Libido and Depression

Estimated reading time: 29 minute(s)

Libido or sexual desire is a crucial part of romantic relationships. Any issues that cause sexual desires to fade or completely disappear can severely impact the quality of life along with the overall relationship. Low libido can be an issue in both men and women, with multiple factors triggering it, such as depression. While most people willingly receive treatment for depression, associated issues like low libido often remain hidden and unexplored due to embarrassment and stigma. Consequently, the problems silently keep affecting relationships, lowering overall satisfaction levels. [1]

Libido and Depression: What is the Relationship?

To understand the relationship between depression and sex drive, it is imperative to take a closer look at how the former acts on the body and the latter.

How Depression Causes Low Libido

Following are some ways depression can trigger or worsen problems with libido:

  • Anhedonia is one of the most common depression symptoms, which does not let the body take pleasure in activities that previously seemed pleasureful. The condition can also cause a decreased interest in sex and the satisfaction it generates.
  • Additional depressive symptoms, such as irritability, fatigue, and low mood, also interfere with sexual activity.
  • With time, reduced sexual activity due to the problems mentioned above hits a person’s self-worth and confidence, fueling the problem even more.

How Sexual Activity Difficulties Affect Depression

In men, low libido often leads to physical issues with sexual activity complicating the situation. Some examples of these sexual difficulties include the following:

  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Difficulty reaching orgasm
  • Premature ejaculation
  • Performance anxiety

Embarrassment of underperforming and a lack of confidence in sexual ability due to low libido can significantly worsen depressive symptoms. The situation often triggers a cycle where sexual difficulties and depression keep impacting one another, making things difficult to manage. The cycle also makes a person less inclined to share what is going on with them with their sexual partners, fueling feelings of worthlessness. Eventually, misunderstandings start interfering with the relationship, and the quality of life drops.

It is important to remember that having sexual difficulties does not always confirm an underlying depression. It is also not a predictor of depression in all cases. However, sexual issues may represent other health issues that need addressing by a medical professional.

Do Anti-Depressants Act as a Desire-Killer?

Low libido is also a possible side effect of certain antidepressant medications. This connection has to do with how these medications cross-react with neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and serotonin, needed for optimal sexual response. Among different categories of antidepressant medications, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) usually have the highest likelihood of triggering sexual problems.

Studies have found that 25 to 73 percent of people using an SSRI, whereas 58 to 70 percent of people using an SNRI report experiencing a sexual side effect. [2] Tricycle antidepressants or TCAs, a relatively uncommon type of antidepressant, were also found to cause sexual dysfunction in up to 30 percent of users. However, remember that sex drive is likely to wane even in depressed people not on any antidepressants. Research conducted to confirm this statement found that a whopping 70 percent of people with diagnosed depression eventually lost interest in sex despite not being on any medication. [3]

Does Gender Play a Role?

Females are almost two times more likely to develop depression than males. One reason for this is the genes and hormones that undergo disruption during neural development at the fetal stage. Despite the higher prevalence, women are more in tune with their feelings and are willing to get a diagnosis. Moreover, they are also keener to initiate treatment.

Many experts believe that libido issues play a far more significant role in the case of men as, for them, it often leads to erectile difficulties. Many people may consider erectile difficulties as a physical problem and may never explore the psychological causes associated with them. Consequently, men are less likely to get a diagnosis of low libido and depression together. To avoid these issues and get a proper diagnosis in time, the best thing to do is contact a healthcare professional who can resolve the issue while excluding all other potential causes.

Treatments for Low Libido and Depression

There is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to treating depression low libido. A combination of different elements, such as counseling, at-home strategies, medical management, and sex therapy, can benefit both partners in the short- and long-term. Depending on the situation, the main goals of treatment can include effective communication, restoration of sexual desire, improving the ability to enjoy daily activities, and reduction the depressive symptoms.

Talk to a professional.

Talking to a professional is usually the first recommended step for issues like depression and sex drive in females and males. Those interested in seeking more specialized help can consult with a sex therapist or psychiatrist. Any professional you choose must be qualified to discuss various treatment options or be able to refer to another appropriate expert. While there are different types of therapy to help people fight issues related to libido and depression, mindfulness-based cognitive behavioral therapy, or MB-CBT, is one of the best ones. This approach allows patients to recognize and address behaviors and thoughts interfering with libido and overall happiness levels. Experts often combine this approach with prescription medications for better outcomes.

Work on better communication.

Communicating with a partner regarding low libido can be challenging; however, it is an essential aspect of the management plan. For those unsure about beginning these discussions, many self-help books and talk therapy sessions are offered to build communication skills. Finding different ways to establish lines of communication with a partner can make a person feel less lonely while improving intimacy, which can, in turn, enhance sexual desire.

Take measures to relieve stress.

Stress can be a significant factor in triggering or worsening feelings of low libido and depression. This pushes people into a cyclical pattern as their low sex drive causes more stress. Investing time in performing stress-pushing activities can often make a difference. Some examples of these activities include exercise, journaling, listening to music, etc.

Consider changing your antidepressant.

As mentioned above, antidepressant medications can often lead to sexual issues, making it challenging to experience satisfying sex. For some, these side effects settle within a few weeks as their bodies adjust to the medication. However, for others, the side effects may worsen or even become permanent, causing sexual issues that are difficult to deal with. If this happens, the best step is to consult the doctor to change the medication to one with fewer side effects. Sometimes, a doctor may also prescribe another medication alongside the usual antidepressant to improve sexual function.

Go for couples therapy.

This therapy can be a helpful tool for people whose underlying depression is negatively affecting their sex life in the long run. Couples therapy allows each partner enough time to understand and express their feelings about themselves and the other person, generating opportunities to improve a relationship. Observing honesty is the key for the therapist to understand the proper relationship dynamics and make couples therapy work.

Do not force yourself.

If your depression and underlying sexual issues have significantly lowered your libido to the point that you do not find sexual activities pleasureful, avoid engaging in them. It is entirely normal to have days where depression does not let a person feel like engaging in sexual activities, and there is nothing to feel bad about it.

Start small when you are ready.

If you feel like you are ready to engage in sexual activities, start gradually and take small steps. For instance, try beginning with cuddling and hugging or arranging romantic nights to enhance intimacy and love. This stepwise approach eases people into sex and teaches them how to re-enjoy it for long-term changes.

Use a holistic approach.

Discuss lifestyle changes with your doctor or therapist, and think about how to make your sleep and dietary habits healthier to support your sexual performance and desire. Physical activity, for instance, can benefit both sexual performance and desire, and different exercises have been proven to help men and women improve sexual health. Some of these exercises include the following:

  • Cardio: Aerobic exercise have been found to enhance blood flow to the genitals, leading to better erectile dysfunction and increased libido. Cardio also reduces anxiety and stress levels, which also positively benefit libido.
  • Pelvic Floor Exercises: These exercises, including Kegel workouts, improve blood flow to the sexual organs and enhance male erectile functioning.


What can I do for my partner struggling with low sex drive depression?

Depression can wreak havoc on the sex life regardless of who suffers from it. Problems can worsen, mainly because there has been a lot of stigmatization of sexual issues, and most people are not confident enough to discuss it even with their partners. If you believe that your partner has problems with depression and sex drive, make them realize that their quality of life takes priority over your sexual gratification. If your partner is still uncomfortable discussing their struggles, going for couples therapy can be a good idea. Be open to them that things must change, but be gentle about it. Avoiding these discussions or communicating your needs to them can also hit the relationship negatively.

When should I see a doctor about depression no sex drive?

Low libido can discourage anyone while negatively hitting their self-esteem. Depression is not the only factor that lowers libido, as plenty of health conditions and circumstances may play a role. If you have been concerned about your libido and depression, consider getting in touch with a healthcare professional to rule out other potential causes and optimize treatment.

Is low libido a sign of depression?

While low libido or sex drive can be a sign of depression, many other factors can lead to a loss of sex drive. Moreover, the diagnosis of depression involves the fulfillment of broad criteria; hence, it is always best to seek a professional opinion to find out the actual cause.


1 Sharabi LL, Delaney AL, Knobloch LK. In their own words: How clinical depression affects romantic relationships. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships. 2016 Jun;33(4):421-48.

2 Higgins A, Nash M, Lynch AM. Antidepressant-associated sexual dysfunction: impact, effects, and treatment. Drug, healthcare and patient safety. 2010 Sep 9:141-50.

3 Lorenz T, Rullo J, Faubion S. Antidepressant-induced female sexual dysfunction. InMayo Clinic Proceedings 2016 Sep 1 (Vol. 91, No. 9, pp. 1280-1286). Elsevier.

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