How Antidepressants Affect Sex Drive


While antidepressant can be effective in improving mood and reducing anxiety symptoms, they can also have an impact on the hormonal system and sexual health – especially in women. 


Many antidepressants (the most common being fluoxetine, sertraline, or paroxetine) work by increasing the levels of serotonin in the brain – which is why they are called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that plays a crucial role in regulating mood, appetite, and sleep.

While these drugs can be effective in improving mood, they can also have an impact on sexual health. High levels of serotonin can decrease sexual desire and arousal (i.e. low libido) and difficulty achieving orgasm.


Vaginal Dryness

Antidepressants can cause vaginal dryness by decreasing estrogen levels in the body. Estrogen is a hormone that plays a crucial role in maintaining vaginal health and lubrication. When estrogen levels decrease (whether medication induced, stress induced, or just naturally occurring with age), the tissues of the vagina can become dry and irritated, leading to pain and discomfort during sexual activity.



Medication Alternatives

While medications can be the culprit, it’s just as important to recognize untreated depression and anxiety can also be a source of low libido as well – so here are some tips to consider discussing with your healthcare provider that may help.

While serotonin modulating medications are the most commonly used antidepressants, Bupropion is an alternative prescription option. This increases dopamine levels in the brain, rather than serotonin – another neurotransmitter that plays a big role in lifting mood. Dopamine is probably more well known for its’ function in the pleasure and reward system.


Natural Considerations

Looking for something natural to help boost mood, libido, and vaginal lubrication? While not FDA approved (since it’s an over-the-counter herb, not a medication), try Saffron! Saffron is a spice that has been used for centuries to support a happy mood and healthy romantic life. In clinical studies, saffron appears to support healthy dopamine levels in the brain – likely the reason for its’ benefits.

One study in females on fluoxetine shows that taking saffron 30 mg daily for 4 weeks improves arousal and lubrication during sexual intercourse compared with placebo (study linked here).



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