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Is Depression Affecting My Sex Drive?

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Photography by Alexey Kuzma/Stocksy United

Photography by Alexey Kuzma/Stocksy United

by Clara Siegmund


Medically Reviewed by:

Nicole Washington, DO, MPH


by Clara Siegmund


Medically Reviewed by:

Nicole Washington, DO, MPH


Low sex drive is a common symptom of depression. Between mental health symptoms and antidepressant side effects, it’s still possible to manage low libido and get support.

If you have depression and never feel like having sex, the odds are good that it’s related to your mental health.

Or maybe you’re interested in sex, but your body doesn’t always cooperate in the moment — that could be related to depression, too.

Changes in your sex drive (also called your libido) vary from person to person, but one thing is certain: if you’re experiencing this, you’re not alone.

Let’s talk about the relationship between depression and low libido, why depression can impact sex drive, and some tips for dealing with decreased libido and finding support.

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The link between depression and low libido

If you have depression, you know that it’s so much more than feeling blue. Depression is a wide-ranging, brain chemistry-altering condition that affects your mental and physical health.

Depression can also affect your sex drive. Changes in libido and low sex drive are very common depression symptoms, affecting around 70% of people with major depressive disorder (MDD).

Plus, depression itself isn’t the only factor that can impact your sex life.

Low sex drive is also a side effect of certain antidepressant medications, which may worsen or cause low libido in some people. You’re not alone if this is the case for you.

Some research suggests that different genders may experience depression-related low sex drive at different rates.

For example, this 2022 research review reports that women may be more likely to have low libido than men, finding that 82.75% of women with MDD had this symptom compared to 63.25% of men with MDD.

Although some studies use binary language when evaluating gender differences, it’s vitally important to understand that this certainly doesn’t mean that people who identify elsewhere on the gender spectrum are immune to these symptoms. Nor does it mean that if you identify as a woman or man, you’ll automatically experience symptoms in this particular way.

Anyone can experience varying degrees of change in sex drive or low libido due to depression, regardless of gender.

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What are the symptoms of low sex drive?

For many people, changes in sex drive can be both mental and physical — like a near-total loss of interest in sex, accompanied by difficulty with the physical arousal that makes sexual acts both possible and pleasurable.

Here are just some symptoms you may experience when depression impacts your sex life:

  • lower sex drive than usual
  • near-total or total loss of interest in sex
  • difficulty feeling desire and arousal
  • difficulty with physical arousal, like getting or maintaining an erection, or vaginal lubrication
  • difficulty with reaching orgasm, whether by yourself, with a partner, or both
  • an inability to orgasm
  • difficulty with sexual satisfaction

Keep in mind that this list isn’t exhaustive. Depression may affect your sex drive in other ways, too, and those ways are equally valid.

Why does depression cause low libido?

For many people with depression, a combination of physiological factors, medication, and other depression symptoms play a role in low sex drive.

Physiological factors

Like so many other functions in the body, sex drive and arousal are related to neurotransmitters. These chemical messengers carry signals between cells, helping the brain trigger and control functions in different parts of the body, including sex organs.

The neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, for example, help make sexual acts possible.

Serotonin and dopamine drive sexual desire. Serotonin also controls physical arousal. Norepinephrine has an important role in orgasm.

Depression is thought to be linked to an imbalance in these (and other) neurotransmitters. When neurotransmitters are out of balance, the brain can’t correctly send signals — including signals telling the body to become mentally and physically aroused and ready for sex. This can lead to a decrease in sex drive.


Changes in libido and low sex drive are also common side effects of certain antidepressants, particularly selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).

In some people, antidepressants may worsen existing problems with sex drive. For others, medication can even cause new issues that didn’t exist prior to starting antidepressant treatment.

The percentage of people who may experience low sex drive as an antidepressant side effect varies depending on medication type:

Research from 2017 suggests that SSRIs may have a significant effect on sex drive. These SSRIs include:

Other antidepressants (some unavailable in the United States) may have less impact on sex drive. These include serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) and serotonin antagonist and reuptake inhibitors (SARIs), like:

Depression symptoms

On top of physiology and medication, many common symptoms of depression can also make you less interested in sex than you may have been before.

When you’re experiencing the weight of depression symptoms, it’s hard to feel like having sex.

Common depression symptoms that can affect sex drive include:

  • fatigue
  • low energy levels
  • loss of interest in activities
  • moods going up and down
  • mood symptoms, like sadness, tearfulness, hopelessness, anger, or irritability
  • stress
  • anxiety
  • low self-esteem
  • physical anhedonia, or an inability to feel pleasure from physical or sensory experiences

What’s more, the link between low sex drive and depression is bidirectional: each influences the other in a vicious cycle.

Research suggests that depression increases the risk of experiencing distressing changes in libido by 50% to 70%, and these changes then increase the risk of depression by 130% to 200%.

In other words, depression can bring about or worsen changes in your sex life, which can worsen other depression symptoms. These intensified depression symptoms then swing back around to negatively impact sex drive, and the cycle continues.

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Will I get my sex drive back?

While depression can affect your sex drive in distressing ways, these effects are not permanent. Your sex drive will come back. The amount of time that takes likely depends on the root cause or causes.

Keep in mind that you don’t have to boost your sex drive if you don’t want to. Maybe your libido is lower than it used to be, and you feel fine about that. Maybe your depression treatment priorities are different.

A “normal amount” of sex is the amount that feels comfortable and good to you — however little or much sex that translates to. Whatever your reasoning, it’s OK if you don’t feel a need to do something about low sex drive.

For those who do want to revive their sex drive, though, effective options are available.

Tips for managing low sex drive

If low libido is causing you distress, here are a few strategies to help you manage:

  • Therapy: Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), mindfulness-based therapy, and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) may be particularly effective for relieving low sex drive while treating depression overall.
  • Couples’ counseling and sex therapy: Partnered therapy may help you work through both emotional and physical difficulties behind low sex drive. Combining couples’ counseling and sex therapy with CBT or MBCT may boost the effectiveness of both strategies.
  • Medication adjustments: Adjusting your antidepressant dosage or even changing antidepressants may be possible to help relieve antidepressant-induced low libido. Be sure to work with a doctor on any changes, as adjusting meds by yourself isn’t safe.
  • Other forms of intimacy: Intimacy doesn’t only mean sex. For other ways to feel close to a partner, try expanding your definition of intimacy to include acts that feel possible, like cuddling, holding hands, or eating a meal together.
  • If your partner is dealing with low sex drive, show them that you’re there for them and will be patient. Assure them that you’re ready to work together on intimacy and make them feel good — physically or otherwise — when you’re both able.
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The takeaway

Decreased libido is a common symptom of depression and a frequent side effect of certain antidepressants.

While a low sex drive can be upsetting and frustrating, you’re not alone. What’s happening is pretty typical. You’re experiencing another depression symptom among many.

You, your care team, and your partner (if you have one and want to involve them) can work together to manage low libido and get your sex drive back.

Medically reviewed on June 25, 2024

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About the author

Clara Siegmund

Clara Siegmund is a writer, editor, and translator (French to English) from Brooklyn, New York. She has a BA in English and French Studies from Wesleyan University and an MA in Translation from the Sorbonne. She frequently writes for women’s health publications. She is passionate about literature, reproductive justice, and using language to make information accessible.

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