Ever Feel Sad After Sex? You Might Have Post-Coital Dysphoria
What Are the Post-Sex Blues? Here’s How To Deal With This Common Issue
After sex, some people feel a sense of euphoria, relaxation, and closeness to their partner. But that’s not the case for everyone.
According to a 2019 study, almost half of men report feeling sad, distant, or irritable after sex. This is often called “post-coital dysphoria” (PCD), or the post-sex blues. But why does it happen? And are there ways to treat it?
First things first: PCD is nothing to be ashamed of. As previously noted, it’s super common. More importantly, experts say it’s nothing to worry about, and often just goes away on its own with time.
That said, if this condition is negatively impacting your sex life, relationship, or overall mental well-being, know that there are things you can do to cope — starting with pinpointing what’s driving your PCD.
Here’s what to know about the common signs and causes of PCD, and how to treat it.
What Are the Signs of Post-Coital Dysphoria?
Experts say PCD can manifest in different ways. You may be experiencing this condition if you feel any of the following after sex:
These feelings may set in immediately after sex, or up to an hour or two after you finish.
Depending on personality and history, a person experiencing PCD may start crying or seem easily annoyed, says Dr. Carla Marie Manly, a clinical psychologist and relationship expert.
“Some people with PCD may feel the need to leave the room or the situation altogether,” she explains.
What Causes Post-Coital Dysphoria?
A 2019 study found that PCD is linked to:
- Psychological distress
- Childhood sexual abuse
- Sexual dysfunctions
If you’ve had traumatic sexual experiences or are currently dealing with sexual dysfunction, then intimate situations can trigger all kinds of negative emotions — like fear or shame.
There are many other possible causes, too.
Since you have higher levels of the feel-good chemical dopamine during sex, your body releases the hormone prolactin afterward to bring you back to your baseline.
In other words, you go from a major high to a sudden crash. According to Tufts University, that post-coital drop in dopamine may contribute to a low mood or other symptoms of PCD.
“A history of depression, anxiety, or trauma can certainly aggravate PCD or increase the likelihood of it,” adds Manly.
“For example,” she explains, “if a person is already sad or depressed, the feelings can be magnified if the sexual intimacy was not connective or fulfilling. As well, if other stressors such as arguments, financial unrest, body issue images, etc. are at play these issues can be exacerbated given the vulnerability involved in sexual intimacy.”
How PCD Can Impact Your Sex Life & Relationship
“Post-coital dysphoria is unlikely to have a major impact on your sexual and romantic life if it’s experienced rarely,” says Dr. Justin Lehmiller, a social psychologist, research fellow at The Kinsey Institute and founder of Sex & Psychology. “However, if it’s a common occurrence, it can potentially be distressing — especially if you have a partner who does not understand it or takes it personally, in which case it may become a source of conflict.”
According to Manly, PCD can create ongoing feelings of disconnection, particularly if your partner notices that you seem cold or distant after sex.
Bisbey notes that PCD can also lead you to avoid sex and the negative feelings associated with it. Over time, this avoidance can begin to take a toll on your overall intimacy and relationship satisfaction.
“You may choose to use pornography instead of intimacy with a partner as solo sex often feels emotionally safer due to the lack of vulnerability,” adds Manly. “Over time, unaddressed PCD can actually tear a relationship apart due to the lack of emotional and sexual intimacy.”
How to Treat Post-Coital Dysphoria
If PCD is something you only experience once in a while, Lehmiller says it’s nothing to worry about.
“Psychologists think this may be a normal variation that sometimes happens following sex and that we shouldn’t pathologize it,” he explains.
On the other hand, if PCD is a persistent issue for you, and is triggering feelings of anxiety or depression, or negatively impacting your sex life or relationship, Lehmiller suggests consulting with a sex therapist. A licensed provider may be able to help you get to the root cause of the issue, whether it’s related to a mood disorder, an underlying sexual dysfunction, or a history of trauma.
Bisbey notes that it can also be helpful to tell your doctor about your symptoms of PCD, as they can help rule out any physical health issues that may be causing it.
While psychotherapy can be tremendously helpful, Manly notes that there are many other ways to address PCD — such as through support groups, self-help books, or journaling.
Manly also highly recommends being open and honest with your partner about the symptoms you’re experiencing. By openly discussing your feelings before, during, or after sex, you’re giving your partner an opportunity to be more supportive and accommodating.
“When partners work together to face PCD and address the issues with compassion, the relationship can actually become stronger and more loving,” adds Manly.
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