You’ve just had great sex with your boyfriend. You've been together for three years and you're very much in love with each other.
And even though you enjoy sex with him, there's something you've noticed: sometimes you feel pretty low afterwards. It only lasts half an hour or so, but there's no mistaking the wave of sadness that washes over you.
And it can be pretty disconcerting for your boyfriend. Sex is supposed to make you happy – has he done something wrong?
The medical name for this scenario is ‘post-coital dysphoria’. It means you feel depressed, anxious, agitated, or even tearful after sex.
But surely most women curl up in a fuzz of cosy bliss after sex, don’t they? Australian psychology researcher Dr Robert Schweitzer got curious when he kept hearing about women therapy clients who said they cried after making love.
They’d describe the emotion as 'feeling hollow' or having a 'black hole open up inside'. Some compared the feeling to 'homesickness' or a 'yearning for something which was missing'.
So just how common is the post-sex blues? Few people had ever really asked, it seems. Dr Schweitzer decided he'd take it upon himself to learn more about what was going on.
Along with two colleagues, he found 195 female university students who were willing to fill in online questionnaires about their sex lives and relationships. They were also asked if 'inexplicable tearfulness or sadness' after sexual intercourse had been a problem at some point in their lives or over the past four weeks.
It's not you darling – it's the post-coital dysphoria.
It turns out that nearly half the women in the study sometimes got the post-sex blues. No less than 46 per cent said they'd felt sad after intercourse at some point in their lives, Dr Schweitzer found. And for one in twenty, it had been a problem in the past four weeks.
When Dr Schweitzer took a closer look at the data he learned that the women who’d experienced sadness after sex were also a little more likely to have some sexual problems, like difficulty getting aroused or reaching orgasm.
But more studies are needed before researchers know for sure if the post-sex blues is really related to sexual dysfunction.
The study also found that feeling bummed after sex didn’t seem to have much to do with the relationships these women were in – women with loving, long-term partners were just as likely to feel sad after sex as women who weren’t in a committed relationship.
What causes some women to feel down in the dumps after they have sex? Researchers are still trying to figure that out. It likely has to do with a mix of reasons, they say, both biological and psychological.
For example, the hormones released when you’re sexually intimate with a partner or have an orgasm might be involved. But there’s also a huge emotional release after intercourse, which could lead to post-sex sadness.
Researchers need to find out if post-coital dysphoria is an issue for women of other ages and backgrounds. But for now, what they do know is that the post-sex blues seems to more common than previously thought.
So if you find yourself teary-eyed after sex, it’s not just you, it’s a thing. And guys… it doesn’t mean she’s sobbing over the sorry state of your sexual performance. She just needs a hug.
Reference: Postcoital Dysphoria: Prevalence and Psychological Correlates (2015), Robert D Schweitzer PhD, Jessica O'Brien MA (Clin Psy.) and Andrea Burri PhD; The Prevalence and Correlates of Postcoital Dysphoria in Women (2011), Brian S. Bird, Robert D. Schweitzer, Donald S. Strassberg