Have you ever felt inexplicably sad after sex? Sometimes the sex itself isn’t great (or straight-up terrible) and you feel badly about it and yourself. But these aren’t the only circumstances under which you can feel sad post-sex: You may have had an amazing orgasm with someone you love and trust, yet you feel depressed and hopeless.
It’s very confusing to feel this way. You know it’s exactly the opposite of how you’re supposed to feel. Aren’t you naturally happy after sex? Shouldn’t you be swimming in a sea of dopamine and oxytocin?
But feeling sad after sex is perfectly normal for both men and women. The condition is called post-coital dysphoria (sometimes called sexual dysphoria). We just never hear about it because the only stories that make headlines are the ones about being "love drunk" and all the amazing health benefits of sex.
What causes PCD? We’re not 100 percent sure, but many theorize it’s a combination of the brain’s reaction to the chemicals released during sex along with the way we were socialized to think about sexuality.
Feeling sad after sex will likely happen to nearly every person at some point in their life. But don’t worry, you are seen. You are not some bizarre broken person. None of us are.
We spoke to a clinical sexologist to get some tips on how to best combat this condition. Because no one wants to feel horribly despondent after a wonderful bout in the sack.
Talk about what is happening.
As with everything in relationships, communication is key. It’s important to share these feelings with your partner and to have empathy for one another.
This is not something you need to bear alone, pretending to feel okay when you’re on the verge of tears. Partners have to be there for one another. “Talk about what you are experiencing. Don't feel ashamed or embarrassed that you are experiencing emotions after sex,” says Kristie Overstreet, Ph.D., a clinical sexologist and psychotherapist.
If you don’t talk about it, you’ll wind up resenting your partner or making things worse for yourself. “Talk about what you are experiencing. Holding these emotions in may lead to an increase in your anxiety and/or depression,” Overstreet tells Brides.
Revel in self-care.
“Find a way to give some self-love and appreciation,” Overstreet advises. It’s important to take care of yourself and your well-being. Self-care can be anything that brings you joy: a hot bath, yoga, meditation, bingeing your favorite feel-good show, listening to calming music, or lighting some candles.
If you’re feeling dysphoric after sex, tell your partner you need a little alone time and simply relax by yourself. Let your mind wander. Remind yourself that happiness is everywhere and this feeling will pass.
Free your emotions.
Don’t bottle up everything inside. We know you’re supposed to feel giddy and happy after sex, but if you don’t, be honest with yourself. Do not lie there and pretend everything is fine—just so your partner isn’t worried about you.
Let it OUT. “Let your emotions be free. Don't hold back what you are experiencing and try to hide it,” Overstreet says. “If you want to cry, then cry. Don't try to put on a mask and hide your experience.”
Hiding what you're feeling only makes the bad feelings worse. If you let the emotions out and allow yourself the catharsis of a good cry, you’ll feel better afterward. It’s like opening the tap and letting all the water run out.
Do some journaling.
If you’ve never tried journaling before, now is a great time to start. We often end up inside of our own heads, spinning out of control and spiraling into oblivion. It can be very scary. Overstreet says that writing down what you’re experiencing can help you regain control over your emotions.
It can also be helpful in combating future bouts of dysphoria. “You can go back later to read it and look for any patterns that you may be experiencing,” Overstreet says. “This is a great way to separate if it is post-coital dysphoria or other emotional issues that you may be experiencing.”
If you’re concerned or want outside help, always seek therapy.
See more: When to See a Sex Therapist
Pay attention to your period.
Have you noticed the PCD happens right before or during your period? This won’t always be the case, but for some women, menstruation plays a role. “Keep up with your cycle. Look for any association with this distress around specific times of the months,” Overstreet suggests.
When you’re on your period, your body is awash with hormones and, subsequently, emotions. Often those emotions are overwhelming feelings of sadness or anxiety. If you can determine triggers around PCD, whether it’s your period, during particularly stressful times at work, or when you’re around a certain person, you can work through them and face them head-on.