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Study Suggests Link Between Childhood Antidepressant Use and Adult Sexual Dysfunction

Study Suggests Link Between Childhood Antidepressant Use and Adult Sexual DysfunctionThe use of certain antidepressants in children might be linked to low sexual desire in adulthood, according to a recent Journal of Sexual Medicine study.

After surveying a group of 610 young adults (average age 20), researchers discovered that women who had taken a class of antidepressants called SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) before age 16 tended to have low desire for solitary sex as adults. In addition, these women felt less desire for an “attractive other” and masturbated less often.

The women still felt desire for partnered sex, however.

These results were not found in women who took other types of medications. They were also not found in men.

Why did SSRIs have this type of effect? The researchers weren’t sure, but they considered the effects of SSRIs on women’s developing brains.

“These findings may reflect a specific effect of SSRI use on the development of sexual motivation systems, but not circuits related to interest in close relationships,” they wrote.

“It is possible that SSRI use during childhood interrupts the normal development of sexual reward systems, which may be a risk factor for sexual desire dysfunction in adult women,” they added.

The results do not mean that antidepressants cause low desire. However, the authors called for more research in this area, especially to determine why these results were seen in women but not men.

Antidepressants in general often have sexual side effects, as do other types of medications. To learn more, please see these links:

Drugs and Low Libido (Part 1)

Drugs and Low Libido (Part 2)


The Journal of Sexual Medicine

Lorenz, Tierney K., PhD

“Antidepressant Use During Development May Impair Women's Sexual Desire in Adulthood”

(Full-text. Published online: January 13, 2020)