Why men get the blues after sex

It is a little known fact that for many men, rather than experiencing raised spirits, a romp in the bedsheets leaves them empty and despairing.

Known as postcoital dysphoria (PCD), the phenomenon was studied by Queensland University of Technology psychology professor Robert Schweitzer, whose research revealed that 41 per cent of men had suffered from the condition at some point.

After examining responses from an anonymous online survey of 1208 men around the world, Prof. Schweitzer and fellow researcher Joel Maczkowiack found that 20 per cent of men had experienced deep sadness after sex.

Between three and four per cent of respondents suffered PCD on a regular basis, according to the study which was published in Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy.

The researchers surmised that the feelings of tearfulness, sadness or irritability after reaching climax in consensual sexual activity could be attributed to present psychological distress, childhood sexual abuse or sexual dysfunctions.

“Results indicate that the male experience of the resolution phase may be far more varied, complex, and nuanced than previously thought, and lay a foundation for future research investigating PCD among males,” the study concluded. “Findings have implications for therapeutic settings as well as the general discourse regarding the male sexual experience.”

In a report published in online magazine MEL, surveyed readers disclosed further, less concerning reasons why some men were overwhelmed by melancholy after love-making. Among them were:

  • the realisation of assigning dramatically different emotional weight to sex than your partner (you care, she doesn’t; she cares, you don’t)
  • regrettable one-night stand
  • sobered up
  • evangelical upbringing that produces shame feeling
  • when you know the relationship you’re in is damaging or bad.

A glimpse of what is going on in the minds of the afflicted men is summed up in this response to Prof. Schweitzer’s questionnaire: “Hard to quantify but after sexual activity I get a strong sense of self-loathing about myself. Usually I’ll distract myself by going to sleep or going and doing something else or occasionally lying in silence until it goes away; I feel a lot of shame; I usually have crying fits and full-on depressive episodes follow[ing] coitus that leave my significant other worried, and every once in a while she has crying spells after the act, but hers are rarer. Because I typically don’t want my partner worried, however, sometimes I hold in the sadness for hours until she leaves as we do not live together, and I sometimes have negative feelings, which are difficult to describe.”

The study’s results suggest that many men are more sensitive about intimacy than society would give them credit for.

Prof. Schweitzer explains: “Men are not considered to be as interested in intimacy, are responsible for initiating, some would say, don’t discriminate, and are interested in ‘conquest’. No doubt there are many other prejudices we have.

“There may well be support for some of these assumptions, but more importantly, we would argue, these are all generalisations, and in actual fact, the sexual experience for both women and for men is more varied than commonly acknowledged.”

The professor’s advice for despairing men is to talk openly about PCD with the right people, especially your GP.

“The very act of open discussion around the experience may be helpful,” he said.

Do you or your partner get weepy after intercourse? What do you think may be behind this phenomenon?

Australian readers seeking support and information about suicide and depression can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14. For more information on treating depression, please visit Beyond Blue.

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Disclaimer: This article contains general information about health issues and is not advice. For health advice, consult your medical practitioner.

Written by Olga Galacho

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