Why Do You Feel Sad & Guilty After Sex?

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Descriptions of “post-coital sadness” go all the way back to our ancient annals of medicine. Greek physician and philosopher Galen once observed, “Every animal is sad after coitus except the human female and the rooster.” That post-sex or orgasm feeling of depression, sadness, angst, and general ennui can last anywhere from five minutes to two hours.

The most recent study that was done came out in October 2015 and it found that among the quite limited white, heterosexual female study population that it interviewed, 46% of people interviewed had experienced it at some point and a little over 5% experienced it on a regular basis.

We don’t have any good data on how prevalent this is among people who are not straight, white, cis-gender women but anecdotally we do know this happens within the broader population. Do you think if empirically overlooking men’s experiences with this have to do with our stereotypes about women being more emotionally invested in sex and also being likelier to cry while we assume that men always – always – always want sex.

What Is Post-Coital Sadness?

A lot of it probably has to do with the neural chemistry of sex and orgasm. In order to incentivize sex for reproduction and also make it more enjoyable, or brain does us a really big favor by lowering activity in our reasoning prefrontal cortex and our fear and anxiety-inducing amygdala.

When we achieve an orgasm – WOOOOHOOOOOO – we have a shot of dopamine that rushes through our brain and gives us that firework feeling throughout our body that makes sex and orgasms the bee’s knees. And if there wasn’t some kind of safety valve in place, we would be very unproductive animals. That’s where the neurochemical prolactin comes in. After we have an orgasm – WOOOOHOOOOOO – prolactin increases in our brains to inhibit dopamine receptors and also to produce feelings of sexual satisfaction, closeness, general chillaxing. Not to mention activity in those other brain structures like your prefrontal cortex and amygdala also starts to increase. So it could be then that post-coital sadness is simply a product of our euro-chemicals awkwardly leveling out.

There’s also, on a more serious note, a tenuous connection between post-coital sadness and past-sexual abuse. If this is something that seriously disrupts your life, you would probably want to go talk to a therapist about in case it is triggering past issues. But regardless of what exactly might be causing you to feel sad after sex, Australian researches Robert Schweitzer who published that most recent study on it emphasized that we need to better acknowledge how our sexual experiences really are on a spectrum and that if it’s something that happens to you to own it and to be able to talk about it to a trusted partner if possible.

Is It Possible To Fix That Feeling?

This is an issue that’s not going to fix itself overnight and probably could use some professional help, which is totally fine. But there are two things that’s, I think, very important to know when dealing with this kind of issues.

1. You Are Not Alone: According to the National Health and Social Life survey, 32% of American women and 15% of American men reported having zero sexual interest for a number of months in the previous year.

2. What you’re going through is a symptom of a wide-spread epidemic of shame when it comes to female bodies and sexuality. Think about the way we talk about dieting, guilty foods and cheat days, how embarrassed we’re supposed to be if we go to buy condoms or we go to buy sex toys or lube or if we ask our pharmacist for Plan B, period product commercials that use mysterious blue liquid because if you used something that looked a little more like menstrual blood, that would be obscene.

Think about all of the social media that have censored breast-feeding women, the word slut and slut-shaming, the very term walk of shame. Most of us girls are raised to be tiptoe along a tightrope of being good girls but not being too slutty and still being desirable but not being too desirable. The thing about religion is that it just raises that tightrope up even higher so that if you fall, you fall all the way to hell.

What Do You Think?