Antidepressants are a common medication prescribed by doctors to treat mental health conditions – not only to treat depression but also anxiety. There are many types of antidepressants medications, the main classes are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs). The first line treatment for moderate – major depression is SSRIs and SNRIs can be trailed if they failed. 

Common SSRIs:

  • Setraline 
  • Fluoxetine 
  • Escitalopram 
  • Citalopram 

Common SNRIs:

  • Duloxetine 
  • Venlafaxine 

SSRIs work by increasing the levels of seretonin in your body. Serotonin is known as the happy chemical in our body and by raising serotonin levels, the drug make you feel calm and less anxious. SNRIs, as the name suggest, increase serotonin and norepinephine levels in the body, again making you feel a sense of calm and reducing anxiety. 

Do Antidepressants Cause Erectile Dysfunction?

Sexual side effects are a common side effect from antidepressant use in. The same way mental health can affect either gender, men and women both report experiencing sexual side effects. Sexual dysfunction caused by antidepressants and not other causes is referred to as antidepressant associated sexual dysfunction. 

The most common side effect complained about in men is a decreased libido (reduction in sex drive) and erectile dysfunction (ED) (trouble developing and maintaining an erection). Different antidepressants have their specific side effects, for example, escitalopram can cause cause delayed ejuculation. A study on antidepressants found that around 30-60% of antidepressant users experience antidepressant induced sexual dysfunction. 

It is not exactly known why antidepressants cause erectile dysfuntion but many have theories.  The main theory is due to the raised levels of serotonin caused by SSRIs and SNRIs, it is believed that these levels can affect the hormones such as testosterone and dopamine involved in the sexual desire and function circuit. 

Some specific antidepressants such as setraline or escitalopram have been linked to increasing prolactin levels which can in turn cause a reduction in libido and orgasm dysfunction in men. 

Should I stop taking antidepressants if I see an effect on my sexual functioning?

While it is not advised to fully stop your antidepressants if you experience sexual side effects, you can speak to your doctor and try lowering your medication to reduce its effect on your sexual function. Do not change your antidepressant medication on your own or stop it suddenly as you can experience discontinuation syndrome. Always consult your doctor before making any changes.

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