For most couples, sex is supposed to be some kind of fantastic, magical, passionate, and perfect event that brings them close together. In the movies, sex is always a whirlwind of lips and sheets and sounds (oh, my!) that invariably ends in some sort of euphoria with a perfect(-ly-staged) picture of the happy couple after having completed such an intimate bonding experience. For many couples in the real world, however, that’s not how it always goes. If you’re left feeling sad after sex, there might be a reason why…
Post-coital dysphoria, more commonly known as PCD and sometimes as post-coital tristesse (PCT), is a common yet relatively invisible and under-researched phenomenon that many people experience after consensual sex or any kind of sexual interaction. PCD at its base level is pretty much exactly what it sounds like- a sense of sadness after completing sexual acts. It can definitely be more complex than that, however.
PCD doesn’t just create a sense of general sadness, but it can also lead to extreme emotions like aggression, irritability, uncontrollable crying, a feeling of isolation or loneliness, and depressive episodes. PCD is much more common for women than it is for men, but that fact doesn’t serve to minimize the experience of either group. Those who experience it may also experience confusion, asking themselves: Why do I feel like this? They may even downplay or even blame themselves for their symptoms: Nothing is wrong, so I shouldn’t feel this awful. I’m just being a baby.
These are all fallacies.
As with many mental and physical illnesses, PCD can’t always be linked to one specific factor. However, the most common underlying factor for all those affected is the biochemical changes that occurs in the body during sex. Don’t get too overwhelmed, the biochemical change just refers to the rush of emotions that one feels during sex: the adrenaline, the climax, and then, just like when you eat too much sugar, the crash. Sometimes this crash affects people much more intensely than others, and this is what we know as PCD.
There could also be underlying causes not linked to the biochemical rushes experienced by the body, however. Unresolved conflicts between sexual partners and maybe even unrealized tensions could be getting in the way of your euphoria. Sex is, whether wittingly or unwittingly, a physical bonding experience of sorts, but if there’s something outside of the bedroom that’s begun to get in the way of that bonding, then the sex might feel physically satisfying yet emotionally meaningless to some without the rest of the emotional bonding.
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, nearly 46% percent of people surveyed experienced symptoms of PCD at some point in their sexual lives. Of those 46%, 5.1% reported having experienced PCD within the last month. While there is a lack of research on the phenomenon, you can be sure that you’re not alone if you’ve experienced some of these symptoms following sex.
And if you do find yourself struggling with PCD, be open about it with your partner. Chances are, if you’re close enough to be having sex, you’re close enough to be honest and understanding with each other about how you feel afterwards.
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