Background: Reports of fluoxetine-induced sexual dysfunction have described orgasmic and erectile difficulties but have neglected possible changes in sexual desire. This prospective study was undertaken to determine the percentages of patients experiencing different types of sexual dysfunction after successful antidepressant treatment with standard doses of fluoxetine. Additionally, an open trial of the alpha 2-adrenoceptor blocker yohimbine as a potential treatment for fluoxetine-induced sexual dysfunction was conducted in nine patients.
Method: Over a 2-year period, outpatients who had fulfilled DSM-III-R criteria for major depression and subsequently responded to treatment with fluoxetine 20-40 mg were asked to report and describe changes in sexual function. A small number of consecutive nongeriatric patients complaining of new onset sexual dysfunction were invited to participate in an open trial of yohimbine 5.4 mg t.i.d.
Results: Fifty-four (34%) of 160 outpatients reported the onset of sexual dysfunction after successful treatment with fluoxetine: 16 (10%) of the 160 patients reported decreased libido, 21 (13%) patients reported decreased sexual response, and 17 (11%) patients reported declines in both areas. Eight of nine patients reported improvement in sexual function with yohimbine, although five patients reported side effects that led to discontinuation in two cases.
Conclusion: These findings suggest that (1) fluoxetine-induced sexual dysfunction may include decreased sexual desire as well as decreased physical functioning and may occur more frequently than previously appreciated and (2) fluoxetine-induced sexual dysfunction may be treatable with yohimbine.