Monday, 31 December 2012

Sexual side effects of medication

A shockwave went through my family the day my cousin Anna opened a chic erotic shop in town. Some people, like my aunt, tried to cover it up by saying Anna and her husband had " become franchisers ". That wasn't a lie but not exactly the whole truth either. It all became clear to everyone the day the invitations for the opening hit the doormats with a figurative loud bang.
I was pleasantly surprised, I often like it when things are a bit "different". So I took some friends and colleagues to the opening festivities and met quite a few family members there. Some shy , giggly or clearly uncomfortable. Others unexpectedly interested and curious and going through the shelving as if it were an exclusive exhibition in a trendy museum.
I observed Anna selling her products and listened to her talking in detail about sex and erotic equipment with ease as if she was Nigella Lawson in person promoting her cooking and favorite kitchen utensils.
Lots could be learned for  mental health care from the openness of my cousin. She inspired me to get the topic of sexual side effects of medication higher on the agenda.
Back at work my colleagues and I made a checklist for physical health to be used at care evaluations. Sexual side effects of medication was one of the topics and now much harder to neglect . And we encouraged colleagues to talk about it more.

There are many different types of psychotropic medications and they may cause a range of sexual side effects like decreased libido, erectile- or ejaculation dysfunction for men and decreased lubrication for women. For both men and women, the quality  of sensation may be less and the time it takes to reach an orgasm can be prolonged or completely impossible . Some medications are less likely to cause trouble. And some people may not experience any of the sexual side effects at all..
Sexual side effects can have a negative impact on lives and relationships. That makes it important to encourage and enable patients to speak about it.

People who are well informed about these side effects are often better prepared and more likely to comply with treatment. They know that side effects often decrease in time. But if not , a medication change,adjustment or additional medication can help to overcome these troubles. 

It's important that mental health professionals learn to discuss this subject more. It may take courage to overcome our own shyness. But there are many cases in which a solution can be found and lives  can be improved. That’s definitely worth the effort .