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Depression frequently involves disrupted inter-personal relationships, while treatment with serotonergic anti-depressants can interfere with libido and sexual function. However, little is known about how serotonin activity influences appraisals of intimate partnerships. Learning more could help to specify how serotonergic mechanisms mediate social isolation in psychiatric illness. Forty-four healthy heterosexual adults, currently in romantic relationships, received 8 days treatment with the selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitor citalopram (N = 21; 10 male) or placebo (N = 23; 12 male). Participants viewed photographs of unknown, heterosexual couples and made a series of judgements about their relationships. Participants also indicated the importance of relationship features in their own close partnerships, and close partnerships generally. Citalopram reduced the rated quality of couples' physical relationships and the importance attributed to physical and intimate aspects of participants' own relationships. In contrast, citalopram also enhanced the evaluated worth of mutual trust in relationships. Amongst males, citalopram was associated with judgements of reduced turbulence and bickering in others' relationships, and increased male dominance. These data constitute preliminary evidence that enhancing serotonin activity modulates cognitions about sexual activity as part of a re-appraisal of sources of value within close intimate relationships, enhancing the judged importance of longer-term benefits of trust and shared experiences.

Original publication




Journal article


Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci

Publication Date





1419 - 1425


depression, intimate relationships, serotonin, social isolation, social judgements, Adult, Analysis of Variance, Citalopram, Double-Blind Method, Female, Humans, Interpersonal Relations, Male, Psychiatric Status Rating Scales, Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors, Sexual Behavior, Surveys and Questionnaires, Trust, Visual Analog Scale, Young Adult