Of all the medical conditions that can have negative effects on sexuality, depression is one of the main culprits. Depression can leave us feeling like there is no joy in life and that can include our sex life.

Over 60 percent of all people who suffer from depression report some sort of negative effect on their sex life. Many times, sexual problems are an important symptom or indicator to a health care professional that the patient may be experiencing depression. 

Sometimes it is the disease itself, and other times it’s the medications used to treat the disease that are responsible sexual problems. No matter what the cause, sexual problems can affect sexual self esteem and actually worsen depression. Relationships can certainly be damaged by depression and all that comes with it, including sexual issues.

Sex, Depression & the Brain

Depression is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. At the same time, the brain also controls sex drive, sexual arousal, and the release of hormones.

Neurotransmitters that control mood also help send stimulate blood flow to the genitals so when the neurotransmitters are not producing themselves in normal numbers, blood flow can be affected. 

Since sex starts in the brain before any other part of the body, it should come as no surprise that when the brain is struggling with chemical imbalance, the factors that influence sexuality can also be off track. Depression can also impact a person’s ability to enjoy sex as well as cause physical sexual dysfunction.

Depression & Sexual Desire

How does depression affect sexual function? The main sexual problems that result from depression are low sex drive or decreased sexual desire, erection problems, and an inability to feel enjoyment from sexual activity. Depression can also cause people to withdraw sexually and feel disconnected from emotion during sexual activity.

Antidepressants & Sex Drive

One of the most successful treatments of depression is antidepressant medication. Unfortunately this treatment also has a high rate of sexual side effects.

Medication can lower sex drive, cause premature ejaculation, erectile dysfunction as well as inhibit sexual pleasure. Persons taking antidepressants may also have trouble reaching orgasm. This can be especially frustrating when patients report feeling sexually aroused, but are not able to climax.

One of the main things a patient can do to be proactive with their depression treatment and reclaim their sexuality is to discuss treatment options with their health care provider. If medication is recommended, discuss possible sexual side effects and ask if there is a medication that may be appropriate that doesn’t have the same effect. Pay attention to sexual difficulties after taking medication. Keep track of issues and discuss them during your next health care appointment. Not all people experience sexual side effects from medication and the only way to know which way a person will fall is to try the medication.

Be patient. Some people who experience depression only experience it for a short time and are able to stop medication under the direction of their health care provider.  In the meantime, explore other ways to express love and intimacy besides intercourse. 

Discuss sexuality and depression issues with your partner. Being open about what to expect is the first step in dealing with what may come. A partner cannot be supportive if they do not know about or understand the issue. Sexual problems associated with depression can be overcome but not without honesty and the desire to reclaim that sacred part of ourselves.