Post-coital Dysphoria: Why So Sad after Sex?

postcoital dysphoria

Sex is supposed to bring pleasure. Why then some men and women feel emotionally devastated and miserable after intercourse? If you have ever experienced the same, you are not alone – about 50% of people have been there too. And there is a term for this state – postcoital dysphoria, or post-sex blues. Previously, it was attributed only to women. However, some recent researches showed that men also go through this state.

Postcoital dysphoria causes

Until recently, the phenomenon of postcoital dysphoria in men hasn’t been studied, as it was women who reported the feeling of shame, anxiety, and sadness they experience after sex. Men are usually seen as the ones who crave sex and feel extremely pleased when they get it. However, it turns out that 41% of men have experienced post-coital dysphoria at least once in their lifetime. Although this happens to a larger percentage of women, men should be given enough scientific attention.

It’s not for nothing that the French call the male orgasm “the little death”. The surge of hormones subsides and leaves a person with a weird feeling. Two people become one during the actual intercourse, they create a very strong bond, so when they “part”, they get upset. Basically, there are two main causes of post-coital dysphoria: hormonal and psychological.

  • It takes a male organism a lot of effort to produce semen, so when it loses it in an orgasm, this makes a man feel shallow. This may be one of the reasons for post-sex blues. The causes of post-coital tristesse are not studied very well, so no one can tell you precisely why you may feel sad, regretful, or agitated after sex.
  • The hormonal shift is often blamed for causing the post-coital blues. And it is very much plausible. During intercourse, a cocktail of hormones just overwhelms your body. Those hormones make you feel good and pleased. When they reach the peak levels – an orgasm, they get suppressed by the prolactin hormone to restore the hormonal balance. The drop in feel-good hormones leads to a sudden change of mood, which manifests itself in post-sex dysphoria.
  • Strict upbringing can also result in the post-sex blues. During the act itself, people are in a trans-like state, they dismiss all the limitations and totally give in to the passion. But when the euphoria fades out, they begin to analyze what has just happened. They experience the so-called pangs of conscience and guilt for their “sinful” deed.
  • Make-up sex can be especially passionate, but if the problem wasn’t solved, the wave of passion may change into the wave of anger and regret. In the middle of an argument, two loving partners can get so excited that they cannot but start making out. postcoital dysphoria in menThey feel great during the process, as hormones do their work, but immediately after that, they realize that the issue they started a fight over is still there. And this fact may be responsible for the after-sex sadness and depression.
  • The context of a sexual act may also be the reason for regretting it afterward. If it was a one-night stand, it may leave with a dubious feeling, and one side of it will be deep regret, perhaps because you didn’t want it but couldn’t resist.
  • Post-coital tristesse emerges even when you have quality sex with the one you really love, your exclusive partner. It happens when you know that you and your partner attach different level of emotionality to the act. You may be trying your best to satisfy her, and she doesn’t respond to your efforts. Or vice versa, you see how diligent she is, but you can’t get enough. As a result, you feel that tristesse afterward.
  • Some past psychological traumas related to sex can trigger post-coital depression. The unhappy experience of rejection or humiliation may impact your current relationship and result in post-coital blues.
  • Poor post-sex communication can be another reason for being down in the dumps, as well as the absence of it. If your partner falls asleep immediately after the deed or complains about the process, it can be quite discouraging, so no wonder you feel low.

There is no unanimity on this issue among psychiatrists and psychologists. Since ancient times there have been different theories and assumptions. The Greek physician Galen claimed in 150 CE that post-sex depression is experienced by every animal except for women and roosters. Sigmund Freud explained this state through the prism of his postulate of people’s desire for death.

Freud believed that the physiology of the sexual intercourse is controlled by a person’s psychology, that is one’s subconscious. According to Freud, our libido is defined by our unconscious. The unconscious is something that makes us unique individuals, predetermines our preferences and reactions. For example, the fact that some men are more attracted to women’s butt, some are more excited looking at women’s breasts is predetermined by the unconscious.

Apart from sexual desire, there is another driving force – aggression or, in Freud’s terminology, “death drive”. According to his theory sex is part of the death drive. As you may have already guessed, excitation is the emergence of energy, the sexual act itself is the life of energy, and an orgasm is its death. In our psychic reality, the end of sex is always viewed as a kind of loss. All people on a subconscious level experience post-sex sadness. The way we deal with it shows how we embrace the idea of finiteness. Sex is like reading an interesting book: we don’t want it to end and feel a bit frustrated when we finish reading it.

Postcoital dysphoria symptoms

Post-sex dysphoria can last from several minutes to several hours. Your partner may not even notice that you’re going through the post-sex depression, because this is a very individual experience that happens on the inside. Here are some examples of how men describe their post-coital sadness:

  • “Right after sex, I want to be left alone. I want some privacy.”
  • “I feel unemotional and devastated.”
  • “I feel unsatisfied, irritable, and very anxious.”
  • “I don’t want my girlfriend to notice my post-sex depression, so I do my best to conceal what I feel inside.”
  • “I love my partner and I like our sex, but sometimes I feel so sad and devastated after intercourse I nearly cry.”

postcoital dysphoria symptomsThere is even such a phenomenon as postorgasmic illness syndrome. It manifests itself in fatigue, fever, irritability, sweating, cognitive disturbances, such as memory or concentration problems, headache, visual impairment, etc. This syndrome was first discovered in 2002, and since then 50 cases have been registered. According to the specialists, the main cause of this condition is an autoimmune disease or allergy. Tests showed that 29 out of 33 patients experienced an allergic reaction to their own semen injected into their shoulders. It’s also assumed that it can be the result of a certain chemical imbalance in the patient’s brain.

Postcoital dysphoria treatment

It has been established that the couples who talk after sex, hug, kiss, and verbalize their satisfaction from the act, have more quality sex and relationships. It shows that the post-sex period is extremely important for building an emotional bond.

The best post coital dysphoria treatment is a frank conversation about your normal behavior after sex. Some people like to cuddle right after an orgasm, they want to maintain that strong connection they have just experienced. For some people, it’s necessary to talk after sex to feel the bond. However, for some, a normal reaction is to be quiet and have a moment of melancholy. You should discuss with your partner your normal behavior after sex in order to prevent any misunderstanding.

Psychological and organic problems aside, even the best sex is a big stress for the body, that’s why some dysphoric reactions are quite natural: someone quickly falls asleep, someone wants to be alone for a while, someone feels the need to cry. Post-coital dysphoria is not considered a disorder if it happens very seldom and doesn’t cause much trouble.

The reason for a bad mood after sex may be some current problem within a couple: a conflict, argument, suspicion of cheating. In this case, dysphoria wears off by itself, though the couple need to have a frank conversation about their relationship. However, there is the chance that the other partner will not understand the problem of the partner with dysphoria or will take the confession personally and take offense. And this, in its turn, may cause a range of sexual problems. Even sexologists find it difficult to establish the real cause of dysphoric feelings and their consequences.

If a person who experiences post-sex depression shares their problem with their partner, and the partner reacts to it as to some kind of deviation, this person begins to feel defective. All this leads to serious problems. A person may decide to avoid sex at all in order not to face condemnation again.

Yet, keeping the problem to oneself can harm the relationship as well. It undermines the trust between the partners, they begin to avoid each other, and this eventually may result in a breakup. That’s why it’s vital to discuss with your partner their dysphoric experiences. The most important part is to know how to do it right.

The main rule of effective communication is to talk about you and your feelings. Tell your partner that you don’t know why but it happens to you sometimes. If your partner has nothing to do with it, you can directly ask her to behave in this or that way (ignore, leave the room, etc.).

Final recommendations

In general, if you experience post-coital dysphoria only sometimes, and it doesn’t affect your life, then relax – you’re totally okay, you don’t need any post-coital tristesse treatment. If you feel that negative experiences after sex bother you and affect the relationship with your partner, discuss it with your loved one. However, if you couldn’t manage it on your own, visit a good psychologist that will help you figure out the real reason for your post-intimacy depression.

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