Anyone who has taken antidepressants may be able to attest that some side effects of the drugs are less than favorable. Recent research supports the fact that physical exercise alleviates the sexual side effects associated with the use of many antidepressants. Exercise may even lessen this side effect, and others, as well as ease sexual symptoms like low libido in those who are not using antidepressants.
What Are Antidepressants?
These drugs are designed to restore the brain chemistry imbalances that often precipitate numerous emotional and mental illnesses such as anxiety disorders and depression, as well as certain other health problems. There are five different classifications of antidepressant drugs including:
Serotonin And Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs)
This classification of drugs works to balance brain concentrations of important mood hormones called serotonin and norepinephrine.
Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)
These medications impact strictly serotonin levels.
In addition to influencing brain concentrations of serotonin and norepinephrine, tricyclic antidepressants also work to normalize levels the mood altering hormone known as dopamine.
Monamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs)
This drug attempts to stimulate the enzyme monamine, which is prevalent inside the human brain.
These medications are often prescribed to individuals who do not respond to the more frequently prescribed classifications like the SSRIs, SNRIs or the Tricyclic forms. Such drugs might also be offered as a therapeutic protocol for people who are stricken with “atypical” anxiety or depression symptoms.
Side Effects Elicited by Antidepressants
Regardless of the classification or specific antidepressant drug prescribed, a user will often experience certain side effects. Such physical manifestations can vary in intensity and can include digestive symptoms like nausea, constipation and loss of appetite, general bodily symptoms like fatigue, weight gain and malaise, headaches, cardiovascular events like high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol levels, vision problems and cognitive issues such as memory loss and dulled thinking. That said,among the most significant symptoms faced by those using antidepressant drugs, especially women, are of the sexual variety.
Why Antidepressants Impact Sexual Performance
Antidepressants typically cause an increase in chemicals that positively impact mood and diminish tension. While such effects are often beneficial to an individual’s overall well-being, this is not always the case when referencing sexual activity. Associated calming effects can diminish the senses, which, in turn, may lower libido and decrease an afflicted person’s desire to engage in sexual intercourse.
In men, the sexual side effects of antidepressant usage include diminished libido and sexual dysfunction. Sexual manifestations, however, are often more prominent in women. The reason for this is twofold: first, more women use antidepressants than men, and secondly, these drugs seem to act on their brain chemistry with greater efficiency. Stricken women may experience a pronounced loss of sex drive, delayed lubrication, as well as difficulty achieving an orgasm. Moreover, certain women have reported discomfort during intercourse.
How Exercise Alleviates Sexual Side Effects of Antidepressants
A 2014 scientific study found that exercise does improve the sex drives of women prescribed antidepressants. Researchers followed more than 50 women using antidepressants over a period of three weeks. Subjects were divided into two groups: individuals who were required to exercise and then immediately engage in intercourse and a collection of women who examiners instructed to exercise as well but not have sex afterwards.
After the first three weeks, the two groups changed roles and performed as instructed for an additional three weeks. Researchers discovered that, when women engaged in physical activity prior to sex, their libido increased.
Exercise Benefits Libido Regardless of Antidepressant Usage
Medical professionals opine that exercise is beneficial to the sexual health of both men and women regardless of any physical condition or specific therapeutic drug usage.
A 1990 study chronicled in the Archives Of Sexual Behavior found that men who engage in relatively intense physical activity for three to five times per week were significantly more likely to experience heightened sexual performance, more pleasing orgasms and the desire to engage in numerous “intimate activities.”
A 2008 examination recorded in the Journal Of Sexual Medicine concluded that women’s sexual abilities were also positively impacted by exercise. The scientists who performed this study discovered that women who engage in short but intense bursts of physical stimulation are likely to notice heightened sexual arousal and increased body awareness.
Other Methods of Managing Antidepressant-Related Sexual Side Effects
In addition to engaging in more frequent and intense workout sessions, both men and women might find relief from any sexually-limiting physical manifestations by employing methods such as:
Use More Strategic Timing When Taking Medications
Sex can sometimes be a spontaneous “whenever the mood strikes” type of activity. However, those who are taking antidepressants might be able to skirt sexual side effects by alternating the times they ingest such drugs to periods long before or after they know the may be engaging in intercourse.
If a specific medication precipitates significant sexual side effects, one might ask their doctor to prescribe another drug and examine the side effects of said substance.
Sometimes, lowering the prescribed dosage of a specific medication may ease associated sexual symptoms.