Background: Decreased sexual interest and function both occur as a consequence of antidepressant medication use, and are especially associated with serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SRIs). However, few investigators have reported the base rate for disturbances in sexual desire, arousal and orgasm or ejaculation in patients with major depression (MD) prior to antidepressant treatment. The purpose of this report is to define the frequency of sexual dysfunction (SD) in 134 patients with MD and examine the relationship between SD and demographic, clinical and personality variables.
Method: A consecutive series of 55 male and 79 female MD patients diagnosed by SCID-DSM IV assessment completed a series of psychometric measures including a Sexual Function Questionnaire, which asked about change in sexual interest and function as well as sexual activity during the preceding month.
Results: Only 50% of women and 75% of men reported sexual activity during the preceding month. Over 40% of men and 50% of women reported decreased sexual interest. Reduced levels of arousal were more common in both men and women (40-50%) than ejaculatory or orgasm difficulties (15-20%). In women, problems with arousal and orgasm correlated with higher neuroticism and lower extraversion. There was no relationship between SD and personality measures in men. While age at onset of depression and number of prior episodes showed a modest correlation with SD measures, there were no correlations with severity of depression or specific symptoms clusters.
Limitations and conclusions: Although limited by a relatively small sample of drug free patients with MD, and by the absence of a non-depressed comparison sample, these results emphasize the importance of factors beyond specific drug effects in the assessment of antidepressant related sexual dysfunction.