What It Means If You Feel Like Crying After Sex

Photographed by Ashley Armitage.

If you consider yourself a "crier," then you probably have a lengthy list of seemingly emotionless triggers that have made you cry. Maybe a scene from the Lady Gaga documentary made you sweaty-eyed. Perhaps a photo of your nephew unexpectedly got you weepy. Or maybe you were in bed after sex and just randomly started crying.

While the emotional reaction itself can be jarring (for you and your partner), crying after sex is actually pretty common. A small study from 2011 found that 32.9% of women reported experiencing symptoms of "post-coital dysphoria" at some point in their lifetime, and other research has shown that it's common in men, too. Technically, post-coital dysphoria can include any feelings of melancholy or depression, anxiety, agitation, or aggression after sex — but it's usually characterized by tearfulness.

While we know that crying after sex is definitely a thing, there isn't good research to explain why some people do it and some don't, says Rachel Needle, PsyD, a licensed psychologist and certified sex therapist in West Palm Beach, FL. A not-so-shocking 2015 study found that the causes are multifactorial, but suggested that psychological factors are the biggest contributors. "There is a lot going on emotionally and neurologically during sex, so it makes sense that, for some, the release might also come with some tears," Dr. Needle says. Another theory about postcoital dysphoria is that, during sex, the bond is so strong that, once it's over, it can make you feel sad, according to the International Society for Sexual Medicine.

But, fortunately, tears might not necessarily be a sign of sadness at all. "Often tears will just be that, or even tears of joy and satisfaction," Dr. Needle says. In studies, post-coital dysphoria hasn't been linked to relationship dissatisfaction, so your tears may just be random expulsions in reaction to sex or orgasm.

That said, there are times where tears after sex might have more meaning behind them, Dr. Needle says. For example, some people who are survivors of sexual abuse might experience postcoital dysphoria, because even a good experience with sex can be triggering, according to the 2015 study. If you think that's the case, you might want to think about what kind of emotions you tend to experience after sex, and explore why that may be, Dr. Needle suggests. "It's also worth it to speak to a therapist if you often find yourself having feelings of shame, guilt, or sadness following sex," she says. "[A therapist] can work towards understanding these feelings and where they are coming from."

At the end of the day, sex is emotional — even if you don't have an emotional connection to the person you're having sex with — because it makes people vulnerable, Dr. Needle says. "We literally have to let go and allow ourselves to lose control for a short period of time," she says. If you are also orgasming during sex, then there can be an emotional release in addition to a physical one, she says. And if this release also involves shedding a few tears, there's nothing to be ashamed of or embarrassed by. Just hope your partner has the emotional intelligence to hand you a tissue — or at least offer a shoulder to cry on.