Why do I cry after sex?
Written by Alice Child, Somatic Sexologist
Sydney-based Somatic Sexologist and Sex & Intimacy Counsellor Alice Child explains Post Coital Dysphoria, whether it's 'normal', and what to do when it impacts your sex life.
This guide contains general advice only. If you need more tailored advice, please book in a session.
Tears may not necessarily be linked to feelings of sadness; they could represent a physical release or a rush of emotions.
Have you ever found yourself in tears after an otherwise pleasurable sexual experience and wondered, "Is this normal?"
Rest assured, you're not alone. In fact, crying after sex is more common than you might think, and it can be a perplexing experience for both partners, even when the sexual encounter was enjoyable.
What is Postcoital Dysphoria?
Postcoital dysphoria (PCD), commonly known as crying after sex, encompasses a range of emotional responses, including tears, sadness, and mood changes following consensual sex.
Interestingly, these tears may not necessarily be linked to feelings of sadness; they could represent a physical release or a rush of emotions.
PCD can affect anyone, regardless of gender or sexual identity, and it may occur with or without an orgasm. Understanding its prevalence can help normalise the experience.
How common is crying after sex?
Surprisingly common, in a survey of 230 heterosexual females, 46% reported experiencing PCD at least once in their lifetime.
Similarly, among 1,208 males surveyed, 41% experienced PCD, with up to 4% facing it regularly.
It's not something many people talk about, but it's much more common that we think.
Why do I cry after sex?
Numerous factors contribute to PCD, ranging from psychological and emotional aspects to physiological changes in the body. Here are some potential causes:
Depression and Medication: Psychological distress, especially associated with depression, is strongly linked to PCD. The release of hormones during and after sex might be overwhelming for those with depression or anxiety.
Anxiety: Stress and anxiety can lead to wandering thoughts during intimacy, making it challenging to stay present. Performance anxiety is also common. Somatic sex coaching can offer tools to overcome these concerns - helping people get out of their head and back into their body.
Orgasm: Sex, pleasure and orgasm leads to many hormones and neurotransmitters being released within the brain and body - such as oxytocin, endorphins, dopamine and serotonin. While these can feel incredibly pleasurable and can lead to positive mood changes, sex might also trigger intense and fluctuating emotions which can lead to tears. Orgasm in particular might be responsible for your PCD. This is because orgasms can actually cause your levels of dopamine and oxytocin to drop quickly afterwards. A severe drop in these hormones might lead to a mood crash and tearfulness.
Hormone fluctuations: If your hormones are fluctuating due to other reasons (eg menstruatal cycle, menopause, pregnancy, or childbirth) this could also trigger PCD.
Postpartum Depression: Those with postpartum depression may experience a higher rate of PCD due to rapid hormone fluctuations.
Happiness: Crying is not only prompted by sadness. Many people also get tearful or emotional when they are simply very happy. Sex and intimacy can lead to increased feelings of connection, love and joy, which might lead to tears of joy or happiness afterwards.
Physical Overwhelm and Release: Intense sexual experiences, orgasms, or new encounters can lead to physical overwhelm. The body's reaction might include laughter or tears as a cathartic release. Crying is a physical response that helps the body reduce tension and intense physical arousal. Suddenly letting go of all that pent-up sexual energy (especially if it’s been a while or the experience was particularly intense) could be a physical release that mechanically brings you to tears - like a cathartic release!
Frustration: On the opposite end of the spectrum is being frustrated by the lack of sensation or pleasure your body was able to experience during sex. If you have been unable to build the level of arousal, desire, sensation or pleasure in your body that you were hoping for, you might end the interaction with feelings of frustration and disappointment. Crying might be the physical release your body is craving.
Emotional Confusion or Relationship Issues: Many people are left feeling a bit confused after sex. Were you getting mixed signals from your partner? Did they do something that surprised or confused you? Or did you enjoy something that you didn’t think you’d like?
Pain: Painful sex, unfortunately common for various reasons, can naturally result in tears. Sex should never be painful. If you’ve experienced painful or uncomfortable sex for any reason, consider booking in a session.
Sexual Shame and Guilt: We still live in a conservative society where sexual shame is still pervasive. Many of us are raised in religious or conservative environments, and are taught that seeking out sex and pleasure is wrong, dirty, animalistic, or shameful.
Trauma or Sexual Abuse: Individuals with a history of trauma may experience emotional responses, including tears, triggered by certain aspects of sex. This could be anything - such as a certain position, sensation, or smell that brings you right back into your traumatic experience. People may not even be conscious of these memories before they start responding to them emotionally.
What to do if you cry after sex?
If crying after sex feels distressing, consider the following steps:
Go Slowly: Reflect on your physical and emotional experiences without judgment. If overwhelm is common, slow down and pace yourself. Listen to your body.
Communicate with Your Partner: As always, communication is key! If you know this often happens to you, tell your partner before you have sex. You could explain to them that it’s relatively common and for you it doesn’t mean that anything is wrong. Otherwise they could be left feeling worried or concerned that they did something that you didn’t like.
Learn Your Needs: Learn what you need when you cry after sex, and communicate this clearly to your partner before you have sex together.
See an Expert:
For physical pain during or after sex, see a doctor, pelvic floor physio or a medical professional. Many physical causes sexual pain are treatable.
If you are experiencing changes to your hormone levels due to childbirth, menopause postnatal depression, medication changes, again see your doctor or specialist.
For anxiety and depression, talk to your psychologist.
For trauma-induced PCD, consider seeing a trauma therapist to help you develop your own grounding and coping skills.
For anything else, consider seeing a sexologist and sex counsellor like myself!
Remember, discussing these matters may initially feel awkward, but the benefits of open communication far outweigh the discomfort. Sex is a natural and healthy aspect of life, and understanding your preferences can lead to a more fulfilling, pleasurable experience.
Good luck on your journey to sexual well-being!
Alice Child - Somatic Sexologist, Sex Therapy & Sex Counsellor - helps people achieve happier and healthier sex lives through 1:1 sex coaching, couples sex counselling, hens parties, and workshops. Book a session here.