Sad After Sex?
You Are Not Alone!
Consensual sex is supposed to be euphoric and happy, whether solo or partnered. However many people have suffered post-coital dysphoria (PCD) at least once in their lifetimes: up to 46% of women and 41% of men. It is generally described as a feeling of sadness, anger and/ or general distress after sex, most often after an orgasm.
Our hormones may be responsible for this experience. Oxytocin, the feel-good hormone of attachment and connection is released especially with orgasm. It also reduces stress responses and activates our reward centres. If we have been holding a lot of stress, sometimes the release of it can release all of the tension that was behind the stress. We might know what the stress was about, such as a fight with a partner or family member or we might not know that we were carrying it until we notice its absence. In either case, it can catch us by surprise with the release.
Sex can bring out our vulnerabilities: our honest desires, our genuine body expressions, being seen physically and emotionally naked. For some we might feel suddenly self-conscious or afraid of the consequences or struggle inside with who we really are. There are so many rules about what is normal and ok when it comes to sex that we might question what we just did or did not do, such as rapid ejaculation, inability to orgasm, or experimenting with kink. We might over-analyze what it might mean about who we are or where our sexuality might take us. If we fear judgment, then even an innocent look or word can be taken the wrong way and take us to an anxious place. If shame or guilt or sadness arise, it may be worthwhile exploring those emotions with a partner, friend or therapist to break down those emotions. Often they are based in societal norms that harm us and keep us from our full potential.
Trauma And Sexual Assault
If something related to a past assault is triggered then we can have a response related to our feelings about that event. Even old and resolved traumas can reappear seemingly out of nowhere and catch us by surprise. Enjoying an activity for the first time since an assault can trigger PCD. If we have been numb to sensations out of protection and allow ourselves to feel more, we can release a flood of emotions all at the same time.
Sometimes we have high hopes for a sexual encounter or for our connection. When we do not feel connected in the ways that we had hoped or if we did not get the expected satisfaction, we might feel let down and sad. If our partner did not understand what we wanted, we are upset with ourselves that we did not ask for what we wanted or if we were distracted and did not fully notice what just happened, we might feel sad, lonely, angry, disappointed and/ or frustrated. Take a moment to think about what is happening for you. Perhaps there is something you wish to discuss over a meal, on the couch or a walk in the park.
Tears of joy can also emerge post sex. Sometimes it is a sign that things are really good rather than bad. We might feel elated about conquering our fears or pushing through our edges or even just being present to the sensations. Sometimes this joy is related to pure happiness. At other times it is more connected to a mourning of the few or many times where that was not the case. Celebrating the moment while feeling sad about the past can feel complicated and very real.
For No Apparent Reason
Sometimes we cry for no reason that we can identify. We might not feel particularly happy or sad. Orgasm is a release, and even in those who do not orgasm, emotion rather than the expected contractions can pour out. Especially with those who struggle to achieve orgasm, sometimes there is a lot of non-specific stuck emotion clogging the pathways to the orgasmic release. Often it is important to unclog this path so that orgasm can eventually get through. After one or more emotional releases the orgasm hopefully will make its way out with more euphoric sensations.
Sometimes, with all of the bodies and emotions and sensations and hormones it is hard to think through what is going on in the moment. Don't pressure yourself to have a reason or an answer in the moment. Don't judge your thoughts or emotions, just sit with them. Ask for a hug or cuddle if that helps. Unless it is obvious, it is often helpful to revisit the moment later with a clear mind and without the pressure of what we are “supposed to” feel after sex. Insight might emerge out of nowhere or once we have time to reflect.
Don't Hold Them In
So what should you do? Don't hold in your emotions, unless they are particularly distressing and you need to contain them until you have a safer moment to process them. Let them out so that you can release them. It may not be what you expected and may not feel as good as what you wanted, but getting them out will generally help you to have a better experience the next time.
What If My Partner Cries?
Take it as a compliment! Unless it is because you have done something you knew was wrong, it likely means that your partner trusts you to let go. If the emotions release while your partner is still enjoying pleasure, ask them if they want you to stop or not. If they don't want you to stop, the energy you give can help the emotions to release. Stay present with them through the experience and after. It might be one of the more powerful encounters that you have together.
Orgasm As Therapy
Orgasm can be a great way to release stuck emotions. If you are feeling, sad, angry, stressed or almost anything else, take a moment for a solo pleasure session to let it all out. Allow yourself to make noise, to enter into the emotion, to let it move through you. You might feel much lighter after a purge with both your body and mind engaged in the release.
Carlyle Jansen is the founder of Good For Her, a sexuality shop and workshop centre in Toronto. If you have questions or comments, email firstname.lastname@example.org or go online to goodforher.com