5 Things Men Should Know About The Sexual Side Effects Of Antidepressants

A lot of men aren’t aware of the sexual side effects that an antidepressant can cause.

And with antidepressant use is on the rise, we thought we would compile the latest data on this issue.

Over 20 million antidepressants were prescribed in 2020 between October and December. 

This is a 6% boost compared to the same period recorded back in 2019. Since 2015, more and more people have relied on this form of medicine. 

According to experts, the increase in antidepressant medication usage might be caused by the stressors related to the COVID-19 pandemic

Although this medication can be an effective depression treatment, very few patients are aware of its possible sexual side effects. 

Here, we will take a closer look at the side effects of antidepressants in men.

What are Antidepressants?

Like psychotherapy, antidepressant treatment can be a crucial part of managing depression for some patients. This medication aims at managing depression. They can also alleviate the symptoms, such as feeling exhausted, drained, and very down. 

Antidepressant use is here to restore emotional stability. As well as relieve restlessness, sleeping troubles, suicidal thoughts, and anxiety.

Patients get access to different medications depending on the type of depression treatment they need. The medication is split into groups. 

The most widely used medications include:

  • SNRI – Selective serotonin noradrenaline reuptake inhibitor

  • SSRI – Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor

  • TCAs – Tricyclic antidepressants

Roughly 60% of patients respond by around two months to the medication with a 50% reduction in their depression symptoms. They manage to relieve the sleeping difficulties and improve their mood. About 80% of patients stop their antidepressant use in a month. 

Most patients use selective serotonin reuptake (SSRI). The medication amplifies serotonin levels in the brain. Although more research is necessary to evaluate the effect of the serotonin reuptake, experts believe that depression is the result of an imbalance of neurotransmitters in the central nervous system. 

The selective serotonin reuptake is here to boost the availability of these chemicals in several ways and could prevent a relapse. 

But, just like any medication out there, antidepressant use can cause side effects. In men, these side effects can affect their sexual function. 

Antidepressant Sexual Side Effects That Can Happen

SSRI induced sexual dysfunction is a common problem. According to a 2020 review, 40% of patients on antidepressant medication had any type of sexual side effects. 

In a different study about the sexual side effects of antidepressant use, patients who took imipramine had a 30% side effect rate. These reports were 25% to 73% for patients who took SSRI. 

Any antidepressant agent, whether selective serotonin reuptake or norepinephrine reuptake, can cause problems with sexual functioning. Such as:

  • Ejaculation difficulties

  • Arousal problems (becoming or sustaining arousal)

  • Poor libido

  • Trouble reaching an orgasm

According to Harvard experts, some patients who take an SSRI antidepressant can’t have an orgasm at all. 

Reuptake inhibitors can also lead to erectile dysfunction and vaginal dryness. This dysfunction is more prevalent with age. 

Medications like paroxetine (Paxil) and sertraline (Zoloft) can trigger this type of dysfunction. If your sexual dysfunction stems from the medication you are taking, then consult with a doctor. They can help you manage the dysfunction and get your libido back on track. 

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5 Things Men Should Know About Sexual Side Effects From Antidepressants

Most prescription medications for depression are reuptake inhibitors. By increasing serotonin levels, the body calms anxiety and stress. 

But, the exact sense of stability and calm can affect libido. It hinders the hormones that help the penis respond to sex. 

In other words, antidepressant use can set your sex drive in a downward spiral as you battle your depression and anxiety. 

Take a look at the five things men should know about, especially those who use sertraline, bupropion, or any other medication. 

1) You Can Limit Adverse Sexual Effects

Something as simple as a dose change comes a long way, experts explain. When a patient develops sexual dysfunction, they tend to jump to conclusions. 

But, the dysfunction is more complex than people realize. To manage the dysfunction, you need to know what’s causing the problem. 

For example, it could be the result of depression, substance use, or anxiety. 

These patients who take reuptake inhibitors tend to relieve the sexual dysfunction with antidepressant use. That’s because their poor sexual desire was a symptom of their anxiety or depression. 

With antidepressant-associated sexual dysfunction, doctors often suggest patients adjust the dose of medication. 

They can reduce it or take it later during the day. Contact your doctor for proper guidance. 

2) What Works for Others May Not Work for You

Everyone reacts differently to the medication they are taking. Sometimes, you have to switch your options to find the best result. 

Every SSRI can trigger sexual dysfunction. But, some options have a lower risk. 

The best option is bupropion (Wellbutrin) since it doesn’t impact serotonin levels. So, when taken alone, it wouldn’t cause a risk for poor sexual desire and sexual functioning. 

The problem is, for some patients, the drug isn’t enough to treat their severe depression or anxiety. That’s why using different medications on various patients can help overcome the dysfunction issue. 

3) Specific Drugs Carry a Higher Risk Than Others

SSRIs and SNRIs are medications with the highest rates of sexual dysfunction. Serotonergic antidepressants can trigger delayed ejaculation, poor sexual satisfaction, and impotence. 

That includes products like:

  • Sertraline (Zoloft)

  • Fluvoxamine (Luvox)

  • Citalopram (Celexa)

  • Duloxetine (Cymbalta) 

4) Sexual Difficulties Can Remain Even After Treatment

People underestimate treatment-emergent sexual dysfunction. If a doctor doesn’t directly ask the patient if they have problems with sexual arousal or sexual satisfaction, people tend to ignore the problem. They often don’t want to talk about it.

But, what most patients don’t realize is that antidepressant sexual side effects tend to linger. It’s not uncommon for male patients to develop premature ejaculation

There is not enough data that shows how many depressed patients experience this dysfunction. 

But the medication doesn’t cause permanent damage. With adequate treatment and expert help, those affected can manage the male sexual dysfunction. 

5) Combining Antidepressants with Benzos Can Have a Fundamental Impact

Men who take benzodiazepines are 2 times more likely to have sexual dysfunction. Even with additional genital arousal, the problems can remain. 

According to experts, it’s normal for doctors to combine an antidepressant with benzos. That’s because the combined medication creates a better response in depressed patients. 

So, although sexual dysfunction can happen, this combined treatment is a practical choice for managing serious depression. 

If you are struggling with poor sexual functioning, contact a specialist. They can suggest you take different serotonin reuptake or they might make some changes to your treatment. 

Whatever is causing the antidepressant sexual side effects can be managed alongside depression. 

How to Treat Antidepressant Induced Sexual Dysfunction?

To treat the dysfunction and manage your sexual function, doctors suggest you switch to a non-serotoninergic drug. Or decrease the dose. 

This can help with reduced sexual desire, unwanted orgasm delay, lubrication difficulties, and erectile dysfunction.

But, only a doctor can suggest the best form of treatment. Managing erectile dysfunction and sexual function can be a complex process. Especially if you are dealing with an inhibitor-induced sexual dysfunction. 

So, be sure to consult with a specialist and avoid making any changes to your treatment without expert help. 

Another tactic you can try is to have sex before you take a pill. The timing can help with physical sexual arousal and avoid dysfunction. 

For example, if you prefer to have sex in the evening, schedule to take a dose in the morning. 

This can help you alleviate the sexual dysfunction and aid with sexual stimuli when using serotonin reuptake. 

Conclusion

Some people use antidepressants to manage their depression. But, for male patients, this treatment can interfere with their sex life. 

It can cause sexual dysfunction, which will have a profound impact on their self-esteem and libido. 

Luckily, these problems can be managed. Doctors can suggest you reduce the dose, change the medication, or readjust the treatment. 

But, don’t forget to talk with your partner about the problems you are experiencing. Sometimes simple communication can help you manage your expectations. That way you will have an easier time overcoming the sexual difficulties. 

So, for a better coping strategy and treatment solution, contact a specialist. They can evaluate your health state and then advise you on the best course of action. 

Remember, be honest with your doctor about the problems you are feeling since this can help create a practical treatment that can alleviate your health issues. 

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Sources

  1. InformedHealth.org [Internet]. Cologne, Germany: Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG); 2006. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK361016/
  2. Atmaca M. Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor-Induced Sexual Dysfunction: Current Management Perspectives. Neuropsychiatr Dis Treat. 2020. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7182464/
  3. Serretti A, Chiesa A. Treatment-emergent sexual dysfunction related to antidepressants: a meta-analysis. J Clin Psychopharmacol. 2009. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19440080/
  4. Petty F, Trivedi MH, Fulton M, Rush AJ. Benzodiazepines as antidepressants: does GABA play a role in depression? Biol Psychiatry. 1995. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8573660/
  5. Montejo AL, Prieto N, de Alarcón R, Casado-Espada N, de la Iglesia J, Montejo L. Management Strategies for Antidepressant-Related Sexual Dysfunction: A Clinical Approach. J Clin Med. 2019;8(10):1640. Published 2019. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6832699/

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