Sex and depression share an intricate correlation with the wonder chemical of the brain known as serotonin. Serotonin, a neurotransmitter responsible for triggering well-being and happiness by transmitting impulses between the nerve cells, regulates cyclic body processes and maintains mood balance.
In fact, serotonin plays a crucial role in affecting one’s sexual desire and other cognitive-behavioral functions. Due to this close relationship between the brain and sexual desire, any decrease in the level of serotonin affects the overall outlook of the mind. Therefore, during depression when such essential chemicals are out of balance, one is also likely to witness low or almost nonexistent sexual desire. This is the primary reason behind witnessing the strain in one’s relationship.
Depression, the leading cause of disability worldwide, afflicts more than 300 million people across the globe, irrespective of gender, ethnicity, race, age etc., as highlighted by the World Health Organization (WHO). Chronic depression can take a toll on one’s life by triggering decreased energy, fatigue, insomnia, low appetite and weight loss or overeating and weight gain, thoughts of death or suicide, etc.
Understanding the complex relationship between depression and low sexual desire
Chronic depression affects one’s normal life and activities, as well as wrecks a havoc on his or her sexual life. Being a common mental illness, some form of depression has plagued over one in every 20 Americans over the age of 12 between 2009 and 2012, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Since sexual desire flourishes in the brain, it is essential to take care of the well-being of one’s mental health. Moreover, sexual side effects are quite common among people taking antidepressants on a regular basis. The severity of sexual dysfunction depends on the kind and amount of antidepressant being consumed by the person. It usually ranges from decreased sexual desire to delayed orgasm. Despite such adverse repercussions, there is not much awareness about the relationship between sexual desire and antidepressants.
When depression stands on the pathway of neurotransmission and interrupts these chemicals, they fail to transmit or receive signals that lead to sexual dysfunction. A person suffering from depression may experience problems in his or her sexual activity due to the failure of these chemicals to communicate with each other.
In men, symptoms generally observed due to the deterioration of the brain’s activity, include the feeling of tiredness and hopelessness, loss of libido and erection problems. In women, the problems are associated with lack of interest in sex and difficulty in reaching an orgasm.
Other side effects of antidepressants
Michael J. Gitlin’s study, titled, “Effects of depression and antidepressants on sexual functioning” highlighted that about 70 percent of individuals going through depression have to endure sexual dysfunction to a certain extent. Many medical experts believe that SSRIs can affect the sexual functions by increasing the level of serotonin, a neurotransmitter responsible for suppressing desire and arousal, eventually edging to the climax. Other side effects, such as priapism (or constant erection), clitoral priapism, painful ejaculation, penile anesthesia, increased libido or spontaneous orgasm with yawning, may also be experienced.
For both men and women, these sexual issues often hinder them from initiating or participating fully in sex, which, in course of time, can lead to lack of self-confidence and hopelessness with an increased tendency to indulge in the higher doses of antidepressants.
Road to recovery
Though antidepressants have assisted in treating people witnessing a range of depressive symptoms, they are not devoid of sexual side effects. As a result, it is important to consult a seasoned mental health practitioner who will prescribe doses according to the need of the patient. Moreover, if a patient witnesses any sexual side effects, he or she should immediately report it to the concerned physician. Along with medications, psychotherapies, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and interpersonal therapy (IPT), can be a great choice for many people.
If you or your loved one is struggling with depression, contact the Depression Treatment Helpline to find the top depression recovery centers in the U.S. Call us at our 24/7 helpline number 866-619-7729 or chat online with our counselors to find the best rehabilitation centers for depression in your area.