Let’s Talk About Sex… and Depression
When you hear the phrase “sexual dysfunction,” does your mind go straight to silver-haired men in television ads, popping purple pills, skipping down the street, and singing “Good morning!”? Well, did you know that sexual dysfunction (SD) affects not just men, but women too, and people of all ages? It can affect arousal, desire, and orgasm, and it’s much more common than you might think. And because many of us are too shy or embarrassed to bring it up with our family physicians, it often goes undiagnosed and untreated. Left unaddressed, SD can severely impact our quality of life, leading to shame and confusion, straining relationships, and denying us one of life’s most basic, healthy pleasures.
What many people don’t know is that both depression itself, and the medications used to treat it, can contribute to sexual dysfunction. Not to mention, SD can make us feel more depressed. Studies have found that depression is associated with a 50-70% increased risk of SD, while SD can triple the risk of depression! And many antidepressants, particularly SSRIs, have been shown to have sexual side effects, including Celexa, Cipralex, and Paxil, among others. It might come as no surprise, then, that SSRIs are frequently prescribed to men to treat premature ejaculation.
Other factors can increase your risk of sexual dysfunction, too, including chronic medical conditions like hypertension and diabetes, drug and alcohol use, sexually transmitted infections, past sexual abuse, and relationship issues. The ways in which sexual dysfunction, depression, antidepressants, and other health factors all interact can create a vicious cycle that makes diagnosis and treatment of SD particularly challenging. This makes it all the more important to have an open, honest conversation with your primary health care provider as soon as you notice changes in your sexual functioning, including low sex drive, a hard time maintaining arousal, or difficulty reaching orgasm.
You should feel comfortable talking to your doctor about any health issue, including your sexual health. That’s why we’re here. And if your doctor prescribes you a medication to treat depression or anxiety, don’t be afraid to ask about potential side effects, including those that might affect your sex life. Sexual health is an important component of your overall health. It’s time to start the conversation. It’s time to talk about sex.