How do you deal with the post-sex blues, or getting depressed right after sex?

Reader Question: Post-coital dysphoria: How do you deal with the post-sex blues?We’re supposed to feel euphoria after we have sex. Our bodies release oxytocin, the bonding hormone. We’re flooded with these relaxed and happy feelings. Everything is right with the world!

But what if it’s not? What if instead of euphoria, you feel more like dysphoria? I’ve had two women ask me that question lately, and I thought it was time to tackle it!

After almost 8 years of marriage we have worked out most of our little conflicts and have an incredibly close, respectful and fun relationship… except for sex. It has been a major issue in our marriage from the beginning. Your intro in The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex was the first thing I’ve seen that truly resonated with how I feel and I am feeling hope for our sex life for the first time ever. I wonder if you cover postcoital dysphoria at all? I actually just learned that there was a word for what I experience. After sex, at least 50% of the time and especially if I have an orgasm, I experience intense indifference and disconnection from my husband. It is really a lousy feeling and makes it pretty difficult to look forward to sex. If you have any knowledge about “post-sex blues” specifically I’d love to hear it.

Another reader wrote:

This is kind of weird, but most days after being intimate with my husband, I have an emotional crash and am irritable and depressed. It doesn’t matter whether I was satisfied the night before or not and sometimes it’s worse the day after a good night. It’s like an emotional hangover. Does this happen to other people? Why does it happen?

They both describe it in really similar terms: irritable, disconnection, feeling lousy. And it’s even worse after an orgasm!

Well, post-coital dysphoria is a real thing.

Sometimes called the post-sex blues, it’s an intense emotional reaction after sex that often leaves a person anxious, depressed, unable to sleep, irritable, and more. Sounds pretty awful, doesn’t it?

It’s hard to get a handle on how many married women suffer from it, because most studies combine all kinds of different groups of women. Here’s the problem: When you have sex and you aren’t married, often women feel intensely terrible emotionally afterwards because there’s no commitment, they feel used, or they feel ashamed. So some of the post-sex blues could honestly just be a natural reaction to sharing something so personal with someone who hasn’t made any commitment to you. When we’re vulnerable with those who haven’t earned it, we can easily feel really depressed. The book Unprotected deals with this phenomenon among the college-aged population really well!

But what if you’re married, you’re perfectly in love, you feel safe, and you STILL get this depression and anxiety and disconnection feeling? 

Then there’s often something else going on, and it seems to have very little to do with the quality of the relationship or the quality of the sex (except that better sex often brings on the problem!), and everything to do with hormonal changes.

Some people are more sensitive to sudden changes in brain chemistry than others, and that’s why you may suddenly find yourself depressed after a rush. One neurochemistry blog summed it up this way:

Because orgasm activates reward pathways much in the same way as drugs, it can also produce similar experience of addiction and withdrawal. In fact, people that are treated for sex addictions tend to have other comorbid addictions, suggesting that they have addictive personalities, an inclination for overactivation in this part of the brain (Hartman et al., 2012). This is because after the rush of orgasm, dopamine levels drop below baseline, similar to what happens during withdrawal from drugs of abuse. Low dopamine levels are associated with depression, low energy, lack of ambition, social anxiety, among others (Dailly et al., 2004).

Another study was done looking at how our endocrine system (the part of our body responsible for hormones) could be affecting postcoital dysphoria. Specifically, they were looking at whether there was a correlation with women suffering from postpartum depression and those who report the “post sex blues”. What they found was that there did indeed seem to be a correlation.

In summary, our results indicate a significant overlap of women suffering from [postnatal depression] and [postcoital dysphoria], indicating that there might be common vulnerability mechanism such as sensitivity to rapid hormonal fluctuations that might trigger both conditions.

So post-sex blues can affect women. But what do you do?

Talk to your doctor about your post-sex blues.

Many doctors aren’t aware of the condition, so taking with you this article from the Journal of Depression and Anxiety can show them that it does indeed exist. I would then ask for a referral to a psychiatrist or someone who deals with depression who can help you figure out what triggers it and if there is anything you can do to minimize it.

Be careful when you get pregnant.

If you haven’t had any children yet, it’s best to talk to your doctor beforehand since you are at higher risk for post-partum depression (it doesn’t mean that you WILL get it; only that you’re at higher risk). This way you can be very aware of the warning signs and seek early intervention.

Do as much as you can to keep a hormonal balance in your body.

Finally, do take care of your hormones and your adrenal system. I’ve written before about how our eating habits, sleeping habits, and cleaning habits can affect how taxed our body is, and the more taxed your body is, the less it will be able to keep everything in balance. Switching to real food, going to bed at a decent time (adults need bedtimes!), getting up to natural light and eating at the right times can help our bodies regulate. If your brain chemistry is off, this may not solve everything. But it can help, and so much of modern life wreaks havoc with our bodies. Let’s help our bodies rather than hindering them!

When sex makes you feel depressed and less connected from the husband you love, what do you do?

Let me know in the comments: Have you ever experienced the post-sex blues? What was it like?

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