People suffering from depression often separate themselves from the things and the people they love the most, but new research suggests common medical treatment for the disorder can also have the same distancing effect, even if the depressed person is feeling better themselves.
According to research from the University of California, San Diego, antidepressants can negatively effect an individual’s feelings of love and attachment, and gender plays an important role when looking at which medications are to blame. For example, researchers found feeling of love in men were negatively impacted by antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which work mainly through the serotonin system. Women, on the other hand, were more negatively impacted by tricyclic antidepressants, which affect the serotonin system less.
“The good news is that there are a variety of agents for treating depression,” said study author Dr. Hagop S. Akiskal to Live Science.
He added: “Certainly, a physician should always inquire whether there is any impairment in the love life during depressive illness, because the loss of sexual desire and sexual feelings are common manifestations of depressive illness itself.”
Out of a pool of nearly 200 people suffering from depression–men and women–who described themselves as “smitten by love,” experts evaluated partners’ romantic and sexual feelings before and after taking antidepressant medication. What they found was those on SSRIs, primarily men, were more likely to say they felt less at ease with sharing their partners’ thoughts and feelings, and less optimistic their love for their partner would last forever since they started taking their medication.
Though men on SSRIs were more likely to become emotionally withdrawn from their partners, both men and women were negatively impacted by SSRI medication.
Women, however, were more likely to complain about sex life disturbances while they were taking tricyclic antidepressants.
The study demonstrates the power of chemical balances in the brain, and while treating depression may improve mood and alleviate symptoms for some people, treating with certain medications may not remedy relationship issues. Doctors should be aware of this as should patients; without understanding how depression and treatment affect the body, relationships that could potentially be saved may fall to the wayside.