A new study published in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy has revealed that feeling “down” instead of “up” after sex is also commonly experienced by men, not just women. This is known as post-coital dysphoria or the “post-sex blues”.
It’s previously been found to be prevalent in women, but scientific research has not recognised it as affecting men. The study conducted by Queensland University researchers surveyed men from Australia, the UK, the US, Russia, New Zealand and Germany.
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The study found that 41% of the participants had experienced post-coital dysphoria in the four weeks before doing the survey. Four percent of those said they experienced it on a regular basis. Some of the feelings the men reported were feeling emotionless and empty. “I don’t want to be touched and want to be left alone” and “I feel unsatisfied, annoyed and very fidgety. All I really want is to leave and distract myself from everything I participated in,” was also common.
Does this sound like you? We chatted to Dr Eugene Viljoen. He’s a clinical psychologist and sexologist, President of the Southern African Sexual Health Association and a worldwide lecturer and advisor. Here’s everything you need to know about post-coital dysphoria.
What exactly is post-coital dysphoria?
“After sex one might want to feel invigorated and boosted. But some people feel the opposite, being agitated, argumentative, anxious, depressed or just plainly upset after sex. This has nothing to do with the subjective feeling about the quality of consensual sex. The emotions run wild in a negative way and the person would wonder why they feel so bad (distressed) after sex, without being able to describe a single contributing factor,” said Dr Viljoen.
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What are the symptoms?
“The primary symptoms are described as feeling depressed. A negative emotional reaction follows the orgasm, without specific reasons for the depressed mood. It is possible that it may linger for a number of days after the sexual event.”
What is the cause of it?
“Although according to research studies, it seems as if more woman might suffer from this, men may also have the condition. The real reasons are not yet fully understood. But it seems as if the neurotransmitters in the area of the brain responsible for the feel good effect, do not function in the normal expected ways. Childhood sexual abuse may play a role as well in triggering negative emotions suffered during the initial trauma and bringing back old bad memories,” explains Dr Viljoen.
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When speaking to The Independent, co-author of the Australian study, Robert Schweitzer had this to say:
“If we are to extrapolate from what we know about Post-Coital Depression [PCD] in women, we would propose a biopsychosocial model, as there seems to be a range of factors including genetic susceptibility, possible hormonal factors and potentially, psychological factors which we do not understand at this time.”
Does it say something about my sex life or my partner?
“We don’t think it is about the relationship, but something more complex,” said the study’s co-author Joel Maczkowiack. And Dr Viljoen echoes this, “The fact that you feel like this after sex, unless you can contribute the reasons to specific factors of what makes you sad at the moment, does not have a direct link with how well you are perceived as a lover.
“The post-orgasmic blues are bigger than mere disappointment and more painful than outright embarrassment. It is a legitimate medical condition which will need medical intervention.”
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How do I talk to my partner about it?
“Like any sexual issue, involvement of the partner is crucial. If she would see you being sad after sex, she might immediately think you find her to be a disappointment in bed, or not good enough. Even if you want to disguise the feelings, she might be able to pick up on the sadness and make her own deductions,” said Dr Viljoen.
“This might lead to conflict and making the situation worse. Talk to her about your feelings. Assure her it has nothing to do with the quality of your sexual relationship. Ask for her support and visit a sexologist who might be able to help you with the condition.”
What if my partner doesn’t understand?
Dr Viljoen says that it would be a sad affair if the partner does not want to understand the situation. “This might depend on the partners own psychological issues and emotional maturity. If the partner would not open herself to understand the condition, the relationship might be in danger due to a lack of support and understanding.”
But Maczkowiack has said post-coital dysphoria could potentially cause distress to not only the individual, but to the partner, too. This is because kissing, talking and cuddling after sex are known to boost intimacy and create a bond.
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“The negative affective state which defines PCD has potential to cause distress to the individual, as well as the partner, disrupt important relationship processes, and contribute to distress and conflict within the relationship, and impact upon sexual and relationship functioning,” he said.
The good news? Another 2015 study on women and PCD found that there was no relationship between post-coital dysphoria and intimacy in close relationships.
What can I do about feeling sad after sex?
According to Dr Viljoen, this is not a condition that would get better after time doing nothing. “It might even get worse if you ignore the symptoms, due to developing anxiety prior to intercourse about the possible emotional feelings afterwards.
“See a sexual health specialist who would prescribe medication for the mood disorder. It would also be important to get some counselling in conjunction with the medication, as the medication in itself can produce side effects not ideal for successful intercourse.”
This article was originally published on www.mh.co.za
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