Scientifically speaking, crying during sex is sometimes referred to as postcoital tristesse (PCT). To better understand this phenomenon, we first need to examine what happens to your body during an orgasm.
Several parts of your brain “light up” during climactic release. This includes your genitalia’s sensory input centers and the areas responsible for secreting oxytocin (the “love hormone”) and dopamine, which provides a natural high. These chemical responses intensify the emotional responses that accompany an orgasm.
Sex and orgasm aren’t just physical reactions. Intimacy with another person can create powerful emotions, too. The rush of feelings during climax produces tears of joy for some women, while others may cry for the exact opposite reason. This is known as postcoital dysphoria (PCD), and it results in anger, sadness, aggression, anxiety, and depression.
The frequency of crying during sex varies. Between 20–40 percent of men and women surveyed reported feeling this way. While men appear to be experiencing some form of PCD, women’s reasons for postcoital tears are a bit more complex. Any way you look at it, though, crying after orgasm is a pretty normal occurrence.
Aside from postcoital tristesse and postcoital dysphoria, there are other contributing factors to crying after orgasm. The emotional bond between you and your partner could trigger tears of joy or an overwhelming sense of love. Once you break that bond (i.e., the intimate physical connection of sexual intercourse) with them by completing the act, you start to feel sad.
In other instances, you might actually be undergoing physical pain during intercourse due to polycystic ovary syndrome or certain kinds of cancer. If this happens, you and your partner should consider switching to other forms of sexual activity.
Have you noticed any problems in your relationship lately? Are you feeling guilty about engaging in sex with your partner? This is another plausible explanation for crying after sex. Tears of guilt might appear once your sexual urges are fulfilled. In fact, as you become aroused, the logical parts of your brain shut down, and primal sexual desires take over. So even if you know you shouldn’t be sleeping with this person, the part of your brain that makes sound decisions has probably “gone fishin’.”
Crying after sex isn’t usually a reflection of your partner’s ability to satisfy you in bed. One theory on crying after sex revolves around losing a sense of self through sexual intimacy. The act creates feelings of vulnerability and submission, which can have a deep emotional impact. Intercourse itself could affect the way you see yourself as a woman, stirring up latent self-doubt, depression, or fear. Those with a fragile sense of self-esteem might be more prone to crying after orgasm.
Alternatively, some research points to a genetic component when it comes to crying during sex. So far, however, the findings do not indicate whether this is a mental health issue. It could be a symptom of generalized anxiety disorder or clinical depression. If you’ve been diagnosed with either of these conditions, consult your therapist about various treatment options.
Lastly, crying after orgasm may be linked to your own past traumas. For example, if you were a victim of sexual abuse, then physical intimacy (even with someone you trust) triggers the reemergence of certain feelings. Perhaps you associate the act of sex with fear, shame, and anger. Or, if you and your partner have underlying relationship issues, intercourse and orgasm might bring those problems to the surface.
If you’ve had prior experiences with postcoital tristesse or postcoital dysphoria, you won’t necessarily cry after every sexual encounter. Flare-ups are more common in times of extreme stress and periods of low self-confidence or insecurity. A sex therapist would be useful in helping you work through some of these issues.
If you’re not the one sobbing after sex or having a crying orgasm, seeing your partner break down is often unsettling. Don’t take this reaction personally and respond in anger. Their reasons for crying after sex probably have nothing to do with you or the way they feel about you.
Realize that your partner may be embarrassed or upset about their own reaction to intimacy. Reassure them of how much you care and be supportive of their emotions. If your partner lashes out in anger, however, it’s best to walk away from the situation until you’re both calm and clear-headed.
Couples therapy to treat crying after sex could be beneficial for both of you, allowing you to tackle any unresolved issues. Listen to your partner, respect their feelings, and offer them the support they need to work through past traumas and turbulent emotions about sex.
Crying after sex, no matter the reason, is not uncommon among both men and women. If you find yourself crying after orgasm on a regular basis, consider seeking specialized counseling to deal with feelings of anxiety, shame, or fear. With proper treatment and open communication between you and your partner, you can enjoy a positive and fulfilling sex life.