A limited number of studies have evaluated sexual functioning in patients with schizophrenia. Most patients show an interest in sex that differs little from the general population. By contrast, psychiatric symptoms, institutionalization, and psychotropic medication contribute to frequently occurring impairments in sexual functioning. Women with schizophrenia have a better social outcome, longer lasting (sexual) relationships, and more offspring than men with schizophrenia. Still, in both sexes social and interpersonal impairments limit the development of stable sexual relationships. Although patients consider sexual problems to be highly relevant, patients and clinicians not easily discuss these spontaneously, leading to an underestimation of their prevalence and contributing to decreased adherence to treatment. Studies using structured interviews or questionnaires result in many more patients reporting sexual dysfunctions. Although sexual functioning can be impaired by different factors, the use of antipsychotic medication seems to be an important factor. A comparison of different antipsychotics showed high frequencies of sexual dysfunction for risperidone and classical antipsychotics, and lower frequencies for clozapine, olanzapine, quetiapine, and aripiprazole. Postsynaptic dopamine antagonism, prolactin elevation, and α1-receptor blockade may be the most relevant factors in the pathogenesis of antipsychotic-induced sexual dysfunction. Psychosocial strategies to treat antipsychotic-induced sexual dysfunction include psychoeducation and relationship counseling. Pharmacological strategies include lowering the dose or switching to a prolactin sparing antipsychotic. Also, the addition of a dopamine agonist, aripiprazole, or a phosphodiesterase-5 inhibitor has shown some promising results, but evidence is currently scarce.
Keywords: antipsychotic; dopamine; negative symptoms; prolactin; schizophrenia; sexual dysfunction.
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