More Than One-Third Of Men Experience Unexpected Emotional Distress After Sex


A new study published in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy suggests that the phenomenon of postcoital dysphoria (PCD) – inexplicable feelings of tearfulness, sadness, or irritability following satisfying consensual sexual activity – may be quite common in men; an intriguing finding considering that past research has only explored PCD as an aspect of female sexuality.

The authors, a duo from Queensland University of Technology in Australia, note that because this is the first study to assess PCD among males, there is no prior research to compare the present results against. But moving forward, the data will help psychologists better address men’s sexual issues and open up the discourse on a subject that has been overlooked for too long.

“These assumptions are pervasive within masculine sub-culture and include that males always desire and experience sex as pleasurable,” they wrote. “Furthermore, all sexual activity is commonly believed to be accompanied by a sense of accomplishment, achievement and invariably followed by a positive emotional experience and a general sense of well-being. The experience of PCD is counter-intuitive as it contradicts these dominant cultural assumptions about the male experience sexual activity and of the [post-orgasm] resolution phase.”

Data for the investigation was drawn from a large online survey that examined the postcoital experience of both men and women. The male section included questions about occurrence of PCD over one’s lifetime and in the past four weeks specifically, as well as questions for gauging recent psychological distress, past abuse, and sexual dysfunction. A total of 1,208 men, aged 18 to 81 years, from 78 countries completed the questionnaires. The majority of participants identified as heterosexual and were college educated.

In total, 41 percent of males had experienced PCD in their lifetime, 36.6 percent reported experiencing PCD intermittently, and 4.4 percent said they experience PCD most or all of the time. During the four weeks preceding the survey, 16 and 4.3 percent had intermittent or frequent PCD, respectively. 

An analysis revealed that recent occurrence of PCD was most closely associated with current psychological distress, followed by recent low sex drive, delayed ejaculation, and premature ejaculation. Sexual orientation was only minutely associated, with homosexual men being slightly more likely to experience PCD. Interestingly, childhood sexual abuse also showed a weak link – according to the authors, studies in women have implied a strong association between the phenomenon and that type of trauma.

Author Joel Maczkowiack explained in a statement that past studies on the resolution phase have revealed it to be a valuable time for couples to build and maintain intimacy, through talking, cuddling, and kissing, which then leads to greater sexual and emotional satisfaction in a relationship.

"So the negative affective state which defines PCD has potential to cause distress to the individual, as well as the partner, disrupt important relationship processes, and contribute to distress and conflict within the relationship, and impact upon sexual and relationship functioning," he said.