Healthy sexual relationships are an important part of life and a measure of quality of life.
However, sexual relationships can become more difficult following the onset of schizophrenia. Schizophrenia itself, associated mood symptoms or side-effects of some antipsychotics, can result in sexual dysfunction and a reduction in sexual desire. It is important that if this occurs, people with schizophrenia do not just stop taking their medication. While embarrassment may be an issue, it is important to contact their doctor or psychiatrist since there are possible therapeutic options that can be considered.
Women with schizophrenia who wish to have a family need to be aware that some medications are not suitable for use during pregnancy and some can cause changes in lactation (the production of milk). Doctors or psychiatrists can advise which medications are suitable in such circumstances.
While experiencing acute symptoms of schizophrenia, it is possible that some people may become sexually uninhibited, or experience sexual urges that are out of character. As a result they may be more likely to take part in high-risk sexual behaviour.24 It is important that all young people – and not just those with a condition such as schizophrenia – should be encouraged to get information and advice about contraceptives and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). If starting a new relationship, it is always advisable for people to think about protecting themselves and their partner.
Schizophrenia can also leave individuals feeling less able to cope with unwanted advances, increasing their vulnerability. Any incidents of sexual harassment should be taken seriously and reported accordingly. Sexual health is an important area that needs more exploration, but greater openness can help individuals with schizophrenia move towards healthy and happy sexual fulfilment.