Sometimes when a health problem is corrected, a sexual problem crops up in its place. Certain medications are culprits more often than others. For instance, antidepressants that fall into the category of SSRIs (which stands for Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) can dampen your sex drive depending on the dose, the brand, and how long you’ve been using the prescription. Further, the sexual dysfunction these meds lead to show up differently in men and women. Men are more likely to experience a reduction in desire, while women are more likely to have trouble reaching orgasm. These concerns can usually be addressed so you can return to a satisfying sex life.
Antidepressants and Sexual Dysfunction
Living with depression and getting treatment that doesn’t affect your sex life is tougher than it sounds, unfortunately. Untreated, depression will probably curtail your arousal. But if the treatment for your depression is antidepressants, these can also leave you feeling less desire than you typically would. Abstaining from sex isn’t great for your mental health or your sexual wellness. However, when you talk to your doctor, they may have some simple solutions to this problem. For instance, you could try another SSRI, which may allow your desire to return to normal. Or you could try a non-SSRI antidepressant, and that might help, too. Your doctor will know which option is the best to try first, so don’t hesitate to mention it.
The sexual side effects of medications are so well documented that sometimes they arise as a barrier to treatment. For instance, some clients may not want to try antidepressants even if their situation dictates that they could be helpful, because they don’t want to suffer the possible decrease in desire. But it can be counterproductive or even dangerous to skip treating your mental health based on fears about the side effects.
Some of these sexual side effects are intentional. For instance, when criminals are treated for sexual misconduct, they might be given antidepressants that suppress desire on purpose, to lessen the chances of future perpetration. These methods are used in the American criminal justice system but are met with varying degrees of support ranging from those who believe it’s merited to those who think it’s inhumane.
Other Meds That Affect Your Arousal Levels
Harmful sexual side effects are not unique to antidepressants. Pain meds can also cause sexual dysfunction to spring up for a variety of reasons that depend on the specific classification of med you’re taking. Medications that function as sleep aids and even certain acne treatments can have surprisingly adverse effects in the bedroom. And lastly, some prescriptions that treat ADHD can cause erectile problems.
People who have bipolar disorder may act out sexually. Lithium, a frequently prescribed remedy for bipolar disorder, can impact sexual desire. The drop in libido may help people with these types of mental health concerns learn new ways to cope and not rely on sex as a primary method to deal with stress. Depending on the individual, this drug may be an option even though it comes with side effects; for others, this may be totally unacceptable.
Mitigating the Effects of Prescription Medication on Your Sex Life
Bringing up your sex life to your physician can feel intimidating. There’s a stigma around facing sexual dysfunction, and it deters many people from discussing their symptoms. However, since many meds can be easily switched, it could save your sex life. Some other medications can increase desire (like the well-known Viagra), but you might want to consider other options as well. If you’d like help with improved desire, consider reaching out to a sex therapist that can help with science-backed tips.
Bio: Dr. Nazanin Moali is a clinical psychologist and sex therapist in the Los Angeles area. She works with various individuals to understand and improve their sexuality. Dr. Moali conducts personal consultation sessions in her Torrance and Hermosa Beach offices, or via a secure, online video-counseling platform. Click here to download the 101 Ways to Keep Your Relationship Hot checklist. Download her new ebook, How to Increase Your Libido – For Women, here.