Antidepressants' effects on testosterone and estrogens: What do we know?

Eur J Pharmacol. 2021 May 15:899:173998. doi: 10.1016/j.ejphar.2021.173998. Epub 2021 Mar 4.


Various antidepressants are commonly used to treat depression and anxiety disorders, and sex differences have been identified in their efficacy and side effects. Steroids, such as estrogens and testosterone, both in the periphery and locally in the brain, are regarded as important modulators of these sex differences. This review presents published data from preclinical and clinical studies that measure testosterone and estrogen level changes during and/or after acute or chronic administration of different antidepressants. The majority of studies show an interaction between sex hormones and antidepressants on sexual function and behavior, or in depressive symptom alleviation. However, most of the studies omit to investigate antidepressants' effects on circulating levels of gonadal hormones. From data reviewed herein, it is evident that most antidepressants can influence testosterone and estrogen levels. Still, the evidence is conflicting with some studies showing an increase, others decrease or no effect. Most studies are conducted in male animals or humans, underscoring the importance of considering sex as an important variable in such investigations, especially as depression and anxiety disorders are more common in women than men. Therefore, research is needed to elucidate the extent to which antidepressants can influence both peripheral and brain levels of testosterone and estrogens, in males and females, and whether this impacts the effectiveness or side effects of antidepressants.

Keywords: Adverse effects; Antidepressant; Estrogens; Hormones; Sexual dysfunction; Testosterone.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Affect / drug effects*
  • Animals
  • Antidepressive Agents / adverse effects
  • Antidepressive Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Brain / drug effects*
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Brain / physiopathology
  • Depression / drug therapy*
  • Depression / metabolism
  • Depression / physiopathology
  • Depression / psychology
  • Estrogens / blood
  • Estrogens / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors
  • Testosterone / blood
  • Testosterone / metabolism*
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Antidepressive Agents
  • Estrogens
  • Testosterone