Medical Causes of Sexual Problems

There are many medical conditions and their treatments that contribute to sexual problems in both men and women.  People who develop sexual dysfunction as a result of medications are more likely not to stick to their treatment.  Clinical psychologists state that it is crucial to encourage discussion between a patient and their doctor, to develop strategies to manage this problem.

Certain drugs have been identified as causes of sexual dysfunction. These include drugs for:

·         high blood pressure

·         schizophrenia

·         depression

High blood pressure medications act by lowering the pressure inside blood vessels, in order to decrease the strain on the heart.  In men, this decreased blood flow can interfere with erections, ejaculation and sexual desire.

Antidepressants act by blocking chemicals in the brain, particularly chemicals that relay signals between nerve cells: serotonin, norepinephrine and acetylcholine.  It is well documented that decreased libido, diminished ability to orgasm, impotence and ejaculation are associated with antidepressant usage.  Similarly, the mental aspect of sexual function is not to be overshadowed.  Performance anxiety, or work related stress can also hinder erectile function.

Interestingly, up to 70% of patients with depression have sexual problems.  Similarly, 30-80% of women and 45-80% of men with schizophrenia report sexual problems.  But these mental health issues are not the only conditions which have an effect on sexual function.

Many cancer treatments can also have a negative influence on a sexual relationship. Recreational drugs such as alcohol, narcotics, stimulants and hallucinogens affect sexual function.  There has even been the suggestion that oral contraceptives can reduce sexual desire in women.  Encourage a conversation between the patient and their health professional, as it is possible to tailor treatments for the patient and their partner

What can you do about these medical causes of sexual problems?

Some solutions of these medically caused sexual dysfunction issues are:

·         therapy with a clinical psychologist

·         switching to another medicine

·         a planned break from the drug or ‘drug holiday’

Sexual dysfunction is an unwanted side effect of some medications that treat depression, schizophrenia, high blood pressure and birth control. Recreational drugs are also implicated in sexual problems. Patients should talk to their physician if they begin experiencing these side effects before stopping the medications.