Postcoital tears, while confusing, are surprisingly common — so we asked an expert to get to the root of your after-sex blues.

By Macaela Mackenzie and Lauren Mazzo/SHAPE.COM
Jun 04, 2019 @ 11:30 am
ARNELLDMarshall/Getty Images

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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).

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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?)

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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.

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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.

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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.)