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Sad After Sex? You're Not Alone

Sad After Sex? You're Not Alone

Consensual sex is supposed to be euphoric and happy, whether solo or partnered. However, many people have suffered post-coital dysphoria (PCD) at least once in their lifetimes. PCD is generally described as a feeling of sadness, anger, or general distress after sex, most often after an orgasm.

Hormones and Stress

Our hormones may be at least partly responsible for this experience. Oxytocin, the feel-good hormone of attachment and connection is released with orgasm. It also reduces stress responses and activates our reward centers. If we've been holding a lot of stress, sometimes the release of the arousal can also unleash all of the tension that was behind the stress, which is great for our mental and sexual health. We might know what the stress was about—a fight with a partner or trying to parent children while carrying on Zoom meetings—or we might not even be aware of our underlying stress. We might find it hard to grab a bit of intimacy time on our own or with a partner due to COVID-19's social distancing requirements or living 24/7 without much opportunity for pleasure. In any case, the emotional outpour can catch us by surprise while we are enjoying the release that comes with orgasm.


Sex can bring out our vulnerabilities: our honest desires, our genuine body expressions, being seen physically and emotionally naked. For some, we might feel suddenly self-conscious or afraid of judgment or struggle inside with the difference between who we really are and who we want to or think we “should” be. We learn so many limiting ideas about what is “normal” and acceptable when it comes to sex that we might question what we just did or didn't do, such as rapid ejaculation, inability to orgasm, or experimenting with kink. We might over-analyze what that might mean about who we are or where our sexuality might take us. We might feel over-exposed or have pushed our limits farther than was healthy. We might have encountered a boundary that we didn't even know was there. If we fear judgment, then even an innocent look or word can lead us to an anxious place. When we have these experiences and shame or guilt or sadness arise, it may be worthwhile exploring those emotions with a partner, friend, or therapist to better understand the source of the emotions. Often these emotions are a result of narrow and unrealistic norms and expectations that harm us and keep us from our full potential. Compassion for and understanding of our expressions can help us to heal and feel whole.

Trauma and Sexual Assault

If something associated with a past assault is triggered then we can have an emotional response. Even old and resolved traumas can reappear seemingly out of nowhere and catch us by surprise. Enjoying an activity for the first time since an assault can trigger PCD. If we have been numb to sensations out of protection and allow ourselves to feel more, we can release a flood of emotions all at the same time. There is nothing wrong with our emotional response. It might be an essential step towards our healing and sexual health. 

Dashed Expectations

Sometimes we have high hopes for a sexual encounter or for our connection. When we don't feel connected in the ways that we had hoped or if we didn't get the expected satisfaction, we might feel let down and sad. If our partner didn't understand what we wanted, we can get upset with ourselves that we did not ask for what we wanted. Or if we were distracted and didn't fully notice what happened, we might feel sad, lonely, angry, disappointed, or frustrated. Take a moment to think about what is happening for you. This emotional response might mean there's something you want to discuss with your partner over a meal, on the couch, or during a walk in the park.

Really Happy

Tears of joy can also emerge post-sex. Sometimes it's a sign that things are really good rather than bad. We might feel elated about conquering our fears or pushing through our edges or even just being present to the sensations. Sometimes this joy is related to pure happiness. At other times, it's more connected to a mourning of the few (or many) times where that was not the case. Celebrating the moment while feeling sad about the past can feel complicated and very real. Complex and multiple emotions are very common and it's okay to allow them all to have a place in the body. Acceptance rather than judgment of our experience is key to moving through emotions in a healthy way. 

For No Apparent Reason

Sometimes we cry for no reason that we can identify. We might not feel particularly happy or sad. Orgasm is a release, and even in those who don't experience orgasm, an emotional expression can still happen. Especially with those who struggle to achieve orgasm, sometimes there is a lot of non-specific stuck emotion (or specific frustration) getting in the way of release. Often it's important to “unclog” this path so that orgasm can eventually get through. After one or more emotional releases, the orgasmic contractions hopefully eventually will make their way out with more euphoric sensations.

Delayed Understanding

Sometimes, with all of the bodies and emotions and sensations and hormones, it's hard to think through what is going on in the moment. Don't pressure yourself to have a reason or an answer in the moment. Don't judge your thoughts or emotions, just sit with them. Ask for a hug or cuddle if that helps. Unless it's obvious, it's often helpful to revisit the moment later with a clear mind and without the pressure of what we are “supposed to” feel after sex. Insight might emerge out of nowhere or once we have time to reflect.

Don't Hold Things In

So what should you do if you feel on the verge of tears instead of euphoria? Don't hold in your emotions, unless they are particularly distressing and you need to contain them until you have a safer moment to process them. Keep up the stimulation and release whatever emerges physically and emotionally. In fact, orgasm can be a really effective way to release stuck emotions. It may not be what you expected and may not feel as good as what you wanted, but getting them out will generally help you to feel relieved and clear out what is getting in the way. Just like an incomplete sneeze feels anticlimactic, stopping the movement of orgasm or emotions can feel particularly unsatisfying. If you can trust yourself or a partner to hold you at that moment, it can be extremely cathartic to let out whatever your body releases for emotional and sexual well-being. 

What If My Partner Cries?

Take it as a compliment! Unless it's because you have done something you knew was unwanted, it likely means that your partner trusts you to let go. If the emotions release while your partner is still enjoying pleasure, ask them if they want you to stop or not. If they don't want you to stop, the energy and acceptance that you offer can help their emotions to release. Stay present with them through the experience and after. It may result in one of the more bonding and significant encounters that you have together.

Orgasm As Therapy

Orgasm can be a fabulous release: pleasure, physical tension, stress, and even emotional catharsis. If you are feeling, sad, angry, stressed or almost anything else, try using orgasm as a pleasurable way to let it all out. Allow yourself to make noise, to enter into the emotion, to let it move through you. You might feel much lighter after a purge with both your body and mind engaged in the release.