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Why Do I Feel Sad After Sex?

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Experiencing feelings of sadness after sex, known as postcoital sadness or dysphoria, can be confusing and sometimes distressing. It’s a more common phenomenon than many realize, yet it often goes unspoken due to misunderstandings and stigma. Understanding this and why it happens is the first step in addressing these feelings.

Exploring the Causes of Postcoital Sadness

Various factors, both psychological and physiological, can contribute to feeling sad after sexual activity.

Hormonal Changes Affecting Mood

During sex, your body experiences a surge in oxytocin and dopamine, which elevate mood and create feelings of closeness and happiness. After orgasm, these levels can drop sharply, leading to a sudden shift in emotional state.

The decrease in these hormones, mainly if the drop is rapid or significant, can result in sadness, loneliness, or emptiness. This is akin to coming down from a natural high, where the contrast in mood can be stark.

Emotional Intimacy and Vulnerability

Sexual encounters can evoke a deep sense of vulnerability and intimacy. After the act, as you transition back to a non-sexual context, this heightened emotional state can sometimes leave you feeling exposed or overly sensitive, especially if there are underlying emotional or psychological issues.

The closeness experienced during sex might also bring to the surface unresolved feelings or insecurities about oneself or the relationship. For some, this can lead to introspection and sadness as they process these emotions.

Addressing the Stigma Around Postcoital Sadness

One of the most significant hurdles in addressing postcoital sadness is the silence and misunderstanding surrounding it. Sex is often expected to be a purely positive experience, so feelings of sadness afterward can be confusing and may lead to feelings of shame or isolation. Breaking this silence by openly discussing these experiences can help normalize them.

There’s a need for a broader understanding of the range of emotions associated with sexual experiences. Education and awareness can dispel myths that sex should always feel good or euphoric, highlighting that a spectrum of emotional responses, including sadness, is normal and OK.

Creating a safe space for individuals to share their experiences without judgment or ridicule is crucial. This can be fostered through supportive relationships, sexual health education, and mental health resources that acknowledge the complexity of sexual emotions.

Health care and mental health professionals are vital in addressing this stigma. When they acknowledge postcoital sadness as a legitimate emotional response and incorporate this understanding into their practice, it validates individuals’ experiences and encourages a more open dialogue about sexual health.

Coping Strategies for Postcoital Sadness

Effectively managing postcoital sadness involves both communication with your partner and individual coping strategies.

Importance of Communication with Your Partner

Having an honest conversation with your partner about how you feel after sex can be enlightening. It not only helps in sharing your burden but also allows your partner to understand and provide support.

Clearly articulate your feelings without placing blame. Use “I” statements, like “I feel a bit down after we have sex,” to express your emotions without making your partner feel responsible for them.

This communication should aim at mutual understanding and finding ways to support each other. It’s about building a relationship where all emotions, including postcoital sadness, can be shared and acknowledged.

Individual Coping Mechanisms

Take time to reflect on your emotions. Try to understand if these feelings are connected to the sexual experience itself or if they are indicative of deeper, underlying issues.

You can also try mindfulness exercises, deep breathing, or meditation to help manage and process your emotions. These practices can provide a sense of calm and balance.

Writing down your thoughts and feelings can help you process and understand your emotions. It can also help in identifying patterns or triggers of your postcoital sadness.

Sometimes, physical activity can help lift your mood. Go for a walk, practice yoga, swim, or try any form of exercise that you enjoy.

If the sadness is persistent or troubling, consider speaking with a mental health professional. They can offer strategies and support in understanding and coping with these feelings.

When to Seek Professional Help

Talk to a mental health professional if:

  • Feelings of sadness after sex are consistently occurring and are intense enough to cause significant distress.
  • Feelings linger for days or impact your daily life.
  • Postcoital sadness affects your ability to function in everyday life, including your work, social interactions, or general enjoyment of life.
  • It causes strain or conflict in your relationships, or you cannot communicate your feelings to your partner.
  • It is accompanied by symptoms of depression or anxiety, such as persistent low mood, loss of interest in activities you usually enjoy, or excessive worry.
  • Your sadness may be linked to past sexual trauma or deep-seated emotional issues.

Reaching out to a mental health professional doesn’t mean you’ve failed to handle the situation independently; it’s a proactive step toward understanding your emotional responses and improving your quality of life.

Normalizing a Range of Emotions After Sex

Crying after sex is a response that can be puzzling and even alarming, but it’s more common than you might think. If you’ve ever found yourself in tears or just a profound sense of sadness after a sexual encounter, know that it doesn’t make you odd or flawed. This emotional release is another way our complex bodies and minds react to intimate experiences, and it’s OK.

Whether talking to your partner, journaling your thoughts, practicing mindfulness, or seeking professional help, you’re taking steps toward managing postcoital sadness and deepening your understanding of yourself.

Photo by Womanizer Toys on Unsplash

Originally published: November 21, 2023
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