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Suffering in Silence: How can we help women to better manage the sexual difficulties associated with antidepressant medication?

Suffering in Silence: How can we help women to better manage the sexual difficulties associated with antidepressant medication?

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) are common antidepressants prescribed for depression, anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorders in Australia and worldwide. Whilst this medication has many benefits, SSRIs can negatively impact on sexual functioning, yet disclosure of this issue is rare. Given that women are at increased risk of mental disorders and that SSRI use is more prevalent in this target group, this project used a qualitative research approach known as Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) to explore the lived experience of coping with sexual difficulties amongst women who have been taking SSRI medication. This paper is aimed at health practitioners and will provide recommendations on how to improve the management of SSRI related sexual difficulties for women.

To gain meaningful insight into this phenomenon, a qualitative research design using a phenomenological approach was used. A purposively selected sample of 10 Australian women under 45 years old were interviewed twice using semi structured interviews to gather a detailed account of individual experiences. The interviews were transcribed verbatim and analysed through an iterative and inductive process.

Whilst a number of coping strategies have been identified from this research, the theme ‘searching’ for information and for validation of sexual difficulties was commonly identified by the women in this study. Their stories highlighted how the lack of information about potential sexual side effects of SSRIs, the role of stigma and finally, their experiences in seeking help have shaped the coping strategies that they employed.
A number of factors influenced how women cope with the sexual side effects of SSRI medication. The importance of open discussion surrounding SSRI side effects, and the need to recognise sexuality as an important part of a woman’s care is essential to helping women more effectively cope with the side effects of antidepressant medication.
Conference: AIDS 2013, HIV
Areas of Interest / Categories: AIDS 2014

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