You’re having sex with a person you like a lot, and you’re enjoying yourself. You’re having a good time. You reach the much-desired orgasm, but right after, when you’re supposed to relax and smile, a strange feeling of sadness erupts. You feel like crying. You can’t help shedding tears. Your companion looks at you, bewildered. They didn’t think things were going so badly. They hug you and ask what’s wrong, but you don’t know what to answer. You just keep crying.
This scene can be surreal for some people, since everyone knows that sex should be a moment of play and satisfaction. And who cries after having a good time? But in the study Postcoital Dysphoria: Prevalence and Psychological Correlates, carried out in 2015 by Schweitzer, O’Brien and Burri with 232 university students, 46% of those surveyed had suffered a similar reaction at least once in their life. Having feelings of sadness, melancholy or discomfort after a sexual encounter, frequently not attributable to other reasons, is known as postcoital dysphoria.
These sensations, if they occur continuously, can lower your sexual desire. If you cry frequently, sex will be associated with unpleasantness, and it will have a negative effect on your sexual motivation. It can also cause arguments with a partner, estrangement or even rejection of the other person. Not understanding the reasons for the discomfort, the partner can be blamed for it, even if it’s not their fault.
As detailed by Gil Vera in his article Postcoital Sexual Dysphoria in Conjugal Life, this reaction, which usually lasts a few minutes, can occur in both men and women. It is mainly due to a normal brain response once the effects of dopamine, endorphins, oxytocin and prolactin generated after orgasm begin to diminish. That is to say, it’s like a rebound effect. After the hormone rush comes the slump, because hormones are responsible for the varied emotions that can be felt after an orgasm. Some reactions are more common than others. For example, it is common for men to want to sleep, because of prolactin, generated in a greater quantity in men than in women. Oxytocin may be responsible for the desire to generate a connection with the other person, to give and receive affection. If your reaction is to smile and feel in a state of blissful happiness, that means your endorphins are working.
Knowing these effects helps us understand why we behave in certain ways. If someone is sleepy, it does not necessarily mean that they are insensitive or careless. Or if after a good sexual encounter with someone you just met, you feel like kissing and embracing, make no mistake: it doesn’t mean you are in love. But human behavior cannot be reduced only to biology. The psychological and the social are fundamental parts of our condition. Postcoital dysphoria has also been associated with limited sex education, abuse and psychological distress.
Postorgasmic illness syndrome that resembles the flu
Although some reactions after an orgasm are common, other, stranger ones have also been confirmed. In addition to crying, in the study Did You Climax or Are You Just Laughing at Me? Rare Phenomena Associated With Orgasm, Reinert and Simon named cataplexy (muscle weakness), facial and/or ear pain, feet and head, itching (tingling in the skin that makes you want to scratch), laughter, panic attacks, seizures and sneezing, among other phenomena that can occur when reaching climax.
Post-orgasmic illness syndrome is another one of those rare effects. It occurs in men when, after ejaculating, they have flu-like reactions. This may include fatigue, low-grade fever, sweating, mood swings, irritability, memory problems, difficulty concentrating, congestion or itchy eyes. Most symptoms last two to seven days and go away on their own.
The prevalence of this reaction is not clear. There are records of about 50 cases reflected in the medical literature. Its exact cause is also unknown, although hypotheses suggest that it may be due to an allergy to semen, which would cause a hypersensitivity reaction. This syndrome, for which there is still no effective remedy, negatively affects the lives of those who suffer from it, since it limits and conditions sexual encounters. It can cause sufferers to avoid any erotic practice, both alone and with others.
A good sexual encounter is not just about what happens during the experience. What occurs before and after are also very important. The simple fact of reaching an orgasm is not synonymous with satisfaction. Knowing the reasons behind our reactions can help us to understand it and enjoy the relationship more. A healthy life also includes a healthy sex life.