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What is Postcoital Dysphoria? Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Sex is an enjoyable activity and is generally most rewarding for its participants. But this is not always the case, since on certain occasions it is possible to experience feelings of anguish, sadness or restlessness after sexual activity. This is known as postcoital dysphoria.

If at any time you have seen yourself in this position, do not be alarmed, since it is not an uncommon condition. However, it will be necessary to analyze its causes in depth to prevent the problem from becoming chronic.

The sexual sphere is an important part of people’s health and the dynamics of relationships. It is often linked to other areas of life in a bidirectional way, so that personal problems tend to affect sexual activity just as sexual dysfunctions influence general well-being.

For this reason, although difficulties of this nature are usually hidden by guilt or shame, it is important to address them in order to achieve personal well-being.

What is postcoital dysphoria?

Postcoital dysphoria is also known as post-sex depression. However, it is not a depression itself, but the presence of negative emotions, such as sadness, anxiety or nostalgia at the end of sexual activity. These sensations can last from a few minutes to several hours.

These emotions can appear after sexual intercourse or after masturbation and affect men and women of any age. Likewise, it is not necessary that the sexual relationship has been unsatisfactory. This dysphoria can occur even after consensual, desired and enjoyed encounters.

In general, at the end of sexual activity, feelings of relaxation and well-being are usually experienced. However, in this case there is a dysfunction in the resolution phase of the sexual response cycle. By the same token, emotions are then disturbing and unpleasant.

It is a condition that occurs frequently sporadically. Approximately 41% of men and 46% of women claim to have experienced it at some time in their lives, according to various studies.

For the most part, this is of little consequence and is usually a temporary situation. However, when postcoital dysphoria appears on a regular basis, it is important to analyze what may be happening.

What are the causes?

The causes of postcoital dysphoria are still not entirely clear. There is no sufficiently solid scientific evidence in this regard. However, the main theory states that it is related to the biochemical processes involved in the sexual response.

Bear in mind that during orgasm large amounts of hormones are released that generate well-being. Furthermore, during this process two important brain areas are deactivated: the frontal lobe and the amygdala (involved in reasoning and in primitive emotions such as anxiety respectively).

Thus, after orgasm, the body returns to the base level and this can trigger negative emotions. In addition, there are several hypotheses that can complement the previous one regarding the origin of postcoital dysphoria:

  • The people with an overly rigid or religious education can maintain dysfunctional beliefs about sex. By associating it with sin, guilt or shame, they can lead to the onset of this postcoital depression.
  • Those who have suffered rape or sexual abuse of any kind are more predisposed to experiencing these negative emotions related to the sexual act.
  • Sometimes, postcoital dysphoria appears because a deep enough connection with the sexual partner is not maintained. Or, in other words, because we are not physically or emotionally ready to have those kinds of casual relationships.
  • Relationship problems can also influence this event. Intimacy can make us more aware of conflicts, grudges or dissatisfactions that, when they come to light, generate sadness or anguish.

Treatment of postcoital dysphoria

As we discussed earlier, if postcoital dysphoria appears sporadically, there is no need to worry. Generally, it is something temporary that is resolved without the need for professional attention. On the other hand, if it is a frequent problem, the treatment will be aimed at solving the causes that are at the origin.

Thus, after ruling out the existence of any organic alteration, personal beliefs regarding sex will have to be reviewed. If this is considered taboo or thoughts of guilt or shame are held, it will be necessary to restructure those beliefs.

On the other hand, if abuse has been experienced, it may be necessary to work on them in psychotherapy so that they stop interfering with current functioning. In the same way, if there are couple problems, joint therapy can be very positive in solving those conflicts.

In general, it is recommended that the interaction does not end after orgasm. That is, that both members of the couple spend a few minutes caressing, hugging or continuing to share a bond beyond sex.

How to deal with postcoital dysphoria

First of all, if you are experiencing postcoital dysphoria, allow yourself to feel that sadness and ask yourself where it comes from. Many times we know each other better than we think, but we are simply afraid to listen to ourselves.

Finally, if you consider it necessary, do not hesitate to seek professional support from your trusted doctor or psychologist: sex is also health.

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