Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 7/19/2022
Effexor can be a life-changing medication for people suffering from a variety of mood and other disorders, but this medication like most isn’t without its side effects — including Effexor sexual side effects.
From blurred vision and weight gain to withdrawal symptoms like suicidal ideation, antidepressants can cause problems while solving problems.
While Effexor won’t make your eyes melt out of your head or your feet fall off, there are some side effects it has become known for. And f you’ve read about them, you’re probably here to learn more about the risks of Effexor sexual side effects.
To help you understand the relationship between Effexor and your sex life, we’ve answered some of the most common questions people have. Let’s start with the basics.
The medication Effexor is a brand-name version of venlafaxine, a serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor, also known as an SNRI.
These medications are similar to other antidepressants in that they work to moderate serotonin levels in the brain. But in comparison with SSRIs, SNRIs also moderate another neurotransmitter called norepinephrine.
These antidepressant medications treat major depressive disorder (MDD), but they can also be effective in moderating the symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), as well as social anxiety disorder (aptly called SAD) and even panic disorder in certain circumstances. Bipolar disorder patients may also see benefits.
Medications like this often come with side effects, and in the case of venlafaxine, those adverse reactions may include headache, nausea, diarrhea, fatigue, insomnia and, as you probably guessed from the title of this article, some SSRI-induced sexual dysfunction.
Many people become uncomfortable at the idea of hurdles to sexual activity. We get it: sexual functioning is hard enough when you have to be vulnerable and intimate — medication doesn’t need to make it harder.
So, what exactly does antidepressant therapy with venlafaxine do downstairs?
While spontaneous genital combustion isn’t something you’ll have to worry about with Effexor (or any medication that we’re aware of, actually), Effexor can potentially be responsible for some nasty sexual side effects for both men and women.
It’s helpful to understand both because it paints a better portrait of what’s going on down there.
In men, for instance, decreased sex drive, erectile dysfunction, delayed ejaculation or absent ejaculation can be recurring problems while on this medication.
Women can see similar side effects — decreased sex drive and decreased libido can occur, as can problems with delayed orgasm or not being able to orgasm at all.
Which could lead to a perfectly reasonable question: is this medication right for you?
Many women struggle with orgasm issues. So, a medication that creates an increased risk of already-prevalent sexual problems is certainly something to be wary of when taking or beginning to take this antidepressant medication.
That said, as much as those sexual side effects of Effexor may be a no-go in your head, they do need to be put in context.
Research shows that venlafaxine causes a lower frequency of sexual dysfunction than older antidepressant types like TCAs, for instance.
One study found that venlafaxine actually tended to cause less sexual dysfunction than certain SSRIs in some patients, though more research is necessary to fully understand why.
Still, finding that up to 70 percent of patients using a different drug experienced side effects might rightly make you a little less wary of Effexor.
Furthermore, sexual functioning issues due to Effexor can be moderated in some cases with a reduced daily dose of the medication, or by taking break days from the medication (with the guidance of your healthcare provider, of course).
Avoiding Effexor, in the end, may be a decision not to risk sexual side effects instead of solving mental health symptoms.
Related post: Is It Safe to Take Venlafaxine While Pregnant?
Antidepressant-induced sexual dysfunction is generally manageable, but if your quality of life suffers from that or any side effect, it’s appropriate to talk to a healthcare provider about other treatment options.
How we treat depressive disorders has evolved greatly in the last few decades, and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors are just one of the tools available today.
A mental health professional might instead prescribe a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, or SSRI, which are considered generally well tolerated by the majority of the population.
Antidepressant treatment generally tends to cause sexual problems, and from tricyclic antidepressants to the Effexor XR version of the medication we’ve been talking about, treatment for psychiatric disorders is not without its additional complications.
And with all the talk about pills, it’s important to understand that therapy may also be an effective and necessary tool in dealing with mood disorders.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), for instance, can be helpful when you’re learning how to deal with negative and intrusive thoughts — something that medication alone can’t stop.
If you’re ready to talk now, consider online therapy with us.
Lifestyle changes — smoking and drinking cutbacks, better dietary habits, getting more exercise and being more socially active — can provide numerous benefits to everyone, but especially people dealing with mood disorders.
Sexual function is an important thing for most people, and when sexual dysfunction is listed as one of the common side effects of a medication, it can give anyone pause — understandably so.
If you’ve found yourself in that pause, take it as a sign that you should have this conversation with a healthcare professional.
Whether you’re worried about sexual side effects or already experiencing them, proper medical advice can help you understand the options, what’s possible, and what’s safe in your unique circumstances.
Have a conversation with a health care provider today so you can get back to living a depression-free, sex-filled life tomorrow.