What Is Post Coital Depression
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Understanding Post-Coital Depression

Mental Wellbeing
Lakshmi Devan
2 min read

Understanding Post-Coital Depression

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“To all the women out there – it is important that you realise that there is nothing wrong with you for feeling the way you do. ”

If you were expecting a happy afterglow post that sweaty romp, and all you got was anxiety, sadness, or any other unwelcome feelings, then darling, you are not alone.

Post-coital tristesse (PCT) or post-coital dysphoria (PCD) is a condition known to affect roughly 50 per cent of women at some point in their lives. It is characterised by feelings of anxiety, agitation, aggression, tearfulness, or depression, which may last anywhere between a few minutes to a couple of hours following sexual intercourse. Oh, but don’t confuse it with post-orgasmic illness syndrome (POIS) where men experience fatigue, muscle pain, headache, a depressed mood, and flu-like symptoms till days after an orgasm.

To all the women out there – it is important that you realise that there is nothing wrong with you for feeling the way you do. Nothing has to be necessarily wrong with your relationship, your partner, your body, or your mind either. Don’t blame yourself; blame prolactin. Er, don’t follow me? Let me start from the very beginning.

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  1. Affects both genders – Men and women both can suffer from PCT, although it is way more common in women than it is in men. This is because the hormone prolactin, which is believed to be responsible for it, is present in both.
  2. Prolactin, the only culprit known, so far – The primary function of prolactin is to promote milk production in the mammary glands of all mammals, in response to the suckling of the young ones, after birth. But what is less known is that it has over 300 other reproductive, metabolic, regulative, and behavioural functions as well. One of its functions is to counteract the release of dopamine (the hormone responsible for sexual arousal and good feelings) after intercourse, and this is what is thought to cause the blues.
  3. The orgasm factor – You don’t have to orgasm to feel the symptoms. Any kind of prolonged sexual contact will lead to the aforementioned feelings of sadness, anger, or anxiety.
  4. All we know – The research on PCT is severely lacking as of now, and scientists and physicians alike still don’t know if there are any other possible causes behind it, i.e., whether race, gender, psychology etc. have a role to play.
  5. An experiment – Dr Friedman, a psychiatrist at New York Presbyterian Hospital and professor of clinical psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College, reported treating his PCT patients with antidepressants, because he believed that following sex, this plummet in mood due to various physiological reasons could potentially induce depression, if the orgasm was intense enough. In 2 weeks of treatment with antidepressants, most patients felt better, even though all the medicine did was dampen their sexual drives, so that there were no intense orgasms. His hypothesis stands proved for now, and that is all we know about post-coital dysphoria/tristesse to date.
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Well, if you ask me, I’m just feeling sad for men because they have both PCT and POIS to deal with. Makes up for all the female repression and discrimination in a miniscule way, does it not? (Schadenfreude, anyone?) In the meantime, let’s wait till scientists can tell us everything we need to know about the ‘bed blues’.

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