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Antidepressants and your sex drive: What you should know

If you’re experiencing a low sex drive after starting antidepressants, you’re not alone. This is a common side effect, and multiple ways exist to navigate the issue. So, scroll down to learn more about this problem and what you can do to reignite your sexual desire.

Let’s jump into it.

Do antidepressants affect your sex drive?

Yes and no. Unfortunately, there’s no clear answer to whether antidepressants will or won’t affect your sex drive. However, libido changes are a proven side effect of some medications.

For example, some people begin taking these medications and realise their sex drive is

non-existent. But others already have a lower sex drive due to their depression. When they start taking the antidepressants, they actually experience a boost in libido.

There’s no guarantee what you’ll experience. A drop in sex drive after starting antidepressants affects men and women equally and can have varying degrees of intensity.

How does this work?

So, you’ve noticed that your desire for sex is lower. But why is this happening?

Most antidepressants are SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors). This medication works by raising your serotonin levels, making you feel less anxious and calmer. But this calmness and stability can also lower libido and dull your emotions.

How many patients experience a lower sex drive?

It’s hard to tell how many people experience a lower libido after taking antidepressants. This is because some may already experience low sex drive as an effect of depression, and many may feel too embarrassed to report it as a side effect.

woman in bed taking pills holding a glass of water

Which antidepressants can affect your sex drive?

There are lots of different antidepressants on the market today, and many are associated with sexual side effects. But some are more known for tanking libido than others.

These brands of medications are most likely to affect your sex drive:

  • Sertraline
  • Fluoxetine
  • Escitalopram
  • Paroxetine
  • Citalopram
  • Duloxetine

Don’t look at this list and make a mental note to avoid these brands. If your doctor has prescribed you medication, give it a try, as there’s no way of knowing what side effects you’ll experience.

Common sexual side effects of antidepressants

Antidepressants and SSRIs can lower your sex drive. However, the way you experience low libido might be different to someone else.

Here are the most common sexual side effects for men and women. We’re looking at these in terms of biological sex and not gender.

Side effects for women

When on antidepressants, women may experience:

Side effects for men

Common sexual side effects for men include:

  • Delayed orgasms
  • Difficulty getting an erection
  • Difficulty maintaining an erection
  • Inability to orgasm

Non-sexual side effects of antidepressants

Antidepressants can affect more than just your sex drive. Here are some other side effects both men and women may experience:

  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Weight gain

Always remember that side effects are unlikely. If you experience any of your symptoms, reach out to your medical care provider to discuss your dosage and whether there are any ways to manage the effects of the medication.

close up of a man taking pills from his wife

How to manage the sexual side effects of antidepressants

Don’t worry if your antidepressant side effects are getting you down. There are some strategies you can use to manage sexual complications. Always talk changes and worries through with your doctor before you modify the dosage or frequency of your medication.

Consider the timing of your medications

Timing is critical for lots of things, including when taking your antidepressants. For example, some users experience fewer sexual side effects when they take their medication after engaging in sexual intercourse. This is because the side effects become less pronounced before the next dose.

This management strategy works best if you have sex at a regular time every day. If your sex life is more spontaneous, you may not be able to plan your dosages.

Adjust the dosage

Higher doses of antidepressants have more significant impacts on your sex drive. So, if you think your dosage is the cause behind your low libido, you might want to ask your doctor about decreasing the dose.

However, never adjust your dosage without speaking to your doctor first. You should also never stop taking your antidepressants altogether without advice from a medical professional.

Plan a timeline

Side effects don’t always last forever. Sometimes, they go away weeks or months after starting a new medication.

So, you might want to plan a timeline with your doctor to see if your low sex drive decreases over time. For example, you may book an appointment a few months in the future to check in and discuss whether the sexual side effects have disappeared or improved.

Discuss your prescription

If you’ve waited and seen no change, or perhaps you’re finding the side effects very troublesome, switching medications could be an option for you.

After discussing your thoughts and feelings with your doctor, they might suggest another antidepressant that may have fewer sexual side effects. However, they may even prescribe supplemental medication to counteract your symptoms.

For men, erectile dysfunction medication can be used to maintain erections. Some women may benefit from bupropion (an antidepressant aid). Again, there’s no guarantee either will work. But your doctor will prescribe what they think is best for your medical history.

Reflect on the pros and cons

Finally, it can be helpful to reflect on the overall benefits and drawbacks of antidepressants. If they’ve lifted your mood and cleared your anxieties, minor sexual side effects might be a minimal trade-off for better mental health.

However, this won’t work for everyone. Be realistic about whether you can live with a lower sex drive or not. There are ways to manage the issue, so don’t feel stuck in a catch-22 situation.

The takeaway

Navigating changes in your sex drive is unpleasant, but it’s a common side effect, and there are many courses of action to explore. Don’t feel embarrassed about discussing your experience with your doctor. They have your best interests at heart and will know how to navigate these adverse effects.

Learn more about sexual wellness and relationships on the Vivastreet blog.

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