Lithium and sexual dysfunction: an under-researched area

Hum Psychopharmacol. 2015 Mar;30(2):66-9. doi: 10.1002/hup.2457. Epub 2015 Jan 26.


Objective: Lithium treatment remains an important part of the management of many patients with bipolar disorder, but the incidence of treatment-emergent sexual dysfunction with lithium is uncertain, and little is known about how it might be managed.

Method: Systematic computerised literature search of preclinical and clinical studies.

Results: Thirteen relevant papers were identified. Preclinical studies suggest lithium can reduce testosterone levels and impair nitric oxide mediated relaxation of cavernosal tissue. Clinical reports suggest lithium may reduce sexual thoughts and desire, worsen erectile function and reduce sexual satisfaction. Concomitant benzodiazepine prescription with lithium is associated with an increased risk of sexual dysfunction. Sexual dysfunction during lithium treatment appears significantly associated with a lower level of overall functioning and may reduce compliance.

Conclusion: The findings of this systematic review reveal the paucity of information about the incidence, associated factors and management of sexual dysfunction with lithium treatment and highlight the need for well-designed studies in this area.

Keywords: lithium; sexual dysfunction; side effects; treatment.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antidepressive Agents / adverse effects*
  • Bipolar Disorder / drug therapy
  • Clinical Trials as Topic / statistics & numerical data
  • Drug Evaluation, Preclinical / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Lithium / adverse effects*
  • PubMed / statistics & numerical data
  • Sexual Dysfunction, Physiological / chemically induced*


  • Antidepressive Agents
  • Lithium