The Dawn Chorus

Fresh Australian Feminism

Could Viagra Help Women Suffering From Depression- Related Sexual Dysfunction?

Posted by Clem Bastow on July 25, 2008

While Viagra has become something of a punchline (ho ho, look at all the old codgers having heart attacks while macking!) it’s certainly been one of the “it” drugs of the past decade or so, and in some way, helped address stigmas associated with people over the age of, oh, 50 having active sex lives (newsflash, kids: they are still doing it!) – and some new research suggests the little blue pills could also assist women who are suffering from the sexual dysfunction that so often goes hand-in-hand with depressive illnesses.

A drop in libido levels is a common side-effect of antidepressant medicine, which often leads to women going off their medication sooner than they should, because they want to regain a sense of normalcy when it comes to their sex drive.

The women were told to take a pill one to two hours before sex for eight weeks. Half were given placebos pills which had no pharmacological effects.

Some 73 per cent of the women given placebos reported no improvement with treatment while only 28 per cent of the women taking Viagra said they did not notice an improvement, the study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found.

Some of the women experienced headaches, flushing and indigestion but none of them withdrew from the trial because of side effects.

“By treating this bothersome treatment-associated adverse effect in patients who have been effectively treated for depression, but need to continue on their medication to avoid relapse or recurrence, patients can remain antidepressant-adherent, reduce the current high rates of premature medication discontinuation, and improve depression disease management outcomes,” wrote lead author George Nurnberg of the University of New Mexico School of Medicine.

This is encouraging news, especially when you consider the lack of compassion (let alone research) in the medical community when it comes to what happens to the female libido when certain medications are being taken (including the contraceptive pill; my article on that particular side-effect is here).

I wonder if the Viagra treatment would also work for women whose depression-related sexual problems are just due to depression full-stop, rather than antidepressant medicines, though? A lowered sex drive is a huge part of depression for many people (not just women). When I was at my darkest mood in a two-year period of particularly bad depression – which was treated with therapy, exercise and diet rather than anti-d’s – I had no sex drive whatsoever. At the time I had a lovely partner who I thought was completely gorgeous, but the libido was totally kaput; it was very confusing for both of us.

Either way, though, it’s heartening to see female sexuality and libido being taken seriously by the medical and research communities, but what are your experiences in this realm? Have you noticed a drop in libido while depressed, or being treated for depression? Did you have any ‘magic cures’ (chocolate, massage, vibrators, ’70s porn marathons?) or did you just ride it out?

One Response to “Could Viagra Help Women Suffering From Depression- Related Sexual Dysfunction?”

  1. mscate said

    I tried viagra many years ago to address the side effects of anti-depressants. It works, but I would rather a drug that is made for women’s bodies (and hormones) or preferably more investment into the creation of anti-depressants without the substantial side effects (low libido is only one).

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