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Will antidepressants ruin your sex life?

So you’ve taken the brave step to treat your mental health and have started taking antidepressants. Recently, however, you’ve noticed that things aren’t the same in terms of your sex drive. While this might be related to the antidepressants, here are some important things to consider before you throw away your meds.

04 May 2023 | By Monwabisi Mhlophe

The big (depression) picture

Covid-19 may be long(ish) forgotten by many of us, but the impact of the pandemic on society’s mental wellbeing really brought the topic of depression to the fore. “In the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, global prevalence of anxiety and depression increased by a massive 25%,” reports the World Health Organization

A recently published study found that South Africans are more likely to suffer from probable depression and anxiety than other countries, including the likes of Australia, Brazil, Germany and the USA. Despite the high numbers of people suffering from depression, only about a quarter of those affected receive treatment for their depression and/or anxiety.

How antidepressants affect your sex life

Taking antidepressants is the most common way of treating depression, although it’s not the only way (talk therapy and making lifestyle changes are also effective). If you’re reading this, chances are high that you’re on antidepressants, or soon will be, and are worried about the impact of the medication on your sex life. 

Not everyone who takes antidepressants will experience sex-related side effects – according to research, it’s more like 30%-50% of men that will. Reported side effects include a decreased desire to have sex and problems with arousal, erections, orgasms and sexual satisfaction. 

Possible solutions

It may be tempting to simply stop taking your antidepressants, but this won’t help you much, as sexual dysfunction is also a symptom of depression in men. About 25% of men who have erectile dysfunction are battling depression, and many men who don’t treat their mental illness have low energy levels for sexual activity.

If taking antidepressants affects your sex life, it’s important to know that, over time, the side effects will likely lessen as your body adjusts to the medication. Your healthcare provider has a number of options at their disposal, including reducing your dosage and/or changing the type of antidepressant they’ve prescribed, so reach out to them. 

Making lifestyle changes may also benefit you. For example, if your lifestyle is generally sedentary, try to get more active by going for short walks each day or signing up for an activity (boxing, maybe?) that will help you work up a sweat. Eating well and consuming a healthy, balanced diet will also benefit you, as will reducing how much alcohol you drink and taking care to get enough sleep.
The main thing is to talk openly with your healthcare provider, be patient and maintain an optimistic mindset about finding a solution that’s suitable for both your mental health and sexual wellbeing. 

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