Depression and Your Sex Drive

Medically reviewed in July 2021

It's normal to feel down sometimes. Maybe an argument with a loved one was the trigger, or trouble at work or even something that really doesn’t matter in the big picture of life, like overcooking your dinner. But deeper, long-lasting sadness is an entirely different story, impacting many areas of your life. Not surprisingly, it can put a major damper on your sex drive.

What's the Connection?
The numbers don't lie: Depression affects nearly 19 million American adults and is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. for people between the ages of 15 to 44. There are also different types of depression, including:

  • Major depression (MDD)
  • Persistent depressive disorder (PDD), formerly called dysthymia)
  • Bipolar disorder

Symptoms of depression can range from a total change in your day-to-day function, to feelings of hopelessness and isolation, to negative thoughts, sleeping too much or too little, anger and even suicide. Many times, depression can even go hand-in-hand with anxiety disorders, like generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), to name a few.

And all of this can influence sex drive in men and women in myriad ways. How? The initial spark of sexual desire starts with chemical activity in the brain via neurotransmitters. This process then helps stimulate blood flow to your sexual organs. But those same chemicals that help incite arousal with your partner can become imbalanced when you're living with depression, and that may ultimately dampen sexual desire, pleasure and sexual function.

Antidepressants and Your Sex Drive
Though doctors may prescribe antidepressant medication to help ease symptoms of depression, those meds can actually worsen your sexual problems and lead to low sex drive, erectile dysfunction and decreased orgasm. And in some cases, these complications may make it difficult for sufferers to bounce back from their symptoms since it can be harder to enjoy sex with their partner. Depression can also put a strain on relationships, making it even harder for you (and your partner) to get in the mood.

However depression may affect your life and sex drive, it's important to remember that you have options when it comes to getting more from your treatment plan. Start a conversation with your doctor about ways you may be able to minimize the effects of depression without having to compromise your sex life and sexual function. By doing so, you're positioning yourself to not only take control of your depression, but hopefully overcome it.

Are you living with depression? Take a step toward feeling better with this assessment.

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