffer.
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