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Postcoital dysphoria: symptoms, causes and treatment

Postcoital dysphoria: symptoms, causes and treatment

July 15, 2022

Sex is an activity that for the great majority of people is pleasurable, being a desirable and satisfactory experience under normal conditions. Usually we enjoy the whole process and once the interaction is over and when we reach orgasm, a feeling of relaxation and satisfaction usually appears.

However, in some people there are feelings of sadness and anguish after the orgasm, which may appear what is known as postcoital dysphoria or post-coitus depression . It is about this concept that we are going to talk about throughout this article.

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What is postcoital dysphoria?

It receives the name of postcoital dysphoria or post-coitus depression to the syndrome characterized by the presence of sensations and feelings of sadness, melancholy and discomfort subsequent to the moment of orgasm. Anxiety, feelings of emptiness, restlessness, restlessness and irritability may also appear. Is about a situation that usually appears after having a sexual relationship , although it can also appear after masturbation.


Technically, it is considered a sexual dysfunction linked to the resolution phase, being a diagnostic label proposed for investigation with a view to a possible incorporation in different diagnostic classifications. However, the diagnosis would only be possible if the dysphoria appeared in the majority of sexual relations (not being a disorder if its appearance was something punctual and sporadic) and as long as it was not explainable by other disorders .

It is important to keep in mind that this sensation is not the product of an unsatisfactory sexual relationship, which may be entirely pleasurable for both parties and desired by the person who feels this dysphoria. Post-coitus depression (rather a sadness, not really being a depression) usually appears either immediately or shortly after orgasm and usually disappears in minutes , although it can arrive even several days.


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Who suffers?

This type of syndrome is not new, there are references to it since ancient times. Although it has traditionally been considered that postcoital dysphoria is something specific for women of a certain age, the truth is that it can appear in both sexes and at any age. Apparently it is more frequent in the female sex, although in general there have been few studies done with men in this sense.

Although it is usually an unrecognized syndrome, recent studies show that it is much more frequent than is believed, varying the percentage of affected according to the study. In addition, postcoital dysphoria may not always be present and it is normal to appear at specific times sporadically, being only a problem when it occurs consistently over time. In some cases, it has been observed that practically half of the participants have recognized having suffered at some time in their lives.


Symptoms and repercussions

Postcoital dysphoria is as we said something little socially recognized, and can have an impact on the sexual life of those who suffer from it. Often his presence is lived with discomfort and guilt on the part of the person who experiences it, considering that he should feel satisfied and not understanding his own reactions. A possible fear of the existence of couple conflicts may also develop, or even an avoidance of sexual contact may appear. It is also a situation that, as in other sexual dysfunctions, is often hidden and lived with shame.

Likewise, the sexual partner may come to feel little competent or unwelcome to the reactions of their partner, and there could also be real conflicts and other sexual dysfunctions such as aversion to sex.

Possible causes

Since ancient times, an attempt has been made to give an explanation to the appearance of sexual dysphoria, both at the level of its punctual appearance and in the face of its consistent appearance.

One of the theories in this regard refers to the causes of this alteration are mainly neurochemical: after the orgasm certain hormones are released that counteract those responsible for sexual pleasure, appearing sadness and low mood as a result of this regulation. In this same sense it has been observed that at the biological level the amygdala (which is linked to anxiety and fear among other emotions) decreases its activity during intercourse, and dysphoria can appear as consequence of the reactivation of this part of the brain .

Another theory, which is also compatible with the previous one, indicates that the appearance of postcoital dysphoria may be linked to the influence of a restrictive and religious education, in which the idea of ​​sex and enjoyment and sexual pleasure may have been internalized as something sinful or criminalized.

Another option is derived from the experience of traumatic situations such as child sexual abuse or violations, unconsciously associating the enjoyment of a normative and consensual relationship with the one lived during the abusive experience and appearing sadness, anguish and even disgust with the current enjoyment.

There are also theories that speak of sadness as the emotions of sadness and discomfort are due to the end of the act of union with the couple. There may also be the possibility that the sadness is due to the presence of couple difficulties or the consideration that the relationship is based or sustained only in sex.

Treatment

At the level of the person and his partner it is recommended that the orgasm is not the end of all interaction between the members of the couple, being able to enjoy activities such as caressing or hugging unless this generates discomfort or discomfort to the person with dysphoria. It is about generating a link after the sexual encounter . In any case, if it is common, it may be useful to consult a psychologist or a sexologist.

Although not usual, postcoital dysphoria may require psychological treatment. First it is necessary to assess the possible existence of organic alterations . In the event that there are traumatic experiences, these could be worked in consultation. Likewise, the presence of guilt or consideration regarding sex may need to be worked on. In case it is necessary or due to a couple conflict, it can be useful to use couples therapy and sexual therapy to favor.

Bibliographic references:

  • Schweitzer, R.D., O'Brien, J., & Burri, A. (2015). Postcoital dysphoria: Prevalence and psychological correlates. Sex Med, 3: 229-237.
  • Burri, A.V. & Spector, T.D. (2011). An epidemiological survey of post-coital psychological symptoms in a UK population sample of female twins. Twin Res Hum Genet, 14: 240-248.

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