Crying After Sex Is More Common Than You Think

Post-sex crying is also known as postcoital dysphoria (PCD), postcoital tristesse (“tristesse” is the French word for melancholy or sadness), or more plainly, post-sex blues. But what causes someone to get sad after sex? We asked some experts to break it down for us.

Is crying after sex normal?

Well, it isn’t abnormal. There’s no set definition of the appropriate intensity of feelings to have during an intimate encounter, and that applies to both positive and negative emotions.

“Human emotion runs the gamut, and the swath of ‘normal’ is vast and wide,” says Laura Petiford, a marriage and family therapist based in Connecticut. While bursting into tears in bed might make for an awkward moment (particularly if the person you’re with isn’t your spouse or serious partner), it doesn’t necessarily mean something is wrong with you.

Do men cry after sex, too?

Yes. “There is a dearth of information around the subject of crying after sex, and it needs further research to be conclusive,” Petiford says. “But what we do know is that the occurrence is a common one for both women and men.”

What little research there is does suggest it’s happened to a hefty chunk of the population. According to one 2015 study surveying 230 college-age women, 46 percent reported at least one instance of crying after sex in their lifetime. Another study including 1,208 men in 2018 also saw 41 percent of subjects reporting at least one post-sex cry, with just over 20 percent experiencing it in the previous four weeks.

Why do people cry after sex?

It’s often less about what went down during your between-the-sheets session and more about what went on beforehand—sometimes even years before.

“Sex may be the trigger for the tears, but it’s not necessarily about sex,” Petiford says. “Some of the factors that correlate with PCD include a disturbance of early bonding experiences with caregivers, difficulty developing a strong sense of self, struggling to regulate emotions, a history of sexual or other abuse, or relationship dissatisfaction.”

These negative past experiences often surface when Petiford is counseling a client experiencing anxiety or depression, she says. According to the landmark Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACES), two-thirds of adults have had to face a major hurdle in childhood that can affect their physical and emotional health later on. Crying after sex may be your subconscious announcing you’ve got something to unearth and process.

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