Sertraline (Zoloft) is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). It’s used to treat a variety of conditions, including:
- major depression
- post-traumatic stress disorder
- panic disorder
- social anxiety disorder
SSRIs work by changing the levels of neurotransmitters in your brain. One of the potential side effects of taking an SSRI is sexual dysfunction.
Sexual dysfunction is also associated with depression and anxiety disorders.
Sexual dysfunction is a blanket term used to describe many types of sexual problems. Among them are:
- Decreased libido: You have less desire for sexual activity or have trouble becoming aroused.
- Anorgasmia: You can’t have an orgasm even though you’re aroused and stimulated.
- Ejaculatory delay: It takes a long time to ejaculate or you can’t ejaculate at all.
- Erectile dysfunction (ED): You can’t get or keep an erection long enough to have intercourse. ED is also known as impotence.
The severity of these problems will vary from one person to another. Some of these complications may be caused by other health problems, or they could be caused by medication. For some people, side effects may decrease as the body adjusts to the medication. For others, side effects don’t go away.
SSRIs like Zoloft raise the level of serotonin in your brain. Serotonin may also decrease sensation in the sexual organs. SSRIs also inhibit two other neurotransmitters, dopamine and norepinephrine. All that can affect your sexual response system.
Serotonin also inhibits nitric oxide. Nitric oxide relaxes muscles and blood vessels, which allows for adequate blood supply to your sexual organs.
If your sexual dysfunction is due to depression or anxiety, it may improve after you’ve been taking your medication for a while.
If sexual dysfunction is due to Zoloft, partner with your doctor to find a solution. If you haven’t been taking Zoloft long, it may be a matter of waiting a few weeks to see if things improve.
If symptoms don’t get better, your doctor may be able to adjust your dose. If that doesn’t work, you may benefit from trying a different type of antidepressant that is not an SSRI.
If it’s determined that your ED is not caused by depression or by Zoloft, there may be other remedies. You may also be able to take other medications to treat sexual dysfunction symptoms.
Finding the right treatment for depression, anxiety, and similar disorders takes time. It often requires several adjustments of medication and dose before settling in on the right one.
If you need to stop taking Zoloft, your doctor will help you do so safely. Do not stop taking your medication on your own.
Zoloft, depression, and anxiety are only a few of the things that can cause ED. It takes a lot to make an erection. In addition to your vascular system, it involves your neurological and endocrine systems. There’s also a psychological component.
Studies show that ED tends to increase with age. By age 40, about 40 percent of men are affected. By age 70, about 70 percent are affected. Sexual desire can also decrease with age.
Certain health conditions put you at increased risk of developing ED. Among them are:
- heart disease
- Peyronie's disease
- multiple sclerosis
- Parkinson’s disease
- spinal cord injury or injuries that damage nerves and arteries involved in erections
Some medications can also cause ED. These include:
- certain antidepressants
- medications that treat high blood pressure, prostate conditions, or pain
Lifestyle factors can also affect your ability to have an erection. Smoking, alcohol, and drug use can be part of the problem. Stress and obesity can also be contributing factors.
That’s why it’s important to figure out the cause of ED. Once that is determined, your doctor can advise you about treatment options.
In the meantime, if you smoke, try to quit. Cut down on alcohol use. And if you have a substance abuse problem, seek help. Also, make time for some physical activity every day. It helps blood flow, weight control, and stress reduction.
If you’re experiencing sexual dysfunction, don’t stop taking your Zoloft. Skipping doses or stopping your medication without doctor supervision can trigger worse symptoms of depression and anxiety. Stopping suddenly can also lead to symptoms of withdrawal.
Continue taking Zoloft exactly as directed. But talk to your doctor about this and any other side effects you’re experiencing since starting Zoloft.