Crying after sex, or post-coital tristesse (PCT), is something that many people experience. There are several possible causes.
“Tristesse” is the French term for sadness. Medical professionals might also refer to this condition as post-coital dysphoria.
Keep reading to learn more about crying after sex, including six possible causes.
The general expectation is that following a satisfactory, consensual sexual experience, people will feel relaxed, content, or happy.
However, some report feeling sad, teary, or irritated. Some people may also experience agitation.
Sometimes, crying after sex can also give rise to relationship difficulties. Researchers report that couples who continue connecting physically and emotionally after sex tend to be more satisfied with their relationships. PCT can interfere with this important relationship-building time.
A person may cry after sex for several reasons. The sections below discuss some of these in detail.
One study from 2019 found that “current psychological distress” was the variable most strongly associated with PCT.
People with depression, which was the most common mental health condition the participants reported, were more likely to experience PCT.
If a person is experiencing other symptoms of depression, they may wish to consider therapy with a mental health practitioner, along with prescribed medications if necessary. This can help people come to terms with their concerns, which can, in turn, help prevent PCT.
Crying is a common response to anxiety, and crying after sex can be a response to the release of physical tension or sexual performance anxiety.
One study found that anxiety about sexual performance affects around 6–16% of women and 9–25% of men.
Research has not yet established the most effective form of treatment for anxiety, although cognitive behavior therapy and training in mindfulness techniques may be helpful. Anxiety-specific medications can also be beneficial.
Sexual intercourse, and orgasm in particular, can make people feel much more exposed and vulnerable than they usually might.
This may mean that people are more susceptible to memories of difficult or traumatic experiences.
People may not even be conscious of such memories before they start responding to them emotionally. People who have survived abuse of any kind can benefit from working through their experiences with a trained counselor.
Physical pain can also cause a person to cry after sex.
Dyspareunia is the medical term for pain during sex. This condition affects around 7.5% of women aged 16–74 during vaginal penetration.
The pain may be physical or psychological in origin. Some physical causes of this type of discomfort include:
- chronic pain around the vulva and labia
- bladder conditions
- muscle spasms
- pelvic inflammatory disease
- effects of menopause
Effective treatment is based on determining the cause of the pain. Some options include:
- steroid creams, for scarring
- dietary changes and medications, for bladder problems
- therapies such as massage and meditation, for muscle spasms
Orgasm causes the levels of dopamine and oxytocin, which cause pleasurable feelings, to drop. A drop in these hormones can therefore give rise to PCT.
Psychiatrist Mark Shukhman suggests using low-dose naltrexone, which is a medication that helps treat dependence on opioids and alcohol, to minimize the impact of orgasm-induced decreases in dopamine.
Crying after sex is not necessarily a sign of trouble in a relationship, but this could be a factor in PCT. For many couples, the best way to handle this is to talk about it.
Opening up can help draw couples together and reassure both partners that episodes of PCT do not have to be a reflection on them. It can also help the partner with PCT feel supported and cared for.
Couples counseling can provide all partners with support and guidance as they navigate these issues.
According to one survey, 46% of women had experienced crying after sex at least once in their lives, while 5% had experienced it as recently as 4 weeks before the survey.
Another study of PCT in men found that 41% of 1,635 participants had experienced PCT at some point in their lives, while 3.1% experienced it on a regular basis.
Although many men do experience PCT, studies have found that women are 2.87 times more likely to experience it at some point in their lives.
Crying after sex, or PCT, is a sudden and often unexplained feeling of sadness, irritation, or anxiety.
PCT is not rare. In fact, it affects a significant amount of sexually healthy adults. Counseling, therapy, and sometimes medications can help people manage PCT.