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Antidepressants Worsen Sexual Dysfunction and Depression, new study finds

October 24, 2016

A new survey of US adults with major depression has found that antidepressants can worsen sexual dysfunction and depression.

"This survey provides a new window into the lives of those trying to manage and live with major depressive disorder and paints a comprehensive picture of the consequences of antidepressant treatments that don't also address sexual dysfunction," Anita H. Clayton, MD, professor and chair of psychiatry and neurobehavioral sciences at the University of Virginia School of Medicine in Charlottesville, said in a statement.

Approximately 1000 US adults currently receiving antidepressant medication for major depression participated in the Sexual Symptoms and Side Effects In Depression (SEXSED) survey, which was conducted online in the latter part of September and the early part of October this year (2016).

The vast majority (88%) of participants reported they experienced a loss of sexual desire, satisfaction, or sexual function. Moreover, more than two thirds (68%) first experienced sexual problems as a symptom of their depression, and 17% first experienced sexual problems only after starting antidepressants.

More than half (55%) of those who reported sexual dysfunction said they saw no improvement or suffered further decline in sexual function since starting their current antidepressant treatment. Nearly three quarters (73%) of those with sexual dysfunction reported that it made depression worse.

Sexual side effects of antidepressants are a "significant concern for many patients," Dr Clayton said in an interview with Medscape Medical News. "There have been any number of studies now showing that SSRIs can contribute to significant sexual dysfunction in multiple areas, including desire, arousal, and orgasmic function," she said.

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Authors: Jim Folk, Marilyn Folk, BScN. Last updated November 20, 2018.

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