Post-Coital Dysphoria (PCD) also commonly known as ‘Post-Sex Blues’ is a term that many people may be unaware of, but unfortunately, a lot of them experience it. So, what is Post-Coital Dysphoria? Broadly, PCD refers to an individual experiencing one or more than one of the unpleasant emotions such as sadness, anxiety, irritability, agitation, feeling teary, etc., after consented an enjoyable sexual activity. This can happen after sexual intercourse or even self-pleasure like masturbation. Often, both partners in a situation like this could face difficulty and are left with thoughts of wondering why something like this would occur. At times, they may assume having an ‘internal issue’ and relate that to be the cause for the observed emotional response.
Prevalence and Causes of PCD
There has not been sufficient research on PCD as yet but some studies conducted have given insight into the prevalence and common causes of it. Typically, causes for PCD could be a history of sexual abuse, anxiety (anxiety-related mental health conditions could be associated with low moods and/ or certain behavioral problems), postnatal depression (hormonal fluctuations that occur after childbirth could cause low moods, etc.), or other factors. A study utilized an anonymous online questionnaire to examine the prevalence and correlates of PCD among an international sample including 1,208 male participants, and PCD was found to be associated with their current psychological distress, childhood sexual abuse, and other several sexual dysfunctions. (Maczkowiack J, Schweitzer RD (July 2018). “Postcoital Dysphoria: Prevalence and Correlates among Males” (PDF). Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy). The same study also reported that among the international sample including 1,208 male participants, 41% reported experiencing PCD in their lifetime and 20.2% reported experiencing PCD in the previous four weeks. Between 3% and 4% of the sample reported experiencing PCD on a regular basis. With respect to symptoms in women, one study involved an epidemiological survey of post-coital psychological symptoms in a United Kingdom population sample of female twins: it found that 3.7% of these women reported suffering from recent PCT and 7.7% of them reported suffering PCT for a long time (Burri, Andrea V.; Spector, Tim D. (1 June 2011). “An Epidemiological Survey of Post-Coital Psychological Symptoms in a UK Population Sample of Female Twins”. Twin Research and Human Genetics).
Another study reported that almost half of female university students reported PCD symptoms at least once in their lifetime. The study also reported that there appeared to be no correlation between PCD and intimacy in close relationships (Schweitzer, Robert D.; O’Brien, Jessica; Burri, Andrea (December 2015). “Postcoital Dysphoria: Prevalence and Psychological Correlates”. Sexual Medicine).
Although scientists and researchers have not yet been able to find the primary cause for why PCD occurs, they have proposed some broadly defined theories for it such as (a) past sexual abuse affects their current sexual intimacy, (b) relationship issues, (c) sexual intimacy causes an intense bonding so breaking that bond causes extreme low moods, (d) a combination of personal and other factors.
Coping with and Treating Post-Coital Dysphoria (PCD)
Addressing and managing Post-Coital Dysphoria (PCD) is crucial for the well-being of both the affected individual and their partner. Here are some steps to cope with and treat PCD effectively:
- Acknowledge the issue: Recognizing and accepting that PCD is a genuine problem can be the first step toward finding a solution. It is essential to understand that experiencing negative emotions after sexual intimacy does not necessarily mean there’s something inherently wrong with you or your relationship.
- Open communication: Sharing your feelings and experiences with your partner can be helpful in creating a supportive and understanding environment. Being open about the emotional challenges faced during PCD can help both partners work together to find ways to cope and address the issue.
- Seek professional help: Consulting with therapists, psychologists, or certified sex therapists is highly recommended for individuals or couples dealing with PCD. These professionals can help identify and address the underlying causes of PCD, which may include past trauma, personal issues, or relationship problems.
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT is a form of psychotherapy that focuses on identifying and changing negative thought patterns and behaviors. It can be particularly helpful in addressing the emotional and cognitive aspects of PCD by helping individuals recognize and challenge unhelpful thoughts related to sexual experiences.
- Mindfulness and relaxation techniques: Practices such as mindfulness meditation, deep breathing exercises, and progressive muscle relaxation can help individuals manage stress and anxiety, which may be contributing factors to PCD. Incorporating these techniques into daily life can promote emotional well-being and resilience.
- Focus on emotional intimacy: Building emotional intimacy with your partner through non-sexual activities, such as cuddling, deep conversations, and shared hobbies, can help strengthen the bond between partners and create a supportive environment to address PCD.
- Create a post-sex ritual: Developing a calming and comforting routine after sexual activity can help alleviate some of the negative emotions associated with PCD. This ritual might include cuddling, affirming words of love, or engaging in a relaxing activity together.
- Be patient and persistent: Overcoming PCD may require time and consistent effort. It is essential to be patient with yourself and your partner and maintain open communication and support throughout the process.
PCD can be a very distressing issue to deal with, for the individual experiencing it and also for the other partner. It can make individuals/ couples lose interest in sexual intimacy, feel frustrated, feel like “something is wrong with me”, feel demotivated, feel helpless, etc. There have been couples who have reported their relationship bond had taken a ‘hit’ due to these issues. It makes them feel unhopeful of future relationships. But the good news is that this can be treated.
If anyone may be suffering from this, I would strongly advise him/ her/ a couple to consult with a therapist. The therapist would greatly help in resolving, if, any past trauma or personal and relationship issues, etc. Therapy also will help in developing certain communication strategies (expressing, listening, discussing) that should greatly help overcome the issue.
Author Bio: Anoush Gomes, a trailblazing writer and healthcare advocate at Allo Health, combines empathy, wit, and charisma to create engaging content that simplifies complex medical concepts and inspires readers to prioritize their well-being. With a background in Biomedical Sciences and journalism, Anoush has contributed to various health publications, becoming a beloved storyteller with a loyal following. Their passion for preventive medicine and holistic wellness drives them to empower individuals through informative and entertaining articles. Anoush Gomes is a force to be reckoned with in the health writing community, consistently breaking barriers and redefining the role of health writers in the modern age.