If you’ve ever cried during or after sex, know that it’s perfectly normal and you’re not alone.

They might be happy tears, tears of relief, or a bit of melancholy. Tears during or after sex can also be a purely physical reaction.

It’s science

Clinically speaking, crying after sex is known as postcoital dysphoria (PCD) or — occasionally — postcoital tristesse (PCT). PCD symptoms may include tearfulness, sadness, and irritability after consensual sex, even if it was perfectly satisfying.

PCD doesn’t necessarily have to involve an orgasm. It can happen to anyone, regardless of gender or sexual orientation.

Research on the topic is limited, so it’s hard to say how many people experience it.

In a 2015 study, researchers surveyed 230 heterosexual females and found PCD to be prevalent.

Using an anonymous questionnaire for a 2018 study, researchers found that of 1,208 males, 41 percent experienced PCD. Up to 4 percent said it was a regular thing.

Follow along as we look into some reasons someone might cry during or after sex and what to do if it happens to you or your partner.

A range of emotions can evoke crying, and they’re not all bad.

You’ve probably experienced or witnessed “tears of joy,” such as at a wedding or birth of a child. The same thing can happen during or after sex.

Maybe you’re head over heels in love, or perhaps you just had the best sex ever.

If you haven’t had sex in a while or anticipated it for a long time, these feelings can be even more intense.

Did you get totally lost in the moment? Were you role-playing or fantasizing during sex?

These scenarios can rev up tension and create an emotional roller coaster.

You might have quickly bounced from anticipation to fear to ecstasy before crashing back down to earth.

Tears may mean you’re simply overwhelmed by the thrill of it all.

If you’re bothered by the crying response, you can try toning the scenario down a bit to see if that helps.

Did you just have the biggest orgasm of your life? Was it your first experience with multiple orgasms?

Intense physical sexual pleasure can definitely overwhelm, and it’s not surprising that you would cry.

Conversely, you might be overwhelmed by your body’s lack of response.

If you’ve been looking forward to great sex and don’t get the ending you want, you might be frustrated and tense enough to cry.

Some estimates suggest that anywhere from 32 to 46 percent of females experience PCD. But there hasn’t been a lot of research to determine why.

It may be due to hormonal changes that happen during sex, which can lead to intense emotions.

Crying may also be a mechanism for reducing tension and intense physical arousal. If you’re coming off a dry spell, suddenly letting go of all that pent-up sexual energy could certainly bring you to tears.

Sometimes, it’s purely physical.

There are many reasons you might experience pain with sex.

Painful intercourse is called dyspareunia, which includes pain during or after intercourse due to:

  • lack of lubrication
  • trauma or irritation of the genitals
  • urinary tract or vaginal infection
  • eczema or other skin conditions near the genitals
  • vaginal muscle spasms, called vaginismus
  • congenital abnormalities

Physical pain associated with sex can be treated, so make an appointment with your doctor.

If sex play involves restraints or any level of pain that you’re not comfortable with, talk to your partner about how to role-play without causing physical pain. Find the level that works for both of you.

Crying is a natural reaction to stress, fear, and anxiety.

When you’re feeling anxious in general, it’s hard to put that aside to have sex.

Your body may be going through the motions, but your mind is elsewhere. You might find yourself in tears over it.

Could it be that you have a touch of performance anxiety? You might be worried about whether you satisfied your partner or whether you lived up to expectations.

All that anxiety can open the floodgates and get tears rolling.

There are a lot of reasons you might feel such shame or guilt over sex that it makes you cry.

At some point in your life, someone may have told you that sex is inherently bad, especially in certain contexts. You don’t have to buy into these theories to have them pop into your head at inopportune moments.

You might be uncomfortable with what you see as “animal” behavior, “kinky” sex, or lack of impulse control. You could have body image issues or dread the prospect of being seen naked.

Shame and guilt can also be residual effects of other issues within the relationship that follow you into the bedroom.

Confusion after sex isn’t all that unusual. It may be due to the sex itself.

Was it a case of mixed signals? You thought things would go one way but they veered off in another direction?

You told them you dislike something but they did it anyway? You thought you were giving pleasure but they’re obviously unsatisfied or upset?

Unresolved issues and emotional confusion from a relationship can invade your sex life. You might have different ideas about where the relationship stands or how the other person really feels about you.

Sex doesn’t always turn out great. Sometimes one or both of you are left confused and disappointed.

If you find yourself crying frequently it could be a sign of depression or other mental health condition that should be addressed.

Other signs of depression can include:

  • sadness
  • frustration, irritability, or anger
  • anxiety
  • difficulty sleeping, restlessness, or fatigue
  • loss of concentration or memory
  • appetite changes
  • unexplained aches and pains
  • loss of interest in normal activities, including sex

The rate of PCD is higher for those with postpartum depression. That may be due to rapid fluctuations in hormone levels.

If you’re a survivor of sexual assault, certain movements or positions may trigger painful memories.

This can make you feel particularly vulnerable and tears would be an understandable reaction.

If this has become a frequent problem, you may want to take a break from sex. Consider seeing a qualified therapist who can help you work on coping skills.

For physical pain or discomfort just prior to, during, or after sex, see a doctor. Many causes of this type of pain are treatable.

Otherwise, think about the reasons for crying. Here are some questions to ask yourself in the moment:

  • Was it just a few stray tears or was I truly crying?
  • Did it feel physical or emotional?
  • What was going through my mind when it started? Were my thoughts pleasant or disturbing?
  • Was I reliving an abusive event or relationship?
  • Did crying relieve tension or add to it?

If your answers tend toward being overwhelmed with love or pure physical pleasure, then you probably don’t need to worry about it. Shedding a few tears or even all-out blubbering doesn’t always merit a change.

If your answers point toward emotional issues within the relationship or in the bedroom, here are a few things to try:

  • Give it time. Go over these questions again the next day when you have some time to yourself and can fully explore your feelings.
  • Talk to your partner. Working on relationship issues can clear the air and enhance your sex life.
  • Talk about sex. Discuss your sexual likes and dislikes. Be careful not to criticize, but to encourage sharing of feelings and ideas with the intention of enriching your sexual experiences. It can be awkward, but it’s worth doing.

If this process brings up painful trauma or unresolved emotions, don’t dismiss crying as unimportant.

Seeing your partner cry can be a little disconcerting, so:

  • Ask if something is wrong, but try not to belittle or sound accusatory.
  • Offer comfort, but respect their wishes if they need some space.
  • Bring it up later, outside the heat of the moment. Listen respectfully. Don’t force the issue if they still don’t want to discuss it.
  • Don’t push sex on them.
  • Ask how you can help.

Basically, just be there for them.

Crying during or after sex isn’t unusual and, while it’s usually not cause for alarm, it can be a sign of deeper issues that should be addressed.

If this happens regularly, you may find it helpful to speak with a therapist about what you’re experiencing.

They can help you unpack the reason for your tears and potentially work through any underlying concerns.