Study: 4 In 10 Men Have Experienced ‘Inexplicable Sadness’ After Sex

QUEENSLAND, Australia — Having sex may feel like a badge of honor for many men, but for others, it’s an act that, once finished, brings about intense feelings of sadness. In a new study, researchers for the first time ever have identified that women aren’t the only ones who can suffer from this emotional tidal wave in the bedroom, better known as postcoital dysphoria, or PCD.

PCD occurs when a person has, for all intents and purposes, enjoyable consensual sex with a partner, but is met with “inexplicable feelings of tearfulness, sadness, or irritability” afterwards.

Couple in bed
A world-first study by QUT researchers concludes men can and do suffer from postcoital dysphoria (PCD) which results in feelings of sadness, tearfulness or irritability following sex. (Photo credit: QUT Marketing & Communication)

Researchers from the Queensland University of Technology say PCD had only previously been recognized in women, but after a survey of 1,208 men from numerous countries — including the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, and Russia — it’s clear that the condition is more common among males than one might expect. In fact, four in 10 participants recalled suffering from PCD symptoms at some point in their lives.

“Forty-one percent of the participants reported experiencing PCD in their lifetime with 20 percent reporting they had experienced it in the previous four weeks,” says co-author Joel Maczkowiack, a masters student at the university’s school of psychology, in a release.

As many as 4 percent of the individuals, who voluntarily participated in the online questionnaire via postings on social media and psychological research websites, said they battle PCD symptoms regularly. Men acknowledged that statements such as “I don’t want to be touched and want to be left alone,” or “I feel unsatisfied, annoyed and very fidgety. All I really want is to leave and distract myself from everything I participated in,” applied to them when thinking about times they’d made love. Others described feeling “emotionless and empty” even though the sex was otherwise satisfactory.

“It is commonly believed that males and females experience a range of positive emotions including contentment and relaxation immediately following consensual sexual activity,” says co-author Robert Schweitzer, a professor at the university.

Schweitzer says that research has shown that couples that continue engaging in acts of intimacy after sex, such as talking, kissing, or cuddling, feel more satisfied in their relationships and strengthen the bond they share. Conversely, the emotional rollercoaster that comes with PCD could magnify any conflict in a relationship and wind up causing a bond between two people to break even further.

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“The first three phases of the human sexual response cycle – excitement, plateau, and orgasm – have been the focus of the majority of research to date,” Professor Schweitzer said. “Yet previous studies on the PCD experience of females showed that a similar proportion of females had experienced PCD on a regular basis. As with the men in this new study, it is not well understood. We would speculate that the reasons are multifactorial, including both biological and psychological factors.”

The authors say the findings show sexual experiences for men could be more diverse than believed, and are important for clinicians to consider when working with men who may experience such symptoms.

The full study was published July 24, 2018 in the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy.