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Taking antidepressants may affect people's feelings of love and attachment, a new study suggests.
Researchers found that men's feelings of love tended to be affected more than women's by taking antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which work mainly through the serotonin system. In contrast, drugs called tricyclic antidepressants, which affect the serotonin system less, seem to affect women's feelings of love more than men's, the researchers said.
"The good news is that there are a variety of agents for treating depression," said study author Dr. Hagop S. Akiskal, a distinguished professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego.
In the study, researchers compared the effects of SSRIs and tricyclic antidepressants on the love lives of 192 people with depression — 123 women and 69 men — whose mean age was 41. The study included 13 people who were homosexual. All the people in the study said they had been in loving relationships for between seven months and 26 years.
"Indeed, our subjects were those who could be properly considered smitten by love," Akiskal told Live Science. [13 Scientifically Proven Signs You're in Love]
The participants filled out a questionnaire that examined their feelings of love, attachment and sexual attraction to their partners throughout their relationships. On the questionnaire, the participants addressed whether their feelings were different after they started taking antidepressants, compared with before.
When the researchers looked at all the study participants, they found that those taking SSRIs were more likely to say they felt less at ease with sharing their partners' thoughts and feelings, and less wishful that their love for their partner would last forever since they started taking their medication, compared with the people taking tricyclics.
They also found the men in the study taking SSRIs reported being less likely to ask their partners for help or advice, or take care of their partners, compared with women who had been taking SSRIs.
On the other hand, women who had been taking tricyclics were more likely to complain about disturbances in their sex life than men who had been taking tricyclics.
The investigators were inspired to conduct the new study after their previous research with people in romantic relationships and those suffering from obsessive compulsive disorder found that "serotonin function was more deviant in a state of romantic love, than in obsessive compulsive disorder," Akiskal said.
It is important that patients with depression communicate openly with their physicians about how they are feeling, he said.
"Certainly, a physician should always inquire whether there is any impairment in the love life during depressive illness, because the loss of sexual desire and sexual feelings are common manifestations of depressive illness itself," he said.
The study was published in the September issue of the Journal of Affective Disorders.