What is post sex sadness and why are almost half of us suffering from it?

Posted by
Harriet Hall

Sex is supposed to be an enjoyable, intimate experience that leaves us feeling fulfilled and (hopefully) satisfied but, for almost half of women, it seems to be doing quite the opposite.

New research has found that 46% of women have suffered from the ‘post-sex blues’ at least once in their lives, with some experiencing low-mood for as long as four hours following intercourse.

Symptoms of what is termed Post Coital Dysphoria (PCD) include feeling melancholy and tearful, or even anxious and aggressive after sex.

The research, conducted by Dr Robert Schweitzer of Queensland University of Technology and published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, asked 230 sexually active women between the ages of 18 and 55 to complete an online survey.

It found that one in twenty women had experienced symptoms several times over the preceding four weeks.

Researchers said that there was no connection between the intimacy of the couple and the likelihood of women suffering from PCD, but it did find that women who were more “emotionally reactive” were more likely to experience the symptoms:


"In the period following sexual intercourse, individuals who are emotionally reactive may be more sensitive or vulnerable to negative emotions, resulting in an acute period of depression or irritability," researchers say.

Researchers say that these findings “confirm that PCD is under-recognised and under-researched” and that “further research is necessary to understand the subjective experience of OCD and to inform the development of a reliable measure.”

A previous study, which looked at participants across a number of countries, found that both men and women suffer from PCD but women appear to suffer in greater numbers, and both genders experience symptoms in a different manner.

The women reported feeling vulnerable, whereas the men felt irritated with and even unattracted to their sexual partner.

Researchers concluded that this marked difference was due to “evolutionary functions”, with men experiencing negative feelings about his partner’s sexual attractiveness in order to reduce the likelihood of them “making maladaptive commitments.”


The scientists say this is “an integral part of male short-term mating psychology.”

In contrast, women experienced separation anxiety following coitus, in order to motivate them to “pursue long-term commitment, as a way of gaining access to resources and paternal care for her offspring,” researchers say.

The Ancient Greeks researched the condition in 150 AD but the physician, Galen, concluded that “every animal is sad after coitus except the human female and the rooster.”

However, in contrast to the Greek conclusion, Dr Schweitzer found that PCD it is, in fact, “much more common” with women.

Uncertain of why this is, Schweitzer suggests that it is because “we give up our sense of self during sex- that's part of the experience, but some women find it terrifying."

For those who do, says Schweitzer,  it's "important not to pathologise it" because it is natural and a large percentage of people will experience it at some point.​