What to do about sexual problems relating to medication

The solution may not necessarily require more medicine…and the problem might not even be your medication

Many of our readers will be aware that some medications used to treat mental health conditions are also implicated in sexual dysfunction. For instance, it’s quite common for people who take antidepressants – medications used to treat depression and anxiety – to report some degree of sexual dysfunction.

There are four basic kinds of sexual problems.

• Problems of DESIRE, when you are not interested in having sex, or have less desire for sex than you used to

• Problems of AROUSAL, where you don’t feel a sexual response in your body or cannot stay sexually aroused

• Problems with ORGASM where you can’t have an orgasm, or have pain during orgasm

• PAIN associated with sex

Things you can do to help with sexual dysfunction

• If desire is the problem, change your usual routine. Try having sex at a different time of the day, or try a different sexual position

• Some people find that using lubrication or appliances (like vibrators) can help

• Try additional foreplay before intercourse

• Take your time. Some people need a lot of time to “warm up”

• Practice!

• Relationship counselling and addressing patient-specific concerns can be useful

• Therapy with a clinical psychologist who understands sexual dysfunction

• In consultation with a medical practitioner, consider alternative medications or changing your dosage

• Some doctors may prescribe medication to help with sexual dysfunction in both men and women

What causes sexual dysfunction?

Certain medicines, excessive alcohol use, being depressed or anxious, relationship problems, current or past abuse and many, many other things can cause sexual dysfunction. It’s not just prescription medication that can cause problems, either: recreational narcotics like stimulants and hallucinogens can also affect sexual function.

The stresses of everyday life can decrease your ability to have sex, too. Being tired from a busy job or caring for young children will certainly have an impact. You may also be bored by a long-standing sexual routine, so finding other ways to do it may help.

Natural components of reproduction can have an impact. Women may have less sexual desire during pregnancy, right after childbirth, or when breastfeeding. Menopause can have a serious effect, too.

So, sexual dysfunction is not necessarily a medical problem, and the solution to the problem may not necessarily require more medicine, though it is wise to discuss things with a doctor if you are concerned.

Overemphasis

In the field of medicine, Conaglen & Conaglen note, there is a great deal of emphasis on male sexual problems, “with less data available on female or couple problems.”

According to their article for the National Prescribing Service, patients AND doctors may not feel comfortable discussing sexual problems.

“People on long-term medications may not be aware that their sexual problems have developed as a result of their treatment. Conversely, some may blame their drugs for sexual problems which are due to relationship difficulties or other stressors.” (Conaglen & Conaglen, 2013)

According to Conaglen & Conaglen, up to 70% of people who are depressed have sexual dysfunction: “Reports indicate that 30–80% of women and 45–80% of men with schizophrenia also experience sexual problems.” Some people might find it difficult to distinguish between the effects of the (condition) on sexual function, and the effects of the drugs used for treatment.

 

References:

American Academy of Physicians. (n.d.). Sexual dysfunction (women). Retrieved October 16, 2017, from Family Doctor.org:

familydoctor.org/condition/sexual-dysfunction-women/

Conaglen, H., & Conaglen, J. (2013). Drug-induced sexual dysfunction in men and women. Australian Prescriber, pp. 36:42-52.

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