What’s Up With Postcoital Tears (AKA Crymaxing)?

My cheeks are sprinkled with sweat and salt — I smash my face into my partner’s shoulder and weep. Welcome to my all-encompassing and most intense orgasm reaction.

We may scoff at the partner who immediately nods off to sleep. One of us may slink our way to the bathroom. We may encourage afterplay. Some of us may light a cigarette. Postcoital responses vary and most often are pretty expected by all parties. However, for some individuals, postcoital tears are the response that unwillingly douse their bedsheets and pillowcase. While this may not be what either party expects from an out-of-this-world orgasm, it’s 100 percent normal for many individuals.

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I, a common postcoital weeper, am one of those individuals. For me, crying never seemed embarrassing or out of the ordinary. I assumed everyone experienced a similar reaction to an orgasm. Only recently did I realize that this behavior may seem a little unusual or even alarming. I decided to investigate further into my reasoning for crymaxing.

Little research has been done into crying after sex, and the results mostly dismiss it as a negative connotation to sex — labeled as postcoital dysphoria. A recent study found that 46 percent of people experience PCD at least once in their life.

While I do agree that feeling blue after sex is a reality, intense emotional responses such as crying should not always be deemed as feelings of sadness. Intense feelings, deep connections and an overwhelming flush of endorphins can induce tears. For me, crying after sex or during an orgasm represents my intense emotions for my partner. I also find myself crying because I don’t want this euphoria to cease — but I know it has to. The heightened feelings that occur during a climax aren’t everyday emotions. Thoughts like, “When will I be this close my partner again?” or “I want to live in my orgasm forever,” swell on my tongue and develop into a flush of salty, wet tears.

It’s surprising that sadness or crying isn’t discussed more thoroughly in popular culture. Throughout history, this phenomenon has been mentioned in literature and poetry. Philosopher Baruch Spinoza wrote in Tractatus de Intellectus Emendatione, “For as far as sensual pleasure is concerned, the mind is so caught up in it, as if at peace in a [true] good, that it is quite prevented from thinking of anything else. But after the enjoyment of sensual pleasure is past, the greatest sadness follows. If this does not completely engross, still it thoroughly confuses and dulls the mind.”

After the high comes the low. Letting go of all thoughts, stresses, responsibilities and fully embracing an orgasm can lead to an incredible release. Postcoital dysphoria isn’t always linked to sadness after sex. In fact, the opposite can occur. While tears may be falling, it doesn’t necessarily mean a partner is feeling blue.

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Neurohormones create elevated levels of endorphins, oxytocin and prolactin. With all of these hormones shaking up in our brain, it’s no surprise for any number of responses to occur.

Dr. Marie Tudor, a medical sexologist told Broadly, “I just look at it in basic terms. It’s understandable that one release could trip over into another.”

The release of oxytocin, which magnifies emotions, promotes “good feelings,” trust and empathy. Because of this, you feel safe with your partner and can find it much easier to release any repressed feelings. The intensity of an orgasm mixed with hormonal alterations is bound to create some sort of response, whether it’s laughter, cuddling or weeping.

Expressing emotion can take on various forms, and it isn’t always synonymous to unhappiness or pain.

This isn’t to say that postcoital dysphoria can’t be more serious in some situations. Panic attacks, intense anxiety or depression for the following days can be a result of sexual intercourse. Moreover, men experience PCD more than women.

Dr. Eamonn McKeown says, “It’s down to the hormone prolactin, which women need to make milk but is present in men as well, and levels of prolactin massively increase in the body after orgasm. Studies have shown that when this occurs, it acts like a thermostat to shut off sexual desire and therefore the drive to satisfy them. All that revved up energy to satisfy your sexual cravings suddenly go away, and this can leave you feeling really empty, sad and, yes, tearful.”

If the tears are induced because of a past sexual trauma, conversational therapy may be effective in terms of recovery. If intense, deep sadness that lasts longer than a few days follows intercourse, seek out a professional to look into possible solutions.

More: How couples turned around their sexless marriage

For me, crying after sex isn’t linked to any particular abuse. At first, my partner was worried that they hurt me, or that I was upset (my past with vaginismus is loud and always lurking). Instead, it’s the overwhelming joy and ecstasy that I devour when I orgasm. My response results in a salty, watery mix. Hugging ensues, closeness is encountered.

I don’t always weep after sex, but when I do, it’s because I just came four times.

By S. Nicole Lane

Originally published on HelloFlo.