Study: Postcoital Symptoms in a Convenience Sample of Men and Women

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postcoital symptoms

Abstract

Introduction

Postcoital dysphoria (PCD) is a condition characterised by inexplicable feelings of tearfulness, sadness, and/or irritability. Previous research into postcoital symptoms has mostly focused on these 3 symptoms. It had failed to explore other symptoms that can occur after sexual activity.

Aim

The aim of the present study was to get a more in-depth understanding of postcoital symptom variety, to compare the type and frequency of these symptoms in men and women, and to explore the context in which they manifest.

Methods

A convenience sample of 223 women and 76 men filled in an online survey. It consisted of a list of 21 symptoms and a set of additional questions.

Main Outcome Measure

Researchers obtained the study outcomes using a study-specific questionnaire to assess postcoital symptoms, consisting of a list of 21 symptoms that form 4 domains and 2 additional questions that assess personal and interpersonal distress.

Results

Of all participants, 91.9% reported any postcoital symptom over the past 4 weeks and 94.3% ever since they had been sexually active. Mood swings and sadness were the most common symptoms in women. Whereas in men, it was unhappiness and low energy. Men and women differed in the frequency of postcoital symptoms experienced ever since being sexually active; women reported more sadness, mood swings, frustration, and worthlessness. For 73.5% of individuals, the postcoital symptoms were present after consensual sexual intercourse, for 41.9%, after general sexual activity, and for 46.6% also, after masturbation. Of all participants, 33.9% said that they only experienced the symptoms after orgasm.

Clinical Implications

Postcoital symptoms are clearly more varied than previously suggested and are not related to classic “dysphoria” only. Hence, we propose to cease calling the phenomenon “postcoital dysphoria” and suggest to simply use the term “postcoital symptoms.”

Strength & Limitations

This is the first study ever to provide a more in-depth exploration of postcoital symptom variety. The sample was relatively small. Accordingly, the limiting factors were the representativeness and, therefore, generalizability of the results. Researchers used a convenience sample.

Conclusion

Accordingly, our results indicate that postcoital symptoms are a multifaceted phenomenon which shows similar expression in men and women. The symptoms are clearly more varied not related to classic “dysphoria” only.

 


Excerpts

People commonly accept that under “normal” circumstances and after satisfactory sexual activity, the resolution phase elicits positive feelings and sensations. However, research over the past couple of years has shown that some people experience negative affect during the resolution phase – a phenomenon termed “postcoital dysphoria.”…

Post coital symptoms were fairly frequent. 91.9% of participants reporting any symptom over the past 4 weeks and 94.3% over life course. …

The most frequently reported symptoms were related to “depressive mood.”…

The most common symptoms in women were mood swings and sadness, whereas in men, it was unhappiness and low energy. [Women reported] more sadness, mood swings, frustration, and worthlessness. For 73.5% of individuals, the postcoital symptoms were present after consensual sexual intercourse. Also, for 41.9%, it was after general sexual activity, and for 46.6% it was also after masturbation. …

A diverging pattern of compounds released during sexual activity vs orgasm might explain why in many men postcoital symptoms only show after ejaculation and not just after any kind of sexual activity. …

Postcoital symptoms are clearly more varied than previously suggested and do not related to classic “dysphoria” only.


Also see:

Half of the ~7,000 18- to 39-year-old women surveyed by Monash University (Australia) say sex made them distressed or unhappy. Also see underlying paper: The prevalence of sexual dysfunctions and sexually related distress in young women: a cross-sectional survey.