So you’re in the heat of the moment, you and your partner finally reach climax (of course, at different times realistically) – and it’s nothing short of exhilarating. And then you break down in tears. Wait, that can’t be right… right?
It turns out, you’re not crazy (or alone for that matter). This type of reaction is completely a thing and it’s called postcoital dysphoria (PCD), though it’s not the only unusual and under-researched reaction after sex.
PCD, also known as “post-sex blues”, is the “experience of negative affect characterized by tearfulness, a sense of melancholy or depression, anxiety, agitation, or aggression following sexual intercourse” according to the National Library of Medicine. In a 2015 survey published in the journal Sexual Medicine, 46 percent of 230 female university students reported experiencing PCD symptoms at least once in their lifetime with 5.1 percent experiencing PCD symptoms a few times within the past four weeks. Although there is still much research needed to understand these experiences and their developments, there appears to be no relationship between PCD and intimacy in close relationships. Andrea Burri and her colleagues (authors of the study) predicts that attachment avoidance and insecurity, and fear of loss of sense of self may contribute to PCD.
Despite the not-so-technical name for the emotional response, the sentiment itself is very real. While many people enjoy the aftermath of cuddling or other bonding behaviors with their partner after the fact, there are some who cannot wait to pull away and retreat according to Isadora Alman, a board-certified sexologist and licensed relationship therapist in San Francisco.
“After the intense closeness of sex, a woman or her partner may need to be alone to collect herself, to feel integrated again,” Alman tells Woman’s Day. “Sometimes a woman feels she has given too much of herself and needs to be alone to feel whole again,” she continues. “If she recognizes her need, she can manage to do something about it rather than start a fight or withdraw in what could feel like abandonment to her partner.”
Feelings of bliss
Sex can run the gamut of being pleasurable to feeling… incomplete. Research published in the journal Science, however shows that the quality of your sex does not have to be good or pleasurable in order to make us feel happy. According to Matthew Killingsworth and Daniel Gilbert of Harvard University, happiness arises in the experiences of our bodies in the present moment; when our attention is completely absorbed with our body sense. So although the sex didn’t seem all that great, if you and your partner were engaged fully in the moment sans distractions, this process of deep connection and shared sensation may have spurred a general sense of pure happiness.