Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. was in private practice for more than thirty years. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the states ...Read More
1. They were married for ten years but one of the problems that plagued their relationship was the fact that, after having sex she became irritable and angry. She enjoyed sex and always had an orgasm. She never denied how angry she acted after sex but had no explanation.
2. They were a young couple and, despite being newly weds, were involved sexually for a year or two prior to their wedding. She was frequently depressed. Because of her depression sex was infrequent. However, when she felt good enough, she thoroughly enjoyed sex with her husband. However, no sooner was sex over than she became extremely hostile, even belligerent. She reported that it was different from her usual depression but she had no explanation. She said sex was great and she always had an orgasm.
Cases like these were not frequent during the many years I was in practice but, when they happened, they were extremely puzzling. Despite consultations that resulted in many theories, nothing helped these people. Despite the fact that the two cases sited above,(fictional but representational), involved women, there were several cases in which men complained about the depression they experienced after orgasm.
How could these people feel so bad after feeling so good?
Dr. Richard A. Friedman, MD, Psychiatrist, wrote an interesting article for the science section of the Tuesday, January 20, 2009 edition of The New York Times. In the article he discusses a phenomenon in which many males and females feel dysphoria or a general sense of dissatisfaction or unhappiness with life. The dysphoria occurs after intense and satisfying orgasm and with a loved one. That is why it is such a mystery. In other words, some people experience a four to six hour period of depression and irritability after an orgasm. This is also known as "post coital Blues."
There is nothing new about post coital blues. Even the ancient Greeks and Romans wrote and expressed dismay about it. In addition, little or no research has been done on this problem, thus far. In fact, Dr. Friedman point out that little is known about what happens in the brain after sex. One thing that is known is that the Amygdala, the part of the brain involved in emotions, such as fear and plays a role in lowering fear after sexual intercourse. Dr. Friedman asks if it is possible that, for some people, orgasm may create a powerful rebound reaction in the Amygdala after sex so that emotions such as depression and sadness increase instead of decreasing.
Dr. Friedman reported prescribing Prozac to counter the depressive reaction after orgasm. The results were positive to such a high degree that even though patients reported the side effect of reduced sexual desire, they did not care and continued the medication. If the medication was stopped they reverted back to experiencing post coital depressed emotions.
Dr. Friedman concludes, from his work, that sexuality is really lodged in the brain. As he states it, our greatest sex organ is the brain. Therefore, this post coital blues reaction does not signify some deep psychological reaction but an underlying way in which the neurological circuits work for many people after having sex. This points to the fact that, not only is sex physical but depression as well.
While post coital blues affects both men and women, many more men are affected. This has complicated and strained male female relationships. The reason for this strain is that those men who experience depression after sex want to leave and go home. Women interpret this behavior as contempt and feel used after having sexual relations. While a few men may be contemptuous, most are attempting to run away from painful depression. The same holds true for women.
So, how can something that feels so good, end up feeling so bad?
Your comments are welcome.
Allan N. Schwartz, LCSW, PhD