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J Psychopharmacol. 1997;11(1):72-82.

A critical review of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor-related sexual dysfunction; incidence, possible aetiology and implications for management.

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Pfizer Inc., New York, NY 10017, USA.


There is a high incidence of sexual dysfunction in the general population and sexual dysfunction is often an integral symptom of a depressive disorder. In addition, all antidepressants have effects on sexual functioning, as the result of side-effects of these medications and as a reflection of therapeutic success. The selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are clearly associated with delayed ejaculation, inability to ejaculate and absent or delayed orgasm. Furthermore, the incidence of sexual dysfunction obtained by patient self-report does not appear to reflect the true incidence of sexual dysfunction associated with antidepressant therapy and systematic inquiry is needed as sexual dysfunction may be an unrecognized cause of noncompliance. The SSRIs may have advantageous effects on sexual functioning and these may also be underreported due to the same factors resulting in an under-reporting of sexual side-effects in general. In addition, studies have suggested a role for the SSRIs in the management of premature ejaculation. The effects of SSRIs on sexual functioning are clearly dose-related and may vary amongst the group due to their relative effects on the serotonin and dopamine systems and the extent to which plasma levels of these drugs accumulate in the body over time. A variety of strategies have been found useful in the management of SSRI-induced sexual dysfunction including waiting for tolerance to develop, dosage reduction, drug holidays, switching to a different antidepressant and various augmentation strategies with 5-HT2, alpha2 adrenergic receptor antagonists and dopamine receptor agonists.

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