When we think about sex, we usually think about it as something wonderful, something immensely satisfying and liberating. While this is not wrong, this is also not always true. Especially for women. A shocking new study has found that nearly 50 percent of women experience post-sex depression at least once in their lifetime.
The study, which was published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine was conducted by Dr. Robert Schweitzer, who along with his colleagues approached over 230 female university students as a sample and asked them to complete an online survey to determine if they experienced any symptoms of post-coital dysphoria (PCD), or what’s commonly known as “post-sex blues.” According to their report, the symptoms commonly experienced as a result of PCD include anxiety, agitation, aggression, tearfulness, and a sense of melancholy or depression following sexual intercourse. About 46 percent of the women surveyed said they experienced some form of the above symptoms at least once in their lifetime, while five percent said they had experienced it a few times over the past four weeks.
This is truly a shocking and serious conclusion, and something that requires to be discussed more often. These symptoms are experienced by so many women (and even men) without them even realising that this can be part of a larger condition, which might even need medical attention.
So, what is this condition, and how do you know that you have it? The official, scientific name for it is post-coital tristesse, and it is actually a commonly documented phenomenon, dating back to the Roman Empire. Feeling sad, anxious, distressed, aggressive after sex — these are some of the common symptoms like earlier mentioned, and can happen immediately after sex and can last up to two hours after it. The condition is in no way related to the kind of sex you are having; and in fact, can happen even after good sex. Though there is still research going on about what causes the disease, scientists have mostly attributed it to a shift in hormonal balance. After orgasming, the body releases a hormone called prolactin, in order to counteract the release of dopamine, which is the hormone responsible for sexual arousal. So, when the amount of prolactin released is either too less or too excessive, it can lead to post-coital dysphoria.
In 2009, American psychiatrist Richard Friedman investigated possible biological explanations for post-coital dysphoria. He wanted to prove that the phenomenon was, in some cases related to the part of the brain that deals with fear and anxiety. To test his hypothesis, Friedman conducted a somewhat unorthodox experiment. A number of test subjects were given drugs normally used to treat depression, but their anti-depressive qualities didn’t take effect until the medication had been taken for a substantial amount of time, and what it did lead to was a decrease in sexual pleasure. As Friedman found, there was a relationship between the loss of sexual pleasure and a drop in feelings of post-sex sadness.
If people had intensely pleasurable orgasms, they were more likely to experience greater emotional crashes afterward. This is an even more disturbing discovery. As if women’s sexualities weren’t being policed enough, now they are in the constant threat of experiencing dysphoria even when they experience pleasurable orgasms. Although, more recent researchers of the disease say that this correlation is far too simplistic and that the condition is linked to that person’s individual responses to emotional attachments and connections, this is still a cause for major concern.
Since its causes are still so subjective and debatable, the cure is still uncertain. Therapy is one recourse one can pursue, but every person’s receptivity to therapy is subjective, so that is yet another uncertainty.
So what should we be doing to combat it? First of all, talk about it and make people — especially women — aware that this is an actual medical condition, and not something to ignore. Beyond that, we should keep our fingers crossed that more surveys are conducted on how to effectively combat post-sex blues, and that a solution to this problem arises soon.
Sex is not always the blissful, enjoyable activity that is portrayed as in popular media. It can come with serious medical (but not moral) repercussions. So it’s important to know how to be safe, and not just against STIs, but also psychological conditions such as this.