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Christian Counseling - Antidepressant Medication and Sexual Dysfunction

An ABC News article (August 4, 2009) reported nearly 10% of the U.S. population, about 27 million people, were taking antidepressant medication in 2005. From other reports we find these meds are used to treat a variety of ills including pain, anxiety and sleep disorders. Among possible medication side effects is the decrease in sexual desire and performance.

A Harvard Mental Health Letter article entitled, "Dealing with sexual side effects" (May, 2008) stated that up to 50% of people suffer with sexual dysfunction as the result of depression. SSRI's (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors--most prescribed class of antidepressants) can help with depression, but also affect sexual function--delay or prevention of orgasm (30-40%), decreased libido (20%) and erectile dysfunction (10%).

Here are some things a person on antidepressant medication can do to increase sexual function:

1. Although 80% of people seek help for depression from non-psychiatric MDs, don't be one of them. It's not their expertise, and it's well known that general practitioners tend to undermedicate when it comes to psychotropic medication (antidepressant and antianxiety).
2. Stay the course. Side effects of new medications can decrease or be nonexistent after a few weeks.
3. Reduce the amount of prescribed medication. Talk with your doctor about this first.
4. Try other antidepressants. There are other medications that have less or no affect on sexual function, such as Wellbutrin, Remeron or Cymbalta.
5. Continue sexual activity on a regular basis. If the activity creates strong negative feelings and thoughts this may not be a good idea. However, if a person can, at least temporarily, accept the reality of his or her decrease in sexual desire or function, then this is an idea worth considering. The saying, "Lose it or loose it" is often true when it comes to sexuality.
6. Talk with God about your sexual life. He won't be embarrassed by this and hopefully you won't either. Be absolutely open in the details and language with Him. If you can find comfort and peace with Him through honest prayer, it will reduce your anxiety, which inhibits desire and performance.
7. Seek psychological help. The treatment of choice for moderate to severe depression remains to be combined medication management and talk therapy. Further, it remains true that the organ most responsible for good sexual function is the brain. Sexuality is not just about sex. It is also about any object or issue that an individual has connected to sex, such as: power, anger, anxiety or loneliness.

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