Picture this: You and your partner are hooking up and it’s getting real hot. Clothes are coming off, body parts are entering places, you’re getting more and more into it, aaaand—BAM! You burst into tears. What the actual hell? Why are my eyeballs the wettest part of my body rn?
Well, don’t fret girl. We discussed with two certified experts about everything and anything there is to know about crying during sex—from why it happens to what to do about it.
Is it normal?
“It’s a lot more common than you might think,” says Emily Morse, doctor of human sexuality and host of the SiriusXM Radio show and podcast Sex With Emily. This phenomenon is so popular actually, it’s called a crygasm—and it can happen when you’re in the middle of any form of sexual activity.
Why does it happen?
Psychotherapist Dana Dorfman, PhD, co-host of the podcast 2 Moms on the Couch, says there are a few reasons why you might be crying during sex.
- 10 Reasons For Crying During Sex — And What It Might Mean
- 1. You’re Roleplaying
- 2. You’re Happy
- 3. You’re In Pain
- 4. You’re Confused
- 5. You’re Ashamed
- 6. You’re Afraid
- 7. You’re Being Teased
- 8. You’re Triggered
- 9. You’re Overwhelmed
- 10. It’s Just Biology
- What To Do If You Start Crying During Sex
- Men Cry After Sex Too–Here’s Why It Happens
- Is It Normal For Guys To Cry After Sex? A New Study Made A Groundbreaking Discovery
- Big girls (and boys) do cry
- Why you have so many tears left to cry
- Okay, so what do you do about it?
- The TL;DR
- Why Do People Cry After Sex?
- The most obvious reason why people might cry after sex deals with consent.
- You’re roleplaying.
- Your partner could have a background that makes them feel guilty for sex.
- Your partner reached BDSM catharsis.
- Confusion could also be a culprit.
- You got teased a bit too hard.
- They may feel embarrassed or ashamed about their performance.
- Finally, it could also be that they have been triggered.
- Is Crying After Sex Normal?
- How common is crying after sex?
- But why do people cry after sex?
1. The sex is just so good.
“Sex is highly intimate and can evoke strong feelings,” explains Dorfman. “A person could be experiencing intense feelings of love and closeness.” These feelings of intense closeness result in an “oxytocin rush,” which she says “can induce the physiological response of crying.”
2. It’s bringing up some not-so-great mems.
“Unfortunately, sex may ignite memories in the brain and body from unwanted or negative sexual experiences from the past,” says Dorfman. “When engaging in sex, these memories may resurface and cause crying.”
3. You’re angry or anxious.
“Tears may also be a way to cue us to deeper feelings that are not being expressed. Often people manifest negative emotions through crying—not just sadness. Anger toward a partner or anxiety about performance may be expressed through tears.”
4. It physically hurts.
“There are many medical and physical explanations for painful intercourse such as vaginal dryness, pelvic inflammation, and endometriosis,” Dorfman explains. “As a result, a woman might cry as a result of physical pain.”
And at what point is it not normal?
TL;DR: If crying occurs regularly during sex, that’s indicative of an emotional or physical issue requiring deeper examination. But if it’s a once or twice thing, you’re probably just really in your feelz.
But no matter the reason you’re crying or how frequently it’s happening, you and your partner should always acknowledge the issue. “Crying during sex warrants attention, recognition, or acknowledgment,” advises Dorfman. “It is important for a woman to know the degree of emotion that she experiences during physical intimacy, as her body may be providing some useful cues.”
What should you do about it?
If it’s a good kind of cry and there’s no sadness involved, Morse says all you really have to do is talk to your partner about it. “Own it and just be honest,” she suggests. “Say something like ‘Sometimes I cry after orgasm, and it’s not because I’m sad or in pain, it’s just an intense release. It’s a good thing!’”
That being said, if your tears are coming from a negative reason, Dorfman suggests talking to a professional who can help you sort through the underlying issues that may be arising.
Who can help you?
Discuss the issues with your gyno or talk it out with a psychotherapist. “Gynecologists are well-equipped to address many physical symptoms which may cause pain — and ultimately crying,” says Dorfman. “Psychotherapists are equipped to treat patients struggling with emotional issues which manifest as sexual issues—particularly trauma, anxiety, anger, etc.”
Related Story Candice Jalili Candice is a Sex, Relationship, & Lifestyle Writer based in NYC.
10 Reasons For Crying During Sex — And What It Might Mean
We’re always hearing that we could be having better sex, a better orgasm, or a better relationship. But how often do we hear the nitty-gritty of how we can actually better understand our deepest desires and most embarrassing questions? Bustle has enlisted Vanessa Marin, a sex therapist, to help us out with the details. No gender, sexual orientation, or question is off limits, and all questions remain anonymous. Now, onto this week’s topic: reasons why crying during sex happens — and what it might mean.
Q: “I like it when my partner dominates me sometimes, but I find that as he does it sometimes, I’ll start crying. That freaks him out, and makes him feel like he’s being mean, so he doesn’t dominate me as often as I’d like. I’m not sure why I start crying — I just feel a lot in the moment, and it’s like it brings something up I didn’t know is there. Why do people sometimes cry during sex and does it mean you should stop doing something?”
A: Thanks for the question. Breaking into tears can sure seem intense in the moment. Sometimes those tears are a sign of it all being too much, but sometimes tears can be harmless, or even good! Here are 10 possible explanations of tears during sex, as well as some ideas for what to do in the moment if you start to cry.
1. You’re Roleplaying
If you and your partner are doing a lot of intense power play and roleplaying, tears may simply be a sign of getting into character, or come as a result of the power dynamic.
“Power play involves one person taking control (consensually) in a sexual situation while the other partner is submissive to, or acted upon, by them,” Carol Queen, PhD, Good Vibrations staff sexologist and author of The Sex & Pleasure Book: Good Vibrations Guide To Great Sex For Everyone, tells Bustle. Being under someone else’s control can feel sexy, arousing, thrilling — and/or unsafe and overwhelming! Whether or not we have had traumatic experiences, all of us have been kids, and have felt under the control of others at least sometimes. So in some power play contexts, those old feelings are accessed. Also, sometimes people will be engaged in roleplay, which may really take you into often-unvisited corners of your own psyche.”
Being dominated can sometimes include begging your partner to do something, pleading with them not to do something, pretending you need to be punished, or taking your punishment. Tears can be a very normal part of the game, and can happen organically in the middle of things. If you feel fine emotionally, or if it feels like you’re “in character” while you’re crying, you probably don’t have anything to worry about. Just let your partner know that the crying doesn’t mean you are hurt or that something is wrong.
2. You’re Happy
Plenty of people cry happy tears during or after sex. You might feel grateful that you feel safe enough with your partner to explore power play. You might feel relieved that you’re giving yourself permission to go to places that you may have not considered going to before. Or you might simply feel a lot of love for your partner in that moment. If that’s the case, let yourself cry, and don’t be ashamed of it! Explain to your partner that they’re good tears, and they’re nothing to be worried about. If your partner has a hard time believing you in the moment it might help them to hear you explain it after the fact.
3. You’re In Pain
Andrew Zaeh for Bustle
It’s possible to experience pain during sex in a number of different contexts. If you’re engaging in BDSM with your partner, you may feel pain from the restraints, a ball gag, or a whip. Your body might be contorted into positions that are uncomfortable. A lot of people who play with BDSM make the distinction between “good pain” and “bad pain;” good pain feels pleasurable, whereas bad pain doesn’t.
There are also sexual pain conditions like vulvodynia and dyspareunia, which cause people with vulvas to experience pain in their vulvas of vaginal canals. If you’re in physical pain, I highly recommend that you stop and check in with your partner. Loosen your restraints, ask your partner to go lighter on the paddle. Make sure you have a safe word so your partner knows when they’re going too far. If the pain is specifically in your vulva or vagina, and persists, go check in with your OB/GYN.
4. You’re Confused
Power play can bring up conflicting emotions for many people. On the one hand, you’re agreeing to the specific activities you’re engaging in with your partner, and you’re — hopefully — doing them in a safe and responsible way. On the other hand, some of the specific acts themselves can feel degrading, even though you understand the context.
For example, let’s say your partner slaps you across the face. Let’s imagine you talked about it beforehand, you were on board with trying it, you had a safe word in place, and you practiced appropriate levels of force. Everything was done properly, but at the end of the day, you’re still being slapped in the face. Your tears may be a sign that you feel jarred, confused, or conflicted. Take a break from the power play if this happens, then come back to it at a later date and have a conversation about your boundaries.
5. You’re Ashamed
Andrew Zaeh for Bustle
Similarly, power play can sometimes bring up internalized feelings of shame — which you may not know you had. Again, all of the same things that I just mentioned above may be true — you may be doing everything right, with a trustworthy partner. But being submissive, being called names, or being punished can bring up feelings of shame, even if it’s something you want. Sometimes power play can be cathartic because it helps us access and move through the shame that resides within all of us. But sometimes it might feel like too much. It’s up to you to find the line and let your partner know where that line is. The questions to ask yourself that I’ll mention at the end of this article should help.
6. You’re Afraid
Another similar experience is being afraid in the moment. Even when done properly, power play can still be a scary thing. You may be restrained or physically hurt. Like with pain, there’s a differentiation between “good fear” and “bad fear.” Good fear can be like the anxiety you get on an amusement park ride, or the thrill of watching a movie you know is going to scare the pants off of you. Like with shame, you have to question yourself and find the line that feels right for you. Explore this with your partner, and let them know what your boundaries are.
7. You’re Being Teased
Andrew Zaeh for Bustle
When you and your partner power play, does your partner prevent you from experiencing pleasure or having an orgasm? Deprival can be a part of the game in a lot of role play situations. Sometimes you might get so hot and bothered, and so frustrated by the lack of release, that you actually start to cry. If it feels like your body is screaming for attention in the moments before you start crying, this explanation is probably the culprit. Let your partner know if the frustration is too much and you want to stop.
8. You’re Triggered
Sometimes sex can trigger past experiences of abuse. “A person who’s been abused or survived painful/problematic/non-consensual sexual experiences often holds trauma and emotion in their body after such an experience,” Queen says. “Being naked, being touched, getting aroused and particular kinds of sexual touch can connect a person more directly to this; it can be harder to put on the shelf or out of their mind, and even if they are not having memories of their specific situation, they may find emotion takes over anyway. This might not include crying — but it certainly can.”
There are obvious elements of power during sexual assault, since another person physically and emotionally overpowered you and your boundaries. Some people believe that power play can be cathartic for sexual abuse survivors, but it’s very easy to slip into feeling triggered. If you feel like your body is starting to dissociate from your brain, if you have memories of the abuse, or if you start feeling out of control, please stop what you’re doing in the moment.
“Noticing what the trigger is can be important — it can help in asking the partner to stop something specific, or ask them to do something that will change the focus and distract away from the triggering incident,” Queen says. “Even if a person hasn’t told their partner what happened to them and doesn’t intend to, they can still let them know in advance of sex that sometimes they get triggered and may need to ask for this change of focus. A partner’s ability to take this seriously and go with it is important.”
And if you don’t know what triggered you, at a later date, think about whether or not these types of sexual activities feel safe to you. If you’re not sure what’s being triggered, talk to a professional and try to communicate with your partner in the moment.
9. You’re Overwhelmed
Sometimes we cry because there’s just so much going on in one moment. This can be a good or bad thing. You might feel overwhelmed because you’re pushing yourself to the limits of your boundaries, and you’re starting to feel unsafe or nervous. Or you might feel overwhelmed by love, pleasure, or joy. You might just need a moment to sort out what you’re feeling. If this is the case, just let your partner know. There’s nothing wrong with taking a moment to reflect on what you want, and get back into things when it feels right.
10. It’s Just Biology
When you’re having sex, your body can release oxytocin (euphemistically referred to as the “cuddle hormone”), which can make your emotions feel even more intense. Your tears may simply be the result of biology — this is one of the reasons you might especially feel an urge to cry after orgasm. If this is the case, there’s nothing to be ashamed of. You’re likely just feeling so good in the moment, you’re shedding a tear or two.
What To Do If You Start Crying During Sex
First, ask your partner to stop and give you a minute to sort out your feelings. Take a few slow, deep breaths. Then ask yourself this series of questions:
- “What am I feeling right now?”
- “What do these tears mean?”
- “What do I need right now?”
If your answers all seem relatively benign, like, “I’m just feeling so much love for my partner,” or if it’s just a few tears, then it’s probably fine to continue. If you’re crying hard, if you don’t know the answers to these questions, or if you feel confused trying to sort it out, it might be best to call time out or stop completely. You don’t want to push yourself to keep having sex if you’re having a strong emotional reaction that you don’t understand. The next day, take some time to review the experience and see if there’s anything you can learn from it.
Carol Queen, PhD, Good Vibrations staff sexologist
When you imagine having sex that you’re totally into, crying probably isn’t part of the picture. But sometimes when you’re in the middle of doing the deed, your emotions take over and you suddenly find tears leaking out of your eyes. You might feel surprised depending on the situation, but being overcome with feelings during the act is actually pretty normal, even when you actively want to have sex. Here, 7 women show as much by sharing the reasons they’ve cried during sex. Some are heartbreaking while others are incredibly sweet, but all of them prove that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with getting emotional during sex. Sometimes, you’ve just got to let it out.
1. Because of confusing anal sex-induced feelings.
“I was having anal sex with my boyfriend of two years. We were slightly tipsy after a few glasses of wine, and it was only the second or third time we’d tried it. A few minutes in, I burst into tears, and not from pain. I started crying because I wasn’t sure if I felt degraded or not, and if I did feel degraded, then I was actually enjoying it. It was a strange feeling, and I was shocked by my own tears. My boyfriend immediately wrapped me in his arms and asked if I was OK. I said yes and started laughing, so he joined in. Needless to say, the mood was somewhat ruined, but I can confirm there have been no tears since.” —Thea C., 21
2. Because her partner cheated.
“One morning, a woman slid into my Instagram DMs and told me she and my ‘boyfriend’—I use that term loosely—had been sleeping together and dating each other for a couple months. I didn’t sleep with him for over a month after I found out, and the first time I did,I began to cry shortly after we began. I was thinking about him with the other woman and the qualities she had that I didn’t. We broke up about a week after that incident. The crying made me realize this guy hurt me to my core. I’d wondered throughout our year-long courtship whether or not he really cared for me. At the moment I started crying, I said to myself, ‘Nope he doesn’t.'” —Talisha H., 28
3. Because it fell into a pattern.
“I’ve only cried once during sex. It wasn’t because it was beautiful, although he was the hottest guy friend I had, like an Abercrombie model. But it also meant I’d slept with almost my entire group of guy friends in a two-year period. There’s nothing inherently wrong with having sex with as many people as you want, but I was young and so ashamed of myself. Shortly after college, though, I met the love of my life, and we got married in 2013!” —Maria P., 31
4. Because of a surprise breakup.
“It was senior year of college, and my then-boyfriend and I hadn’t talked about graduation at all. He was walking me to a meeting I was attending, andall of a sudden he told me he wasn’t sure if he loved me enough to date me forever. I had no idea he had doubts, and I started uncontrollably sobbing in the middle of the meeting. Later on, he came over to my place and started kissing my breasts, clearly wanting to have sex, and I started crying again. I knew we weren’t going to be together, and I loved him so much. At some point, I stopped crying, and we finished having sex. It’s OK now, though. I’m so not attracted to him, I’d rather get intimate with a comforter.” —Monica T., 25
5. Because of physical pain and emotional frustration.
“I suffer from vaginismus, a condition where penetrative intercourse is painful. I was having sex with my boyfriend and experiencing pain and discomfort when I started crying. Not from the physical pain, but from the complications and frustrations that came along with the experience that was supposed to be magical and pleasant. While my partner was experiencing those very feelings, I was simultaneously conflicted, in pain, and unhappy. I couldn’t help killing the mood with some tears. When he noticed, he was alarmed and rushed to comfort me, trying his best to understand what it was I was feeling. This, to me, felt most intimate of all.” —Sarah L., 23
6. Because it was really, truly over.
“A year after my ex and I mutually broke up, we were having sex. We did everything we used to do, but we knew it would be the last time. I broke up into tears. It was pretty obvious from my side—I have always been touchy with emotional stuff. He asked me for the reason behind my tears, but I was silent. He asked again, and I kept on with my closed lips. He then understood my silence and broke into tears himself.” —Anukriti S.
7. Because it was time to go back to long-distance dating.
“My boyfriend and I are in a long-distance relationship, and we had just gotten back home from our first trip abroad. The vacation really cemented how head over heels I was for him, and being together for over a week was like a dream. When we landed in my Midwest city, we were going to spend one last night together before he headed back to the West Coast and we wouldn’t see each other for weeks. As we had sex, I was honestly overwhelmed by how much I loved him and how much I didn’t want him to leave, so I started crying. I tried to keep it subtle, but he realized. At first he was scared he hurt me, but when I explained, he wiped my tears away and comforted me. Then we continued on having amazing sex. Swoon.” —Kimberly C.
Quotes have been edited for length and clarity.
Men Cry After Sex Too–Here’s Why It Happens
Sex has lots of proven body benefits: It can help reduce pain, make it easier to sleep, and strengthen your immune system. But it also may have an unexpected effect on your mood, leaving you feeling sad and blue after the action is over—so much so that you might finding yourself crying.
This sadness has a name: post-coital dysphoria (PCD). Ian Kerner, a New York City–based sex therapist, describes PCD as ” sadness, anger, and distress generally post-sex and often post-orgasm.” You might experience it during a hookup, but it also happens when you’re with a partner you feel close to and the sex itself felt pleasurable. In fact, you don’t need a partner—PCD can even happen during or after masturbation.
RELATED: 5 Health Benefits of Sex
Not only is post-sex sadness a real thing, it’s surprisingly common. A 2015 survey of college women published in Sexual Medicine found that 46% experienced it at least once; 5% reported feeling sad and lonely after sex multiple times in a four-week period. “There appeared to be no relationship between PCD and intimacy in close relationships,” the study authors noted. The study focused on women, but it can strike men as well.
In fact, earlier this month, the first study estimating the prevalence of PCD in men was published in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy. The Australian research team surveyed more than 1,200 men with an online questionnaire and found that almost as many men–41%–experienced PCD at some point and 20% had in the last four weeks. As many as 4% said they had PCD on a regular basis. “Results indicate that the male experience of the resolution phase may be far more varied, complex, and nuanced than previously thought,” the authors wrote.
Kerner says PCD isn’t well researched, but he believes the sadness has to do with hormones. “Especially for women, sex and orgasm can release the hormone oxytocin, which facilitates attachment and connection,” he explains. If you’re having a casual sexual encounter, you’ll still feel that surge in oxytocin. Cue the realization that you’re not in a long-term commitment with your hookup partner, and your emotions can be set off. If you are with your SO, your sadness might reflect on unhappiness with your relationship.
Sex also makes us feel vulnerable, and that vulnerability can bring on tears. “Post-sex is a reflective period, and that can bring up emotions and experiences you normally keep under wraps,” says Kerner. That in turn may trigger a floodgate of tears and feels. Kerner gives the example of a couple who have fallen into a pattern of fighting and then having makeup sex. “With a pattern of fight, have sex, and repair, the sex may feel great, but afterward, you may realize you aren’t really connected or you’re still angry.”
RELATED: The Truth About What Happens to Your Vagina When You Haven’t Had Sex in a While
Past trauma can contribute to your post-sex blues too. Survivors of sexual assault, for instance, might feel very emotional if the sexual experience reminded them of being assaulted. In the Australian study, PCD among men was linked to childhood sexual abuse, sexual dysfunction, and psychological distress. People who base their self-worth on how their partner feels about them are more likely to feel depressed after sex—if their partner doesn’t treat them with the closeness they were hoping for.
If you experience PCD and you aren’t sure why, “it’s a good reason to see a therapist, who could help cultivate some self-insight,” suggests Kerner. He also says that giving yourself an orgasm via masturbation, and then seeing where your mind wanders, can help get an idea of what might be making you feel so emotional. Whether you cry, laugh, or have another post-sex reaction, know that whatever emotions you feel are valid.
Is It Normal For Guys To Cry After Sex? A New Study Made A Groundbreaking Discovery
Society has an unfortunate tendency of gendering almost everything human beings do. For example, financial success, physical strength, and drinking beer are all reserved for men while being in touch with our sensitive sides, sipping on cosmos and tending to the home are often seen as more feminine activities. Needless to say, these stereotypes are totally unfounded and, luckily, our society is slowly starting to make some small strides when it comes to denouncing them. For instance, a groundbreaking new study finally answered the question of “is it normal for guys to cry after sex?” Oh, and the answer is, of course, YES. It’s totally normal for guys to shed some post coital tears, despite what society may lead us to believe.
When watching movies and TV shows, it’s typically the woman who cries after a sexual encounter but researchers over at Queensland University of Technology (QUT) found dudes cry just as often as their female counterparts.
The researchers were particularly focused on something called Postcoital Dysphoria (PCD). BuzzFeed News explains that the condition is characterized “by a short-term period of counter-intuitive responses after consensual sex, involving inexplicable feelings of irritability, sadness, anxiety, or tearfulness.”
According to BuzzFeed News, 46.2 percent of women have suffered from PCD at one point or another but, sadly, there hasn’t been as much information on whether men also grapple with the same condition. The researchers behind the QUT study explain the lack of information up until now could be due to “dominant cultural assumptions about the male experience sexual activity and of the resolution phase.”
“My guess is that we have such a cultural view of what sex is for men that the very idea of men having experiences which are aversive are just not even considered,” professor Robert Schweitzer, a psychology researcher from QUT, who co-authored the paper with masters student Joel Maczkowiack, explained to BuzzFeed News.
In order to start bridging this gap in scientific consideration, the QUT study had over 1,200 men from around the world take an online survey. What they found was that 41 percent of them have experienced PCD at some point in their lives. What’s more troubling? A small three to four percent of the men reported that they suffer from it on a regular basis.
Some who suffer from regular QUT find that the condition serves as a strong hindrance to their ability to enjoy sexual intimacy.
“It is because I cannot bear negative feelings and emotions anymore,” a 41-year-old participant who goes by John* said, describing his decreased desire to have sex. “I am avoiding any sexual behavior as much as possible, despite still feeling needs.”
While the study wasn’t able to come up with any conclusive results for what exactly causes PCD in men, the fact that it was able to even acknowledge the fact that it is something men suffer with almost as much as women do is already a huge step in the right direction.
Here’s to hoping the scientific world continues to break down gender norms in their research.
*Name has been changed.
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Consensual sex with a partner you’re into is supposed to make you feel a lot of things, like sexy, close, ecstatic, blissed out, warm, relaxed…all good stuff. But thanks to a growing area of research, we now know that about half of all sex-having people feel a flurry of negative emotions instead.
Those post-sex blues, more formally called postcoital dysphoria, or PCD, are a common but under-researched and under-reported phenomenon that causes people to feel sad, angry, depressed, or anxious after an activity that’s supposed to make you feel generally pretty great.
Researchers have a few hypotheses about what could be behind your bedroom tears, and none of them have anything to do with anything being “wrong” with you.
Basically: It’s your sex life and you can cry if you want to! But understandably, very few people want to spend their precious post-orgasm cuddle time wiping away tears, so to help get to the bottom of your confusing tear ducts, here’s everything you need to know about crying after sex.
Big girls (and boys) do cry
Because research on sex is still—go figure—a field that’s very much growing, one of the first studies on postcoital dysphoria was published in October 2015 with groundbreaking results: Out of 230 female college students surveyed, at least 46 percent had experienced dysphoria after sex at least once in their lifetimes already. That means that just about half of all sexually active women can probably recall feeling melancholic, anxious, angry, depressed, or aggressive after sex, even if the sex (yes, that includes masturbation) was totally great and fine.
One man described feeling “literally achy and depressed for about a day.”
Robert Schweitzer, PhD, a psychology professor at Queensland University of Technology, in Australia, and a lead researcher of the study, says that about one percent of the respondents even reported feeling blue after sex every single time they had it. Although this study and most others have only focused on women, Schweitzer published the first research on how postcoital dysphoria affects men just earlier this year in the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy.
According to those recent findings, men deal with postcoital dysphoria at a very similar rate to women. Among 1,208 men who responded to an online survey, 41 percent said they’d experienced PCD in their lifetime. While the numbers are comprable between men and women, Schweitzer’s 2019 study suggests that men experience the symptoms of PCD differently, in a more complicated and nuanced way than researchers previously thought (part of why it took so long for this study to exist). “Experiencing intense emotions after intercourse may seem particularly jarring because men associate sex with masculinity and vitality,” explains Kimberly Resnick Anderson, a certified sex therapist and professor of psychiatry at UCLA School of Medicine.
Schweitzer says people commonly describe the feeling as “an experience of anger or shame” and “a loss of self.” One 20-year-old man quoted in a 2009 New York Times story on PCD described feeling “literally achy and depressed for about a day.” But a really common description that comes up is “homesickness” or like you feel out of place in your own body.
None of these feelings are always accompanied by tears, and sometimes tears come without the feelings. Either way, feeling in any way down or depressed after sex is extremely confusing and isolating, but based on these preliminary numbers alone, you’re far from alone in your post-bone blues.
Why you have so many tears left to cry
While a lot more research still needs to be done to figure out the true causes of PCD, Schweitzer says that “there appears to be no relationship between postcoital dysphoria and intimacy in close relationships.” Before you take your vague, bad feeling post-consensual sex as a sign your relationship is doomed, don’t.
“Although there are many theories, we are not certain exactly what cause postcoital dysphoria,” Anderson says. She adds that it’s commonly believed to have a hormonal component tied to the increase of dopamine and prolactin after sex (and especially orgasm).
“Dopamine is considered the ‘foot-on-the-gas’ of the sexual car and prolactin is considered the ‘foot-on-the-brake,” Anderson says. “After the euphoria of orgasm, prolactin may trigger dysphoric feelings.” She also emphasizes that these dysphoric feelings can happen in both healthy and unsatisfying relationships, adding that a lot of people who experience PCD say they’re otherwise very happy with their current partner.
“Sex is meant to be one thing—beautiful and loving—and maybe for me, it’s not.”
Quoting a woman who answered his initial survey, Schweitzer offers another potential explanation for PCD. He believes that, for a lot of people, the post-sex crash happens because they don’t fully understand what a sexual experience is supposed to feel like. “I’m reading a quote in front of me, ‘Maybe it’s to do with sexual expectations, like sex is meant to be one thing—beautiful and loving—and maybe for me, it’s not,'” Schweitzer reads. “‘After counseling, I wondered if the blues in me could be fixed. It’s confusing, I feel stuck when it happens.'”
Okay, so what do you do about it?
As Anderson says, unless your dysphoria lasts for days or weeks, it’s not likely a sign of any kind of deeper issue. But if your feelings are dredging up a previous trauma or causing you to avoid sex in any kind of way, seek help in the form of a therapist, counselor, or trusted family member or friend. And if it’s safe to do so, try and explain what’s going on with your partner—they should know what’s happening in your brain and can maybe even help sort it out.
Formal treatment for PCD hasn’t really been hammered out just yet. A 2009 story in the New York Times, written by a psychiatrist who treats patients with PCD, describes using antidepressants like SSRIs (like Prozac, if you’re familiar) to treat post-sex sads. He writes about giving the medication to a few patients to “exploit the usually undesirable side effects of SSRIs for possible therapeutic effect.” And by side effects, he means a generally lower sex drive that some people experience while taking an antidepressant. In his limited trial, he found that while people generally enjoyed sex less intensely while taking the drugs, their mood after sex was more stable.
Still, that’s one experimental trial and it isn’t widely used. If your bad feelings are limited solely to the occasional post-sex reflection and aren’t a symptom of general depressive disorder, Schweitzer says there’s no proof of any tie between PCD and other mood disorders. His own research also didn’t find much correlation between a history of abuse and post-sex sadness, although Anderson says that’s one hypothesis among sex therapists as PCD undergoes further necessary research.
Crying after sex (or feeling sad, empty, etc.) doesn’t mean you’re broken or that you didn’t just love every minute of the actual sex or have a mind-blowing orgasm or are in any way fucked up as a person. If just means you—and probably half the people you know—are affected by a very common, mysterious phenomenon that goes against everything we’ve been led to believe about the ~beautiful~ experience of sex.
Hannah Smothers Hannah writes about health, sex, and relationships for Cosmopolitan, and you can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.
You want a naked woman in your bed to be one of two things: horny or satisfied.
But what if she cries?
It’s a common experience, according to new Australian research. Nearly half of women have felt unexplainable sadness after sex, the study finds.
Researchers call the phenomenon “postcoital dysphoria.” It can involve bursting into tears or just feeling depressed or anxious.
The good news: Her crying may have nothing to do with you. The women in the study specified that their feelings were “inexplicable,” so it’s not like it could be traced back to, say, the guy’s tragically subpar skills in the sack.
(Although if you do want to sharpen your skills, try the detailed instructions in How to Pleasure a Woman.)
It could just be a biological reflex to sex. A woman’s body—or a man’s, for that matter—goes through a laundry list of hormonal and neurological changes during sex, and it’s possible that one of them could trigger tears, says Lori Brotto, Ph.D., a psychologist at the University of British Columbia.
Or it could be something heavy.
The researchers found that women who had been sexually abused as children were more likely to experience postcoital dysphoria. For these women, sex—even good, consensual sex—could unconsciously trigger fear.
There are countless other possibilities, Brotto says: She may feel lonely after the intimacy of sex is over, or she may feel vaguely guilty.
Even though the study participants’ depression was inexplicable, that’s not always the case. Maybe you accidentally rammed her cervix, or maybe she caught herself wanting to say the L word for the first time.
Related: The 5 Worst Sex Positions
If your partner seems bummed after sex, give her a chance to talk about it, suggests Brotto.
This applies regardless of whether it’s your girlfriend, wife, or a hookup. It may seem awkward if you don’t know her well, but just be supportive.
Say: “You look really sad; what’s going on?”
If she doesn’t want to talk, just drop it. But rub her shoulder to reassure her that you’re there for her.
If you’re in a relationship, you can bring it up again later to help her make sense of it, says Brotto.
“It’s hard for a person to think rationally when they’re overcome with emotions,” she says. “But a few hours later or the next day, with some digging you may be able to figure out what is going on.”
Try asking when she started feeling sad or if she knows what spurred her feelings. Again, don’t demand an answer if she says it was nothing.
“Help her make sense of it in a gentle, careful, open-ended way,” Brotto says. “Don’t try to solve it; just give her a chance to explore it.”
You may find out that she hates a certain position or was just feeling weepy that day.
But if she seems to consistently get sad after sex and she can’t figure out why, then she might need more than your listening ear or comfort. She may have to seek a therapist’s help so she can work through the underlying problem—with your support.
Why Do People Cry After Sex?
When people talk about awkward sex, it’s usually something along the lines of farting at the wrong time, accidentally getting injured, or saying something stupid.
Not me, though!
No, with me, awkward sex tends to mean some sort of catastrophically epic fail for the ages. I’m actually pretty legendary when it comes to having bad hookups that culminate in cringe-inducingly, eye-contact-avoidingly bad awkwardness.
At times, it could mean that one of us accidentally pukes on the other. It could mean that my fling ate my birth control, as it’s already happened before. Or, it could mean that I fell asleep while sexing it up or that my partner couldn’t figure out where to put it.
Most of the time, though, the awkwardness that ensues involves a partner bursting into tears. As much as I hate to say it, I’ve had more than one partner who has cried after sex. I’m not talking about a small sniffle. I’m talking about sobbing like a baby.
After a while, I’ve wondered why people cry after sex. It’s a strange phenomenon, but by no means is it as rare as people think it is. Over the years, I’ve done some research on the subject to figure out what’s going on.
Curious to find out why that cutie may have started tearing up? Here are some of the most common reasons why post-coital crying happens and what you should know about it.
The most obvious reason why people might cry after sex deals with consent.
I’ll get this out of the way, since it’s going to be the most obvious reason why people would burst into tears after sex. Consent is key. If someone didn’t consent to sex with you, then of course, they’d start crying. People typically do cry when they’re raped.
Did they continually tell you to stop? Did they freeze up and stop moving? Did they really seem reluctant or resigned to it? Did they try to push you off? Did you get the nagging feeling that hey, this person really might not be into it?
Guess what—if any of that happened, you didn’t get consent. You just raped or sexually assaulted someone. You probably should apologize, get help, and prepare for police to ask you some questions.
Thankfully, not all tears shed after sex are coercion-related. There are other reasons why someone might start getting huffy, weepy, and sobby after a roll in the hay.
Sex can be very intense, and when the intensity kicks up a notch, your hormones will react. Strong orgasms have a tendency of releasing massive waves of oxytocin—a chemical that is known for being the “love and bonding” chemical in your brain.
When too much oxytocin hits you at once, you might experience something known as Post-Coital Dysphoria, also known as Post-Coital Tristesse. This syndrome is marked by moodiness, a sudden feeling of sadness, or a feeling of overwhelming anxiety.
Some people who experience PD tend to get weepy after sex, simply because the emotions are too wild for them to handle. So, if you have a really wild session and they start crying, this could be the reason why they turned the waterworks on.
Admittedly, I’m not one for tears in the bedroom most of the time. But, some people are. People who have a fetish called dacryphilia are sexually attracted to crying people—and those who want to roleplay a victim in bed may actually learn how to cry on command.
Of course, this is probably only going to be the reason your partner cries during or after sex if you two have discussed things ahead of time. Even so, it’s a possibility.
There is a term in psychology circles called “skin hunger.” This term is defined as a deep yearning for physical touch, and believe it or not, it’s a human need. Human touch, even as simple as hand-holding or fixing hair, has been linked to better mental health and lowered rates of depression.
If you think about it, we don’t really live in a touchy-feely society. If your partner has been deprived of affection and touch for a long time, it’s very possible that your sex session sent them into ecstasy.
Imagine going for years without sex, and then finally getting laid. It might bring a tear to your eye, too!
Your partner could have a background that makes them feel guilty for sex.
A lot of cultures in America and elsewhere tend to teach people that sexuality is bad, evil, unclean, or otherwise not good. If you hear something frequently enough, you will internalize it, even if you logically know it’s not the truth.
This practice has been linked to serious body issues and an often-permanent inability to feel comfortable with one’s own sexuality. This has been shown to be true, even when people leave the churches that teach them these rules.
For example, Evangelical Purity Culture is known for its sex-shaming practices—and the lasting anxiety-inducing effects it has on female followers.
If you have a sex partner who was a member of an extremely anti-sex religious movement, this could be why they cry after sex. Former Evangelical survivor Linda Kay Klein explained it this way:
“From that point on, sometimes it was my boyfriend and I being sexual that would make me have these breakdowns where I was in tears, scratching myself until I bled and ending up on the corner of the bed crying.”
Obviously, patience and trying to help them understand that sex isn’t evil or shameful is what is called for here. Shaming them more, or freaking out, will only make things worse.
Your partner reached BDSM catharsis.
Were you getting kinky with the whips? Did you give your partner a lot of pleasurable pain? Well, they may cry after sex for a different reason—and it’s not just because they might have gotten a little hurt, either.
Closely linked to Post-Coital Dysphoria is a syndrome that many BDSM practitioners have experienced called “catharsis.” Catharsis has the same kind of oxytocin rush that PD has, but also has the adrenaline rush that people receive when they undergo pain.
This double-hit of hormones tends to make people a little loopy for a bit. As such, catharsis is often a very extreme reaction that can involve tears, shaking, panic attacks, or even start letting out bottled up emotions from years ago.
Don’t freak out if this happens with your partner. Just move into aftercare and let them ride it out. Believe it or not, catharsis has been linked to healing from trauma and as a way to get rid of pent up stress.
Confusion could also be a culprit.
Did you ever have sex that made you question who you are as a person? If you are LGBTQ, then you probably have experienced this at least once. When you have sex that puts you in touch with a side of yourself you don’t understand, it’s easy to get emotional.
A person who feels very confused about themselves, or the sex they had, may start to cry after sex. This is actually very common among people who were told being gay is bad their entire lives, only to have gay sex and realize it feels good for them.
You got teased a bit too hard.
Certain kinks, such as tease and denial, tend to hinge on the psychological aspect of frustration. Sometimes, a little teasing makes actually receiving pleasure pretty amazing. For some people, they get into teasing so much, they actually will start to cry.
Most of the time, people who are into hardcore teasing will cry during sex, but it’s not unheard of to cry after sex for the same reason. It’s a rush for them, and at times, people get a delayed reaction.
They may feel embarrassed or ashamed about their performance.
This one has happened to at least one or two of my partners—and admittedly, I have a tendency of making things worse because I don’t know how to handle this very gracefully when put on the spot. It’s not something I’m proud of, but it’s the truth.
If a guy feels like he failed his partner, or if a girl feels very insecure about the way her body looks, they may cry after sex. It’s not necessarily your fault, but at the very least, you should do something to try to make your partner feel a bit better.
Finally, it could also be that they have been triggered.
Do you have a partner who was sexually abused? People who have PTSD may find themselves triggered by a sexual act—and that can include something as simple as spanking or just having an errant thought during the act.
It’s usually very easy to tell when someone’s been triggered by something. People who are triggered tend to react pretty wildly to their trigger and may actually ask you to stop sleeping with them mid-coitus.
If this is the reason why you see someone cry after sex, it’s best to try to calm them down and talk things out. PTSD is pretty brutal like that, and there is a lot of stigmas attached to PTSD that your partner likely has to deal with day in and day out. A little kindness can go a long way.
Is Crying After Sex Normal?
Adam Kuylenstierna / EyeEm/Getty Images
Okay, sex is awesome (hello, brain, body, and bond-boosting benefits!). But getting hit with the blues—instead of euphoria—after your bedroom session is anything but.
While some sex sessions can be so good they make you cry (the rush of oxytocin that floods your brain post-orgasm has been known to cause a few happy tears), there’s another reason for crying after sex: postcoital dysphoria (PCD), or the feeling of anxiety, depression, tearfulness, and even aggression (not the kind you want in bed) that some women experience right after sex. Sometimes PCD is called postcoital tristesse (French for sadness), according to the International Society for Sexual Medicine (ISSM).
How common is crying after sex?
According to a survey of 230 college women published in Sexual Medicine, 46 percent had experienced the depressing phenomenon. Five percent of people in the study had experienced it a few times in the past month.
Interestingly enough, guys cry after sex too: A 2018 study of about 1,200 men found that a similar rate of men experience PCD and cry after sex as well. Forty-one percent reported experiencing PCD in their lifetime and 20 percent reported experiencing it in the last month. (Related: Is It Bad for Your Health to Try Not to Cry?)
But why do people cry after sex?
Don’t worry, a postcoital cry doesn’t always have much to do with the strength of your relationship, the level of intimacy between you and your partner, or how good the sex is. (Related: How to Get More Pleasure Out of Any Sex Position)
“Our hypothesis relates to sense of self and the fact that sexual intimacy may involve a loss of your sense of self,” says Robert Schweitzer, Ph.D., and the lead author of the Sexual Medicine study. Since sex is an emotionally fraught territory, no matter how you approach your love life, the mere act of intercourse tends to affect the way you see yourself, for better or worse. For people with a rock solid sense of who they are and what they want (both in the bedroom and in life), the authors of the study think PCD is less likely. “For a person with a very fragile sense of self, it may be more problematic,” says Schweitzer.
Schweitzer says it’s possible that there’s a genetic component to PCD too—the researchers noticed a similarity between twins battling the post-sex blues (if one twin experienced it, the other was likely to as well). But more research is needed to test that idea.
The ISSM also cites the following as potential reasons for crying after sex:
- It’s possible that the experience of bonding with a partner during sex is so intense that breaking the bond triggers sadness.
- The emotional response may somehow be linked to sexual abuse that has occurred in the past.
- In some cases, it may indeed be a sign of underlying relationship issues.
For now, if you’re suffering, the first step may be IDing the areas in your life that might have you feeling extra stressed or insecure, says Schweitzer. (Pro tip: Listen to the advice of these super-confident ladies to banish any lurking self-esteem issues.) If you’re often crying after sex and it’s troubling you, it may be a good idea to see a counselor, doctor, or sex therapist.
The bottom line, though? It’s absolutely not crazy to cry after sex. (It’s one the 19 Weird Things That Can Make You Cry.)
- By Macaela Mackenzie @MacaelaMackenzi
- By Macaela Mackenzie and Lauren Mazzo
Photo by Michael Podger on Unsplash
At The Center For Relationships we promote safe, accurate science-based information on healthy sexual practices. Today, July 31st, we would like to shine a light on a not-so-well-known national holiday. Mostly celebrated in Australia, The United States and The United Kingdom, today marks the world wide National Holiday: National Orgasm Day! Coupled or not, it is a day everyone should celebrate without the feeling of shame or guilt. Human experiences can vary but some are more common than others. With new data coming out every year, we would like to introduce one becoming more frequent in today’s bedrooms.
What is “Crymaxing”?
“Crymaxing” is an experience in which an individual cries during or after sex or orgasm. Whether it is due to feelings of sadness, happiness, or unknown reasons, crymaxing can be an unexpected response for you and your partner. Robert Schweitzer, a researcher at Queensland University of Technology in Australia explored this phenomenon further. According to Schweitzer, after sex, we enter into the resolution phase of the sexual arousal cycle. This resolution phase consists of a wide range of emotional and behavioral responses leading people to wonder “is this normal?” For some, post-coital dysphoria (PCD) occurs, which means that after their orgasm or sexual activity, they experience feelings of sadness, anxiety, agitation, or aggression, which may include crying. These feelings can last from five minutes to a couple of hours and can happen regardless of gender.
A recent study by Schweitzer, O’Brien, and Burri (2015) found 46% of their study participants have experienced PCD at least once in their lifetime! The empirical literature, however, has not conclusively determined direct causes of PCD. There are several theories, however, that can elicit this sense of unease including:
- Hormonal changes
- The release of emotions that have been repressed
- Misunderstandings of your partner’s behaviors
- Failed relational expectations you can discuss together
The term Post-Coital Dysphoria may presume a feeling of sadness but this is not always the case. After an orgasm, our brains release Oxytocin to promote trust, empathy, and the feeling of connection. These sudden emotions of safety and vulnerability can allow you to release any feelings you’ve been holding in, whether about yourself, your relationship, feelings about the sexual activity itself, or anything else going on in your life. These reactions, of course, can then vary from laughter to crying.
So what can I do about it?
If you find yourself crying after an orgasm, consider how you’re feeling – sad, relieved, anxious, overwhelmed? Then reflect on what you need at that moment, whether that be cuddling up next to your partner, watching a funny TV show for a laugh, or just letting the tears flow and allowing the emotions to pass in a nonjudgmental way. The important part to remember is that what you or your partner is experiencing is normal and remove any thoughts of judgment or criticism.
What can I do as their partner?
If your partner is having tears flow after orgasm, go into a supportive role as they cope. Encourage them to ponder how they’re feeling and what they may need but be sure to maintain a safe environment where they will feel supported and not judged.
Join them if you can, in any way they will allow:
- Cuddling and talk
- Netflix binge to distract yourselves for the moment
- Cook or make dinner plans
Or by simply setting up the bath for them to take the time they need to reset and reach out to you. If you notice your symptoms feel more like an intense, deep sadness that lasts for several days or are triggering memories of past sexual trauma, you may benefit from therapy sessions with a licensed mental health professional in your area.
Written By: Lauren Garza, MA
Doctoral Practicum Student
Supervised by Vagdevi Meunier, PsyD
To learn more about support groups, events and lectures offered by Lauren, visit our Master Calendar of Events here. To schedule an appointment with Lauren or learn about about the rest of our team at #TCFRAustin, check out our Team Page here.
Q: Two months ago, my very sexually active and pleasurable, but emotionally and physically abusive, relationship ended. My question has to do with crying during or shortly after orgasm. Why do I cry, sometimes to the point of sobbing? Does it have to do with some type of hormonal release? I am 47 years old.
I am so sorry to hear that you were in an abusive relationship, but very proud of you for ending it. You don’t say if you cry all the time with orgasm, i.e., even when you masturbate, or only when you’re with a partner. And you don’t say if it occurs only since the relationship ended.
If your crying began once you ended the relationship, it could be a reflection of your grief. Grief after ending an abusive relationship? Certainly. You probably still have strong feelings for your ex-lover, and are grieving the end of the relationship and the loss of the strong sexual relationship you had, even though this loss may benefit you in the long run. Why after orgasm? Because the intensity of an orgasm can leave you feeling very emotionally raw. Thus, the strongest emotion you’re experiencing under the surface is now free to be expressed.
If your crying occurred during the relationship, it’s not surprising that the mix of love, fear and anger you likely felt would result in an overwhelming emotion when you were most emotionally open and vulnerable, i.e., during orgasm. Another way to look at it is that you were caught in the conundrum of a relationship with someone who could bring you such pleasure (as experienced as an intense orgasm), but at the same time cause such emotional and physical pain. The acute awareness of this at the moment of orgasm could certainly trigger sobbing.
Having said all that, it is also not out of the question for a 47-year-old woman to experience some hormonal fluctuations at orgasm, with the release of the hormone oxytocin contributing to the crying jag.
I strongly recommend that you seek help from a qualified health care practitioner, as well as a qualified mental health therapist, to work through the complex issues you are most likely dealing with, as well as to evaluate your overall physical health.