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  • EVER CRIED AFTER SEX AND DIDN’T KNOW WHY?: POSTCOITAL DYSPHORIA

     

    You just had some great sex…so how come you feel like crying?  It can be an alarming, scary, and confusing reaction.  You might think, is something wrong with me?  Was it not as good as I thought?  Why am I reacting this way?

    Let me tell you about a little-known occurrence known as postcoital dysphoria, also referred to as postcoital depression, or PD.  This is a phenomenon that occurs after consensual sex in which you may experience sadness and mood swings (more common for women), or unhappiness and fatigue (more commen for men).  Symptoms can include tearfulness, sadness, anxiety and depression, and feeling irritable or unsatisfied.  In a 2020 study by The Journal of Sex Medicine, it was found that 92 percent of women and men experience these feelings after sex (read more here: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1743609519318697).  Most people experience PD at least once in their lifetimes, and, for some, it is a regular occurrence.

    So what causes PD?  Sex leads to some quick chemical changes within our bodies, affecting serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin levels (AKA, the happy chemicals).  We get quick highs, and sometimes, quick lows which can affect the chemicals in our brains, causing us to feel sad and empty when the chemicals drop.  PD can also happen if we have a history of painful past experiences, such as a history of sexual assault or domestic abuse.  It could as well be due to the negative messages we can receive about sex in childhood (i.e., sex is bad, sex should only be for having children, sex shouldn’t be enjoyable).  On top of that, body confidence issues can cause us to have a negative reaction after sex, as well as hormonal changes due to medications, postpartum depression, or childbirth.

    Now that you know what PD is and how it’s caused, the next question is, what can be done about it?  The first step is for you to have self-awareness about what is going on with your thoughts, feelings, and body.  Knowing that this is something a lot of people experience can be validating to us, so consider joining an online support group or reading some blogs about others’ experiences with PD.  Take some deep breaths to regulate what is going on in your body as well, and try to lean into the experience rather than ignore it.  Perhaps consider finding a counselor experienced in treating sexual issues if you think there are some past issues to explore and work out.

    Educate your partner/s about this occurrence, and make them aware of your needs for empathy and validation when this occurs.  Also consider what your needs for aftercare after sex might be – such as needing a snack, water, physical space, physical touch, or listening to music or watching a movie.

    A few notes about PD:  Note that PD occurs after consensual sexual acts only (see my blog on sex needing to be safe, sane, and consensual).  If the sex was not consensual, that is an entirely different matter.

    Also, women cry more often as a symptom of PD, which is said to be because, culturally, men are not generally taught that crying is okay due to crying not being a masculine trait.  However, let me say this loudly for the people in the back: IT IS NOT A SIGN OF WEAKNESS TO SHOW EMOTION.  Don’t forget that experiencing and showing emotion is a sign of intelligence.

    Lastly, PD can be different experiences for different people.  It is not something to panic about by any means.  As I stated, it’s important to be aware and knowledgeable of your needs to cope with PD.

    Well, that’s all for now, thanks for reading!  As always, please feel free to contact me with questions or if you’d like some additional resources on PD.  Have a mindful day, and be well!

    Kristyn Macala, MSEd, LPCC, CCTP, CSOTP

    The Trauma Therapy Company
    (P) 330.397.9878

    1. Anonymous

      Anonymous

      August 10, 2023 at 8:20 pm -
      Reply

      Thank you for your blog post.

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