SSRI Drugs Are Causing Sexual Dysfunction – Is There a Safer Alternative?
SSRI Drugs Are Causing Sexual Dysfunction – Is There a Safer Alternative?

Human connection comes in many forms. We crave understanding, affection, and yes, even sexual satisfaction. The less connected we are, the more alienated we feel, which can weigh on our psychological state in calamitous ways. These are the hallmarks of depression, and it can be a vicious cycle. When individuals seek treatment for depressive disorders, they often turn to prescription drugs, specifically of the SSRI class. This stands for Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, and they have proven to give some comfort to those suffering from depression. But what are the side effects of SSRI usage? According to recent reports, they may inhibit more than just depressive episodes; they could also inhibit our sex lives.

Depression Rates in the United States

Before exploring the deleterious ramifications of SSRI prescriptions and their widespread usage, let’s look at the root causes of their newfound popularity. According to a series of massive surveys including 41 million patients, diagnoses of depressive disorders have skyrocketed over the last few years. This phenomenon has affected every age group, and it breaks down as follows:

  • Patients aged 50 to 64 saw a 23% rise in rates of depression between 2013 and 2016
  • Those in the 35-49 age group witnessed a 26% growth of the disorder over that same time range
  • The numbers grow to 47% for those 18 to 29 years old
  • And the 12 to 17 demographic experienced the most seismic shift: a 63% increase in depression diagnoses over the span of three short years

While this data is staggering, it actually belies a silver lining. Sure, it’s upsetting to recognize such an epic public health crisis, but it’s encouraging to see the problem being identified. We can only address an issue once we study it, and transparency is the first step toward a solution.

How SSRI Medications Work

Our neurology is a fascinating control center. It dictates how we move, how we process stimuli all around us, and what our mood may be at any given time. The fuel that drives this system is our brain chemistry.

The biomaterial that travels through our minds delivers a never-ending flow of neurological triggers. One such chemical is serotonin. A deficiency in serotonin often leads to depressive feelings, so the medical industry has stepped in and developed a way for our bodies to maximize levels of the compound in our brains. 

Unfortunately, some people’s synapses process their serotonin too quickly for it to produce beneficial positive effects. SSRI drugs literally inhibit reuptake of our serotonin, allowing more of the chemical to flood the synaptic gap, thus increasing its volume in our neural pathways. This leads to a heightening of a user’s mood, in turn decreasing the propensity for a depressive episode.

Negative Side Effects

Safety is paramount with any diagnosis and subsequent prescription. The mental health of the patient comes first, so if SSRIs can reduce a major depressive episode, then their application may be wholly appropriate in the short term.

However, wellness is a long-term endeavor. Antidepressants carry with them a risk of adverse side effects, and the SSRI classification is no exception. Many SSRI users report a decrease in libido, an increase in orgasmic functionality, and a delay in ejaculatory activity due to these prescription drugs.

One study indicates that these medications affect the vast majority of those who use them. Over 59% of those surveyed had experienced some form of sexual dysfunction, and men were more likely to be affected than women. Over 62% of the males who participated in the study were afflicted while approximately 57% of the females befell this fate, but the severity of the condition was higher with the women than with the men.

A more recent study offers an enlightening, though worrisome, follow-up on these findings. Even years after some patients discontinue usage of their respective SSRI antidepressant drugs, they are still dealing with the lingering effects of sexual dysfunction. Men have reported chronic erectile issues while patients of both genders have suffered from “genital anesthesia” and generalized lessening of their sex drives and a lowered propensity for arousal and orgasm.

These results point to a phenomenon often overlooked in the rapid-paced world of mental healthcare. Psychiatrists are often so focused on treating the immediate disorder that they fail to see the bigger picture. By treating depression with SSRI drugs, they may quell the short term incidents of depression, but they are prompting a longer term problem with intimacy for their patients.

It’s a vicious cycle that could lead to further feelings of loneliness, deeper depression, more SSRI prescriptions, and continued sexual dysfunction.

So, how do we break this cycle of alienation and pain? By thinking outside of the prescription bottle.

Alternatives to SSRI Drugs

The function of SSRI meds, as mentioned above, is to prohibit the reuptake of serotonin in the brain, thus increasing its volume in our body’s system. This is a worthwhile goal, but it can be achieved without tinkering with our brain chemistry to the point of triggering sexual dysfunction.

The practice of Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) is a discipline in which we can promote the optimal flow of chemicals in the mind without administering drugs at all. A certified medical technician affixes a coil to the outside of a participant’s skull (no invasive procedures required) and then issues a painless current of electricity through said coils. This activates the neurons in the brain and helps reroute its chemicals as they should ideally be functioning.

TMS is a groundbreaking science that sidesteps the world of pharmaceutical overkill and ushers in a new day of understanding and uplifting. To learn more about how TMS can work for you, contact one of our caring experts today and let’s get your mind back on track.

Article By: Chris Howard
Director of Community Outreach & Education Chris Howard has been working in the mental health field since 2010 after seeing the long-term effects of mental illness within his own family. He is a graduate of UCLA where he received his B.A. in Psychology. Having worked closely with those struggling with addiction, Chris considers the concept of community to be an essential part of treatment and advocates for wellness approaches that integrate both leading conventional therapies, as well as holistic practices like yoga and meditation.