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Sexual Function and Satisfaction in the Treatment of Chronic Major Depression With Nefazodone, Psychotherapy, and Their Combination

J Clin Psychiatry 2002;63(8):709-716

Background: Changes in sexual interest/satisfaction and function are frequently associated with major depression and the use of some antidepressant treatments. This study compares the effects of antidepressant medication, psychotherapy, and combined treatment on sexual interest/satisfaction and function in patients with chronic major depression.

Method: Outpatients with chronic forms of DSM-IV major depressive disorder (N=681) were randomly assigned to 12 weeks of nefazodone, Cognitive Behavioral Analysis System of Psychotherapy (CBASP), or combined nefazodone/CBASP. The Modified Rush Sexual Inventory was used to assess sexual functioning, and the 24-item Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression was used to assess depressive symptoms.

Results: At baseline, 65% of men and 48% of women reported some sexual dysfunction. Statistically significant linear improvement in sexual interest/satisfaction was noted across all 3 treatment groups (p<.001). Additionally, significant improvement in sexual function was observed across all 3 treatment groups on a composite measure of female sexual function (p<.001). Controlling for depressive symptoms and gender, combined treatment produced greater improvement in total sexual interest/satisfaction than CBASP alone (p=.007), but was not significantly different from nefazodone alone. Improvement in depressive symptoms was associated with improved sexual interest/satisfaction for men and women and, for men, improved sexual functioning.

Conclusion: Chronic depression is associated with high rates of sexual dysfunction. Treatment with nefazodone, CBASP, and combined treatment improved sexual interest/satisfaction, with greatest improvement observed with combined treatment.