Sexual dysfunction and antipsychotic treatment

Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2003 Jan:28 Suppl 1:69-82. doi: 10.1016/s0306-4530(02)00113-0.


Human sexual function is complex and affected in many different ways by schizophrenia and the antipsychotic drugs used in its treatment. The evaluation of the effects of antipsychotics on sexual function in patients with schizophrenia is also complex because the deleterious effects of conventional antipsychotics are superimposed on the effects of the disease itself. Although not extensively researched, sexual dysfunction seems to be frequent in patients with schizophrenia, especially in men. Sexual dysfunction appears, in significant part, to be a direct consequence of dopamine antagonism, combined with indirect effects due to increased serum prolactin concentration. Atypical antipsychotics have a number of potential advantages over standard agents with regard to their impact on sexual function. Clinical reports indicate that atypical antipsychotics are associated with a lower incidence of sexual adverse events than conventional antipsychotics and that there may also be important differences between them in this regard. For example, dose-related increases in prolactin concentrations occur with risperidone whereas olanzapine is associated with mild and transient increases in long-term treatment. Treatment with clozapine does not result in prolactin elevation and, like olanzapine, only transient increases occur with ziprasidone therapy, but the risk of agranulocytosis with clozapine restricts its use. Quetiapine has no more effect on serum prolactin than placebo across its full dose range. Together with its low frequency of reproductive or hormonal side effects and a low incidence of extrapyramidal symptoms, the tolerability profile of quetiapine may be particularly beneficial for many patients. Sexual dysfunction can be an important source of distress to patients and adversely affects compliance, and is one of the factors that must be taken into account when selecting treatment.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antipsychotic Agents / adverse effects*
  • Antipsychotic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Schizophrenia / complications
  • Schizophrenia / drug therapy
  • Sexual Dysfunction, Physiological / chemically induced*


  • Antipsychotic Agents