New research published in Sexual Medicine has shed some light on the prevalence of postcoital dysphoria (PCD) among a cohort of female university students.
Sometimes called “post-sex blues”, PCD brings feelings of deep sadness, agitation, melancholy, or aggression after consensual sexual activity. These feelings can occur even when the encounter has been satisfying and pleasurable.
PCD has not been widely researched, however.
To learn more, scientists from the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) surveyed 230 sexually active heterosexual women between the ages of 18 and 55. The participants’ mean age was 26 years and all were university students.
The online survey included the Female Sexual Function Index, the Experiences in Close Relationships Scale, and the Differentiation of Self Inventory-Revised. Study-specific questions were also included.
Forty-six percent of the women said they had had PCD symptoms in the past. Just over 5% experienced PCD in the previous four weeks. About 2% said they had symptoms “always” or “most of the time.”
The researchers found no link between PCD and intimacy in close relationships.
“Overall our results support the notion that PCD symptoms are prevalent in the general population and that they can occur in spite of an otherwise physiologically functional sexual experience,” said lead author Dr. Robert D. Schweitzer in a news release. Dr. Schweitzer is a professor in QUT’s Psychology and Counseling department.
The causes of PCD are unclear.
“PCD is a multifactorial condition. A history of childhood sexual abuse was one predictor of PCD in our study. And it is also possible that those who have a tendency to become 'fused' with others may perceive the end of sexual intercourse as a separation from their partner, which may be overwhelming and cause PCD symptoms,” Dr. Schweitzer said in the statement.
The authors noted that their results could not be generalized. The participants were heterosexual, mostly Caucasian, and university students, so the findings might not be applicable to other groups.
In addition, there are currently no reliable or validated measures of PCD, so the prevalence rates in this study should be “treated with caution,” the authors said.
“Women With The Post-Sex Blues: Many Women Experience Depressive Symptoms Immediately Following Sex”
(October 6, 2015)
Queensland University of Technology
“‘Post-sex blues’ hit nearly half of women”
(News release. October 7, 2015)
Schweitzer, Robert D., PhD, et al.
“Postcoital Dysphoria: Prevalence and Psychological Correlates”
(Full-text. First published online: October 5, 2015)
“Sad After Sex? New Study Suggests ‘Postcoital Dysphoria’ Is Widespread”
(October 9, 2015)