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Antidepressants Cause Sexual Difficulties

Q. My husband has suffered from depression for years. It got really bad last winter and I finally convinced him to see a psychiatrist.
Ever since he started taking sertraline he is a different person. Things are so much better in every respect except one. When we make love he cannot reach orgasm. He tries and tries and cannot ejaculate. This is tremendously frustrating for both of us.
I suspect the sertraline might be responsible, but he is too shy to discuss this with his doctor. How could a medicine for your brain affect your sex life?

A. Antidepressants like duloxetine, fluoxetine, paroxetine, sertraline and venlafaxine can be helpful for many people who suffer depression. All of them, however, are capable of interfering with ejaculation. Women may also experience this side effect as an inability to achieve orgasm. These drugs modify brain chemicals, especially serotonin which seems to play an important role in sexuality.
Some urologists even prescribe these drugs for men who complain of premature ejaculation. They can slow down orgasm and prolong intercourse.
Our free guide to Drugs That Affect Sexuality. It discusses the sexual side effects of a number of commonly prescribed medicines for men and women. It also addresses libido and impotence.
Your husband should discuss his difficulty with his doctor. This side effect is not uncommon. Certain other antidepressants may be less likely to produce this complication. Bupropion (Wellbutrin) in particular seems to sidestep sexual problems. If anything it might improve matters.

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.”.
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