Depression is a common mental health problem that is often treated by a class of medication called serotonin-specific reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs. Examples of SSRIs include fluoxetine--Prozac--and sertraline--Zoloft. This group of medications may cause the side effect of sexual dysfunction, including a loss of libido, or sexual drive. However, there are several antidepressant medications that do not generally cause a change in libido; these may be preferred by patients being treated for depression who are worried about changes in their sexual function.
Bupropion, sometimes known by its brand name, Wellbutrin, is an antidepressant that is categorized as a dopamine reuptake inhibitor--it increases the amount of dopamine available within the brain by blocking its ability to be reabsorbed. The exact mechanism of action of burpropion is unclear. It is thought that by inhibiting the reuptake of both dopamine and another brain chemical, norepinephrine, symptoms of depression improve.
Side effects relating to sexual dysfunction do not occur; however, headaches, weight loss and nausea may be potential side effects that patients should be aware of when taking this medication.
Mirtazapine is another kind of antidepressant medication. It is thought to work by blocking a type of cell receptor known as the alpha-two receptor. This blockade causes an increase in the amounts of both serotonin and norepinephrine neurotransmitters; these are both chemicals within the brain which are thought to be associated with depression.
According to The National Institutes of Health website, Medline Plus, sexual side effects, such as a loss of libido, do not occur while taking this medication, but patients may feel dizzy, anxious or confused. Somnolence, or excessive sleepiness, occurs in more than half of patients taking this medication. Constipation, nausea, and vomiting may also occur. In very rare cases, heart problems and seizures may occur.
Venlafaxine is known as a serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor--it blocks the reuptake, or absorption, of both serotonin and norephinephrine. This medication is another possibility for patients who are experiencing side effects from SSRI medications.
While sexual dysfunction may occur, loss of libido is a rare side effect; according to the medical reference "UpToDate," only about 5 percent of patients will experience this unpleasant effect. More commonly, venlafaxine causes headache; dizziness; insomnia or its opposite, excessive sleepiness; and nausea. This latter side effect is especially common with venlafaxine, occurring in nearly two-thirds of patients who are taking this medication.