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Does Depression Affect a Woman's Sex Drive?

So, the question that prompted this blog is if and how depression affects a woman’s sex drive. Sadly, the relationship between depression and sex drive runs both ways- a woman who is depressed can experience decreased sex drive, and a woman who has low sex drive has a high risk of becoming depressed.

Women, whether they have a mental illness or not, consider their sexuality to be very important in determining their quality of life! I’m sure this doesn’t surprise anyone.

What Causes a Low Sex Drive in Women with Depression

I think most of us know by now that a woman’s feelings of desire originate largely in the brain, as well as in the sex organs. In your brain, the neurotransmitters play a large role in your feelings of sexual desire and also work to communicate between the brain and the sex organs. Although our theories about depression are currently evolving, it is still believed that neurotransmitters play some role in depression too. When these chemicals are low or if your brain is unable to utilize them correctly, you may experience a blunting of feelings of pleasure, and decreased feelings of sexual desire. Decreased feelings of pleasure is a known symptom of depression. But if you think about it, it will also cause decreased feelings of sexual arousal.

Symptoms of Depression that may Decrease Sexual Desire

As stated above, the depressive symptom of decreased feelings of pleasure also contributes to decreased libido, but there are other symptoms of depression that will contribute to decreased sexual arousal. Some of these include fatigue, decreased energy, strained intimate relationships, decreased self-esteem, and decreased energy.

Depression Medications and Low Sex Drive

Many of the medications used to treat depression can also cause decreased sexual drive which really complicates things! SSRIs like Celexa, Lexapro, Prozac, Paxil, or Zoloft are commonly prescribed for depression and are known to cause decreased libido in women. These medications can cause difficulty getting aroused, inadequate lubrication, and difficulty reaching orgasm. Because of this, many women will stop taking the medications (or refuse to take them, to begin with!). However, there are things you can try with your doctor if you have these side effects. So if you are having any of these side effects, please have a conversation with your doctor. I know it’s a difficult conversation and embarrassing, but this is a problem that can be fixed, while you continue to get your depression treated!

Tips for Talking with Your Doctor

1. Remember that your doctor has heard it before! This is a know side effect of these medications and so the doctor is aware that it’s a possibility and I’m sure has spoken about it with women before.

2. Tell your doctor about your concerns regarding your low sex drive at the beginning of your appointment. If you wait, it will only get harder to bring up and you will only get more nervous. Also, this will give your doctor all the time they need to address your concerns.

3. Let your doctor know that you’re nervous. Paradoxically, this can help you to feel calmer and less nervous.

4. You don’t have to tell the office staff what you are seeing the doctor about. You can always just say that you are there for a check-up or a follow-up on your depression. They don’t need any more information than that.

5. If it helps, write down what you have to say. You can then read it to the doctor if needed.

6. You can bring someone with you for moral support- a good friend, your partner, anyone that you feel comfortable talking with and who is supportive of you. Once you’re at the doctor’s, it is up to you whether that person comes into the examination room with you or waits in the waiting room.

7. Choose which doctor to go to about this. If your family doctor is prescribing the medications, they might be the obvious choice to talk to. But if you’d be more comfortable talking with your OBGYN, then by all means talk with your OBGYN.

Closing Thoughts

Sexual dysfunction, especially a decreased sex drive is strongly associated with depression, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t treatable. If you think that your depression has been having an effect on your sex life, or would like to talk about depression treatment, please follow the link.


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