19% of antidepressant users report sexual problems related to the treatment

A study examining patients using antidepressants found that 19% of people with no prior sexual problems reported having sexual problems related to the use of at least one antidepressant. The document was published in Journal of Affective Disorders Reports.

Depression, or major depressive disorder, is a serious mental illness characterized by persistent feelings of sadness, emptiness, or hopelessness, along with a lack of interest or pleasure in activities that were previously enjoyed. Symptoms may include changes in appetite or weight, sleep disturbances, fatigue, feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt, difficulty concentrating, and thoughts of death or suicide.

Depression can cause significant impairments in daily functioning, negatively affecting work and social relationships. The exact cause of depression is not known, but it is believed to be the result of a combination of genetic, biological, environmental and psychological factors. The main treatment methods include psychotherapy and a type of medication called antidepressants.

Antidepressants work by altering the balance of neurotransmitters in the brain, chemicals that are involved in regulating mood and emotions. There are several types of antidepressants, including selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, tricyclic antidepressants, and monoamine oxidase inhibitors. Each of these types has a different mechanism of action, but individual antidepressants also have different side effects.

Study author Judith J. Stephenson and colleagues noted that many people stop using antidepressants despite ongoing symptoms of depression. It is estimated that nearly half of patients do not follow their prescribed medication plans, citing reasons such as drug ineffectiveness, inadequate doctor-patient communication, cost, and, most importantly, side effects.

One of the most common side effects of antidepressants is treatment-emergent sexual dysfunction. This condition can negatively affect the patient’s quality of life and exacerbate social challenges.

With this in mind, the study authors conducted an online survey of antidepressant users to better understand the reasons for continuing therapy, switching to a different antidepressant, and discontinuing treatment, but also the impact of dysfunction emergent sexual aspect of treatment from the perspective of patients with depression.

The survey included 900 people between the ages of 18 and 64 with major depressive disorder, classifying them according to their use of antidepressants in the past year into continuers (62%), switches (33%) and discontinued (5 %), with a significant majority of women. (78%).

Participants reported the type of antidepressants they use, how often they use them, and their sexual functioning before and during antidepressant therapy. They also completed assessments of depressive symptoms (the Patient Health Questionnaire Depression Scale), sexual functioning (the Changes in Sexual Functioning Questionnaire), and satisfaction with their antidepressant treatment (the Treatment Satisfaction Questionnaire for to medication, version 1.4).

On average, those who had used antidepressants in the past 12 months had tried 1.4 different types. Sixty-seven percent used one antidepressant, 26% used two different types, and 5% used three. SSRIs were the most commonly used type of antidepressant, with 47% of participants using them. Continuers used SSRIs more frequently than switchers.

56% of the participants stated that they had not experienced sexual problems before the diagnosis of depression. Of these people, 19% reported experiencing sexual problems after starting treatment (treatment-emergent sexual dysfunction). This percentage was similar between continuers and switchers. All of these individuals attributed their sexual problems to at least one of the antidepressants they were taking.

Fifty-six percent of the participants reported no sexual problems before their depression diagnosis. Among these individuals, 19% experienced sexual problems after starting treatment (treatment-emergent sexual dysfunction). This percentage was consistent among both continuers and switchers. All affected individuals attributed their sexual problems to at least one of the antidepressants they were taking.

Based on the perspectives of the patients surveyed, we found that HCP [health care professionals] recommendations, treatment efficacy, and side effects of medications play an important role in AD [antidepressant] continuation, change, or discontinuation when treating patients with MDD [major depressive disorder]. The main reasons for changing or discontinuing ADs were treatment dissatisfaction, lack of efficacy and occurrence of side effects. “Sexual problems as a symptom of depression were common before starting treatment among dropouts, and were often not discussed with an HCP because of the stigma of sexual dysfunction,” the study authors concluded.

The study sheds light on the experiences of using antidepressants. However, the study authors note that the study participants were all commercially insured and primarily employed patients with depression. Studies on a larger sample of patients may not yield the same results.

The article, Antidepressant Use and Treatment-Emergent Sexual Dysfunction Among Patients with Major Depressive Disorder: Results from an Internet Survey Study, was written by Judith J. Stephenson, Maelys Touya, Lambros Chrones, Shivani A .Pandya, Chia-Chen Teng. , and Anita H. Clayton.

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