Satisfying sexual intercourse usually triggers feelings of happiness and a strong sense of togetherness. However, there are also people for whom exactly the opposite effect occurs. This after-sex blues is also known as post-coital dysphoria and can affect women and men alike.
Dreariness after the climax
Postcoital dysphoria is considered a sexual dysfunction and occurs during the relaxation phase after otherwise satisfying consensual intercourse. It is manifested by unexplained sadness, distress, anxiety, and irritability. Affected individuals start crying (seemingly for no reason), are anxious and melancholic. They may even experience some aggression. Other symptoms of post-coital dysphoria may include depression, feelings of shame or self-rejection. Men in particular are affected by the post-coital low mood, but women can also experience a great inner emptiness after sex.
Research into causes not yet complete
Scientists have not yet been able to conclusively clarify the exact causes or triggers for sexual dysphoria. However, various causes are suspected as triggers: During the intimate act of sexual intercourse, many “positive” hormones are released, including adrenaline and noradrenaline in addition to oxytocin. If the hormonal rush ends abruptly, as does the intimacy with the partner, this can lead to a feeling of sadness and emptiness. However, the proving studies are still missing for this as well.
The feeling of a strong emotional-physical connection can also trigger feelings of separation from the partner after the end of intimacy and thus postcoital dysphoria. Furthermore, connections are made with previous sexual abuse, fears of loss or commitment, and also conflicts with social norms, prejudices and myths, and psychological disorders. Often, an idealization of sex and too high expectations of the act itself are also causes of the depressive mood afterwards. For example, those who expect that perfect sex must always include an orgasm or that only a simultaneous climax constitutes perfect sex idealize the sexual act to an unhealthy degree and are unfortunately quickly disappointed.
When is there a need for action?
To put it simply: When the person concerned suffers from post-coital dysphoria, there is already a need for action. Here, even a calmly conducted conversation with the family doctor or a sexologist can have a great effect. Professional help can also be useful, especially if intimacy and thus ultimately the relationship with the partner suffer from negative feelings after sex. Therefore, it is also advisable to confide in your partner and tell him/her about your sadness after sex. Through professional help, those affected can work on escaping the stressful low mood.
Postcoital fatigue must be distinguished from post-coital dysphoria. Do you know it? After sex, your partner is abruptly sleepy, but you’re suddenly broad awake? Men are more affected by abrupt fatigue after sex than women. In a survey of 10,000 British men, 80% of men said they were so relaxed after sex that they dozed off immediately. This was compared to only 46% of women with similar claims. The men don’t do this out of malice, they can hardly help it, because they are sometimes completely exhausted after orgasm. After the climax, the blood sugar level drops drastically and men feel abruptly powerless and lacking in energy. Blood samples taken automatically from men at 2-minute intervals for a total of 40 minutes before and after orgasm showed a rapid drop in adrenaline and noradrenaline after climax, but an increase in the “cuddling and bonding hormone” oxytocin as well as prolactin (Krüger 2003). Comparable data for women also showed an increase in prolactin, but in contrast to the rapid drop in men, also an increase in adrenaline and noradrenaline (Exton 1999). Since epinephrine and norepinephrine have key roles in centrally regulating levels of wakefulness, a drop (men) here is an indicator of relative fatigue and a rise (women) is an indicator of increased wakefulness (Berridge 2012).
Needs are simply different after sex. Talk openly with each other and trust your partner with your desires. This way, there can be no disappointment and everyone can let go completely in their own way!
Berridge CW et al. 2012. Noradrenergic modulation of wakefulness/arousal. In: Sleep Medicine Reviews. 16; 2: 187–197.
Exton MS et al. 1999. Cardiovascular and endocrine alterations after masturbation-induced orgasm in women. In: Psychosomatic Medicine. 61; 3: 280–289.
Gallus S. Postkoitale Dysphorie: Angst, Unruhe und Depressionen nach dem Orgasmus. https://www.medical-tribune.de/medizin-und-forschung/artikel/postkoitale-dysphorie-angst-unruhe-und-depressionen-nach-dem-orgasmus/ Zugriff: 17.2.2020
Krüger TH et al. 2003. Specificity of the neuroendocrine response to orgasm during sexual arousal in men. In: The Journal of Endocrinology. (J Endocrinol) 177; 1: 57–64.