Antidepressants and Libido: Is It a Real Concern or Just a Myth?


Antidepressants are often prescribed to help individuals struggling with depression. While they can effectively treat depression, some people have reported experiencing sexual dysfunction as a side effect.

This has led to concerns about whether antidepressants can lower libido, a significant concern for many individuals. However, there is also some debate about whether this is a genuine concern or a myth.

Some studies have suggested that antidepressants can impact sexual functioning, while others have found little to no effect. It is essential to understand the potential risks and benefits of antidepressants and to discuss any concerns about sexual dysfunction with your healthcare provider.

In this blog, we will explore the impact of antidepressants on libido and sexual functioning and other potential factors that may contribute to sexual dysfunction. We will also discuss alternative treatments for depression and their potential impact on libido.

Impact of Antidepressants on Sexual Functioning

Antidepressants cause sexual dysfunction, including decreased sexual desire, difficulty achieving orgasm, and erectile dysfunction in men. Studies have shown that up to 70% of people taking antidepressants experience sexual dysfunction.

The severity of these side effects can vary depending on the individual, the type of antidepressant used, and the dosage.

Types of Antidepressants and Sexual Dysfunction

Different classes of antidepressants can have varying degrees of impact on sexual functioning. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are the most commonly prescribed antidepressants associated with sexual dysfunction in up to 50% of people taking them. 

Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) are also associated with sexual dysfunction, but to a lesser degree than SSRIs.

Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) are associated with sexual dysfunction but are less commonly prescribed. Wait a bit to know more about different antidepressant types and their impact on libido.

Mechanism of Action and Sexual Dysfunction

The mechanism of action of antidepressants is thought to be the reason for the sexual dysfunction associated with these medications.

Antidepressants increase certain neurotransmitters in the brain, including serotonin and norepinephrine. These neurotransmitters can affect sexual functioning by decreasing sexual desire, delaying or inhibiting orgasm, and causing erectile dysfunction.

How Do Antidepressants Impact Sexual Functioning in Men and Women?

Antidepressants are commonly prescribed to treat depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions. However, they are known to have side effects, including sexual dysfunction. Here is a breakdown of how antidepressants impact sexual functioning in men and women:

Antidepressants and Sexual Functioning in Men

Antidepressants can affect sexual functioning in men in several ways. One of the most common side effects is erectile dysfunction (ED), making it difficult for men to get or maintain an erection. In addition, antidepressants may decrease sexual desire and make it harder for men to reach orgasm. These side effects can be frustrating and lead to a decrease in sexual satisfaction.

Antidepressants and Sexual Functioning in Women

Women may also experience sexual side effects from antidepressants. One common side effect is decreased sexual desire, making it difficult to become aroused or enjoy sex. In addition, antidepressants may make it harder for women to reach orgasm or cause pain during sex. These side effects can be incredibly frustrating for women and may impact their overall quality of life.

Benefits and Risks of Using Antidepressants For Sexual Functioning


Antidepressants can be effective but also have risks and side effects. Here is a breakdown of the benefits and risks of using antidepressants when it comes to sexual functioning:

Benefits of Using Antidepressants

Antidepressants can provide significant benefits for people with mental health conditions. They can improve mood, reduce anxiety, and alleviate other symptoms of depression. By reducing these symptoms, antidepressants can improve the overall quality of life, including sexual functioning.

In addition, some antidepressants can improve sexual functioning in some instances. For example, bupropion, an antidepressant that increases dopamine levels in the brain, has improved sexual functioning in some patients.

Risks of Using Antidepressants

One of the most common side effects of antidepressants is sexual dysfunction. As discussed in previous blogs, antidepressants can cause a decrease in sexual desire, difficulty getting or maintaining an erection, and difficulty reaching orgasm. These side effects can be frustrating and impact the quality of life.

Some antidepressants can increase the risk of other sexual health issues. For example, some studies have found that selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) can increase the risk of sexual dysfunction, such as delayed ejaculation or difficulty achieving orgasm. Other studies have suggested that SSRIs may increase the risk of sexual dysfunction in women.

Balancing the Benefits and Risks

When deciding whether to use antidepressants, weighing the potential benefits against the risks is essential. For some people, the benefits of using antidepressants outweigh the risks of sexual dysfunction. For others, the side effects of antidepressants may be too significant to tolerate.

If you are considering antidepressants, talking to your doctor about the potential risks and benefits is important. Your doctor can help you decide whether antidepressants are the right treatment option.

What Are the Most Common Antidepressants That Affect Libido?

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)

SSRIs are one of the most commonly prescribed antidepressants, often the first line of treatment for depression and anxiety. However, they also cause sexual side effects, including decreased libido. SSRIs increase serotonin levels in the brain, which can impact sexual functioning. Common SSRIs include:

  • Prozac (fluoxetine)
  • Zoloft (sertraline)
  • Paxil (paroxetine)
  • Lexapro (escitalopram)
  • Celexa (citalopram)

Serotonin and Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs)

SNRIs are another type of antidepressant that can cause sexual side effects. Like SSRIs, they work by altering neurotransmitter levels in the brain. Common SNRIs include:

  • Cymbalta (duloxetine)
  • Effexor (venlafaxine)

Tricyclic Antidepressants (TCAs)

TCAs are an older class of antidepressants that are less commonly prescribed today due to their side effects. However, they can still be effective for some people with depression or anxiety. TCAs can impact sexual functioning by decreasing libido and causing erectile dysfunction. Common TCAs include:

  • Elavil (amitriptyline)
  • Norpramin (desipramine)
  • Tofranil (imipramine)

Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs)

MAOIs are another older class of antidepressants not commonly used today due to their side effects and interactions with other medications and foods. However, they can impact sexual functioning in some people. Common MAOIs include:

  • Nardil (phenelzine)
  • Parnate (tranylcypromine)

Alternative Treatments for Depression: How They Affect Libido Compared to Antidepressants

Antidepressants are often the first line of treatment for depression, but they can have side effects, including sexual dysfunction. Let’s explore alternative treatments for depression and how they affect libido compared to antidepressants.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a talk therapy often used to treat depression. Unlike antidepressants, CBT does not affect the body’s chemistry.

Therefore, it does not typically cause sexual dysfunction. However, it is essential to note that depression itself can impact libido. Treating depression with CBT may indirectly improve libido by reducing symptoms of depression.

Herbal Supplements

Herbal supplements, such as St. John’s Wort, have been used to treat depression for centuries. 

However, there is limited research on the effectiveness of these supplements, and they can interact with other medications. Some herbal supplements may also have side effects, including sexual dysfunction.


Regular exercise has been shown to impact mental health, including depression, positively. Exercise can help boost mood, reduce stress, and improve overall well-being.

Additionally, exercise has been shown to improve sexual functioning. One study found that exercise was associated with improved sexual desire, arousal, and satisfaction in women.

Light Therapy

Light therapy is a treatment that involves exposure to bright light to regulate the body’s internal clock. It is often used to treat the seasonal affective disorder, and depression in the fall and winter months.

While light therapy does not typically cause sexual dysfunction, it is important to use caution when using light therapy if you have a history of bipolar disorder, as it can trigger manic episodes.


The impact of antidepressants on libido and sexual functioning is a complex issue that requires individual consideration.

While some studies have suggested a link between antidepressants and sexual dysfunction, other factors, such as depression, can also play a role. It is essential to discuss any concerns about sexual dysfunction with your healthcare provider, who can work with you to find a treatment that meets your needs.

Alternative treatments for depression, such as cognitive behavioral therapy and exercise, may offer benefits without the risk of sexual side effects.

Ultimately, it is important to weigh any treatment’s potential benefits and risks and make an informed decision in consultation with our expert team at Hormone Replacement Therapy Clinic in LA.

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