Hey, ladies: After a roll in the hay, do you find yourself wiping the tears away?
You might have Postcoital Dysphoria (PCD), aka the “post-sex blues,” a self-explanatory condition marked by “tearfulness, a sense of melancholy or depression, anxiety, agitation, or aggression following sexual intercourse.”
In a recent study of 230 college-aged Australian women, 46 percent reported experiencing PCD symptoms at least once in their lives. A much smaller chunk — just 5.1 percent — said they’d gotten the sex sads a few times within the past month. Curiously, the researchers found no link between PCD and intimacy, but they did find a small but statistically significant connection between PCD and sexual function.
Lead study author Robert Schweitzer, a Queensland University psychologist, said in a press release that a larger, multinational study on “negative postcoital emotions” confirmed their original findings. The blues, he says, appear to have evolutionary roots.
Let’s give this study some context. A lot of factors contribute to how we feel after sex. For one, post-nooky feelings might spring from subjective qualities of that specific experience — what was said, what wasn’t said, who’s laying beside you. Or, the opposite may be true. The physiological potency of a good (or bad) bang may very well give rise to very specific feelings following fornication.
It’s also worth noting that, as Salon reported, both men and women are known to get touchy-feely after sex. In evolutionary psych terms, it’s called “pair-bonding activities.” And, regardless of gender, the partner who stays awake longer feels stronger pair-bonding impulses. But, in a different study, those same psychologists found that men — more often than women — want to sleep, eat or pass out once the deed is done.
To explain these seemingly contradictory results, researchers put forth the idea that men have adapted better to suppressing those pillow-talk desires during casual sexual encounters. In other words, sexually savvy Modern Man tolerates no pillow talk. Working against his sensitive nature, he prefers to fuck and flee, literally or figuratively.
Then there’s the tidal wave of hormones that sex ushers in. Euphoria-inducing dopamine, for example, flares during orgasm but tanks afterward. Dopamine depletion is linked to depression, fatigue and anxiety, and individual brain chemistry may make some people more or less vulnerable to the neurochemical high-low. And dopamine is just one of a handful of chemicals that surge or settle down at different points during sex.
Attempting to draw scientific conclusions from such a subjective, wildly unpredictable experience is a tall order.
Going back to the current study, it seems remarkably unremarkable that 46 percent of respondents felt down, anxious or annoyed after some — even just one — sexual encounter. As we just outlined, there are too many possible underlying explanations to describe this as a meaningful finding.
I’m much more interested in the five percent who reported repeated weepiness. I’m also interested to see how this population is eventually approached with a supposed cure. Given the recent debut of Flibanserin, I’m wary of connections being drawn between the blues and sexual dysfunction. As I’ve reported before, Flibanserin was woefully mischaracterized as the first “female sexual dysfunction” drug; it’s really just a mediocre antidepressant re-branded as a libido booster.
Is this the future of women’s sexual health — a little blues pill?