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What you need to know:
- According to Freud, when a person is inside you and vice versa, it makes you feel connected to that person. And when sex ends, nature reminds you that you are alone. The feeling of togetherness vanishes and loneliness sets in leading you to feel melancholic.
- The good thing is that post-coital sadness is rarely so bad as to require treatment. Just by cuddling after sex, the sad feelings can go in a few minutes. So as much as you feel like pushing your partner away, allow him to hold you and cuddle you.
For some reason, some women feel sad after sex, even to the point of crying. At the sexology clinic, we have been fielding calls from women who express concern about feeling melancholic after sex.
“I never fail to cry after sex with my husband of 10 years. I feel overwhelmed with emotion after the act. Is this normal?” posed one caller.
“I feel empty, like something important has been taken away from me and lost forever. It is an awful feeling,” said yet another.
These women are not alone. In fact, a recent study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found that 46 per cent of women feel sad, anxious and become aggressive immediately after lovemaking. This is usually referred to as post-coital dysphoria, post-coital tristesse, post-coital depression or melancholy post-coitus. This phenomenon is as old as the hills and is marked by strong feelings of sorrow, anxiety, uneasiness or even a deep sense of loss. It starts as soon as ejaculation or orgasm happens or when a bout of sex ends, and can last for up to two hours.
The women who called the sexology clinic with this problem wanted to know if it was normal, what caused it and if there was anything they could do about it.
“I feel sorry for my husband. I get aggressive and push him away while insulting him after sex,” said one caller, adding that she was worried that it was abnormal and that her husband probably thought that she did not love him.
Indeed, post-coital sadness can seem abnormal because sex is supposed to elicit feelings of elation, satisfaction and the desire to cuddle and get closer to your partner. However, this sadness is real and it is important for you and your partner to understand its biological basis so that you know how to handle it. At the height of sexual excitement, the hormone dopamine takes control of your body.
You literally stop thinking and the forces of nature take over to ensure that the sex act continues to completion. When sex ends, another hormone, prolactin, is released to reverse the effects of dopamine so that you regain control of yourself. Unfortunately, prolactin also affects your mood, leading to sadness and the other symptoms of post-coital dysphoria. In addition, the euphoria of sex makes people make irrational promises.
You may confess non-existent love and promise to take your lover to the moon or cross the oceans for them. The moment sex ends, reality hits you. You realise you made promises you cannot honour and become anxious. This anxiety worsens post-coital sadness.
Freud, the famous psychoanalyst and sex researcher, explained post-coital sadness in relation to the solitary nature of human existence. According to Freud, when a person is inside you and vice versa, it makes you feel connected to that person. And when sex ends, nature reminds you that you are alone. The feeling of togetherness vanishes and loneliness sets in leading you to feel melancholic.
Another explanation for melancholy after sex is that women who suffered sex abuse as children feel awful after sex because it serves as a reminder of that depressing violation. Other women are afraid of contracting disease, but this does not come to mind at the height of sexual excitement; this fear only sets in when sex is over.
There are also relationship fears that are dampened during sexual excitement, only to be reawakened after the excitement dies down. You begin to ask yourself whether you made a mistake to give yourself over to your sexual partner and you are afflicted with many other doubts about his intentions. Some women also worry that a new sex partner may consider them loose or perverted.
They worry about their reputation and what would happen if people got to know that they were having sex.
Culture and religion similarly contribute to post-coital sadness. It crosses your mind when sex is over that you have sinned; that you could actually be rejected by your faith and lose all the benefits of your relationship with God.
It is then that you also remember the ideals of your family and what your mother warned you about. These thoughts can be traumatising, making post-coital sadness a gloomy reality.
The good thing is that post-coital sadness is rarely so bad as to require treatment. Just by cuddling after sex, the sad feelings can go in a few minutes. So as much as you feel like pushing your partner away, allow him to hold you and cuddle you. Sharing your fears and feelings with your partner can also help alleviate the short-lived misery.
In the rare instances where the symptoms are unbearable, seeking medical care including psychotherapy, counselling and use of medication, may be necessary.