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Suffering in Silence: SSRIs, Stigma and Sexual Difficulties

Suffering in Silence: SSRIs, Stigma and Sexual Difficulties

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI) medication is widely used as a treatment for mental disorders such as depression, anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorders in Australia and worldwide. It has been demonstrated, however, that SSRIs can negatively impact on sexual functioning and influence all phases of the sexual cycle. 

Given that women are at increased risk of mental disorders and that SSRI use is more prevalent in this target group, this study was guided by Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA), a qualitative research methodology. IPA has been gaining attention as a flexible and inductive phenomenological research approach that allows the researcher to move beyond a biomedical model of disease and illness to explore self-reported experiences and meanings individuals assign to those experiences.

In this study, we explored the lived experience of coping with sexual diffculties amongst ten Australian women who had been taking SSRI medication for at least 3 months. Whilst coping strategies were grouped into four super-ordinate themes: – i) searching, ii) suffering in silence, iii) trying to resolve and iv) accepting what is-  it was evident that self and social stigma underpinned a number of these coping strategies.

This paper explores the concept of stigma, and how it impacts on women’s experiences of coping with sexual difficulties. We argue that psychosocial factors such as self and social stigma need to be considered alongside existing medical management of SSRI related sexual problems.

Areas of Interest / Categories: Anxiety, AOFS 2014, Depression, SoAS 2015, Women