Is Post-Coital Depression a Myth or Reality?


wiseGEEK Writing Contest

Whenever you have sexual intercourse, at the end of the act you are supposed to have a develop a feeling of depression ranging from mild to intense. The technical termed coined for this is “Post Coital Depression”.

Well, personally, in my years of sexual relationship with my wife, I have never experienced post coital depression. Not once.

If you believe all you hear and all you read, post coital depression (shall we call it PCD for short?) is fairly universal, particularly among the male of the species Homo sapiens. The well known science fiction writer Robert Silverberg went even further. In one of his novels, “The Glass Tower”, he extended PCD to androids as well. In the story, a male android has sex with a female one and ends up feeling depressed. The female android asks the reason for his depression and the male android explains that all males experience depression after coitus.

Am I then abnormal that I do not feel any depression after coitus? That is what I may have thought but then came I across an article by another well know science fiction writer, Isaac Asimov. In the article, Asimov claimed that he had never suffered from PCD. In the article (actually an editorial comment in a short story collection he had edited), he referred to the Silverberg story and laughingly suggested that any man who has sex and after ejaculation doesn’t feel anything except a welcome relaxation should immediately get up and shout “I feel great”, in defiance of Robert Silverberg.

I whooped with joy. So I was not the only one in the world who was free from PCD. I had august company.

So what caused PCD and what did not? Could I come up with a common denominator between Asimov and myself that made us different from the majority?

I would be more than pleased to think that the determining factor here was intelligence, but I am honest enough to admit that this is not so. I am willing to assume that Asimov's IQ was quite a bit higher than mine. Further, several highly intelligent people (Robert Silverberg, for one) seem to suffer from PCD. I had to look elsewhere for the common denominator.

When it comes to insights into human nature, fiction is as valid a source as factual data. It was a work of fiction that provided me with insight into the PCD problem. John D. MacDonald in one of his books has his protagonist, Travis McGee, ruminating on after-sex effects. Travis goes on about how the act of sex seems to bring two bodies together and link them and how duality becomes unity and togetherness and how, once the act of copulation is finished, the unity is lost, the links broken, leaving you feeling lonely, more lonelier than you were before you had commenced the act. It is like a dark night appearing darker still after a lightning flash.

My thoughts took a lateral step and moved from the negative to the positive. MacDonald speaks of breaking down of links, transience of togetherness. The key word here seems to be “transience”. But then, togetherness need not always be transient. What if there are scenarios where not all links are so transient as to break down immediately after the sex act? Not all links are just physical in nature. There are links of commonly shared experience, links of love, links of commitment - in short links of the kind that you find among happily married couples - links that remain even when all physical links are broken. In such cases, of course one would not have that feeling of intense loneliness or that sadness after the breaking of physical links formed during the act of coitus and hence there would not be any PCD.

I looked at the life of Isaac Asimov from this perspective and found corroborative evidence to support my hypothesis. In his autobiography, Asimov claims never to have had extra-marital sex except on a solitary occasion. A good marriage: could this be the determining factor when it comes to the question of whether a person will experience PCD or not? My own life fitted the pattern too.

I then questioned some married couples about PCD and got a response in the negative from most of them. They too did not suffer from the PCD syndrome.

Sifting through the responses and situations, I found out there were two categories of men who did suffer from PCD: the men who were involved in extra-marital sex or the men who felt they were not sexually satisfying their partner.

This leads me to another hypothesis. PCD could also be caused by a subconscious feeling of guilt.

Further digging and further questions put to a variety of people brought to light another bit of information. Majority of the people I interviewed felt depressed after masturbation. Could be guilt is at work here too.

To summarize, there are normally no feelings of loneliness and/or guilt associated with satisfactory sex among married couples in which cases, PCD did not occur. With extra marital sex, unsatisfactory sex and masturbation, the occurrence of PCD is quite common.

So what then is post coital depression? Wages of sin?

submitted by Ahmed Mir