Exercise for Sexual Dysfunction

sexual dysfunctionAmong the greatest problems that come from antidepressant treatment (and a leading cause of medication discontinuation) are sexual side effects.

Early in the course of treatment with serotonin antidepressants, many people experience less interest in sex and difficulty reaching orgasm.

Numerous prescribed and over-the-counter medications have been proposed as antidotes. The fact that there are so many proposed antidotes suggests (accurately) that none work that well.

Switching antidepressants can lead to a return of depression, and may not restore normal sexual functioning.

Lorenz and Meston have noted that exercise tends to improve women’s sexual function, whether or not they are taking medicines that can interfere with sex.

In healthy women, moderately intense exercise increases sexual arousal in response to sexy pictures. In a 2012 study of 47 antidepressant-treated women, the researchers found that  exercise before sexual stimulation increased genital arousal, and the effects were strongest in women who had the most antidepressant-induced sexual dysfunction.

A new study shows that exercise, regardless of the timing in relationship to sex, improved sexual desire. For women with significant sexual dysfunction, exercise improved overall sexual function.

In addition they noted that just scheduling regular sex improved the women’s ability to reach orgasm.

So here is a low cost, no side effect, first step for women with sexual dysfunction from antidepressants – schedule regular sex and start a program of vigorous aerobic exercise. The results are almost certainly better than you will get by adding another medication to the mix.

Lorenz TA, Meston CM. Exercise improves sexual function in women taking antidepressants: results from a randomized crossover trial. Depress Anxiety 1 Nov 2013. Epub ahead of print. doi: 10.1002/da.22208.
Lorenz TA, Meston CM. Acute exercise improves physical sexual arousal in women taking antidepressants. Ann Behav Med 2012;43(3):352-361.