There's a medical term for it, but dw, it's not serious.
I’m just going to start off by being as honest as I can possibly be: I love masturbating. I mean, who doesn’t? It’s relaxing AF, and I can’t get enough of it. In this busy life (because let’s be real, to-do lists can get overwhelming), masturbation can be the perfect way to let your hair down once you’ve retreated to your cozy bedroom.
On a night not too long ago, I spent the evening in. It was just myself and I, taking a break from late-night partying. As the early evening grew into a quiet night, I threw on my PJs and prepared for a nice little session of lovin’ on myself. I began my ritual with a pumpkin spice candle. I untied the drawstring on my pants and lay down in my bed. A wave of repose washed over me. I spent a full half-hour exploring my body, and I made sure it was nothing short of incredible.
But as my limbs released themselves of tension and I came down from my oxytocin high, something wholly unexpected happened. I began to cry. I’m not talking a tear or two; I’m talking about full-on sobs for almost an hour straight (picture that Kim Kardashian crying photo… you know the one). Eventually, I emerged from the fetal position, pulled it together, poured myself a glass of milk, and drifted off to sleep.
As you can imagine, I was confused when I woke up the next morning. I did feel mentally cleansed, but I couldn't help but wonder why I broke into tears in the first place. That wasn’t the first time that happened to me — in fact, I would say I cry during around half of my self-pleasure sessions. Sometimes it's a tear, and other times it's a Kim K-type cry. And no matter the depth of my emotions, masturbation often leaves me with prolonged feelings of sadness and loneliness.
But as it turns out, I’m not actually alone in this. Sex therapist Shamyra Howard, LCSW, tells Elite Daily that post-orgasm crying is more common than you might think. “Many people experience post-sex bliss,” she says. “However, according to a 2015 study published in Sexual Medicine, almost half of women surveyed reported that they have experienced post-sex sadness.” And it’s not just women, she adds: “The Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy published a study that showed a third of men also reported post-sex blues.”
There’s even an official term for this: post-coital dysphoria, or PCD for short. Experts don’t know exactly what causes it, but it’s clear that it happens to a lot of people. “Since PCD seems to affect men and women and can present even if the sexual experience was pleasurable, this often causes confusion for those affected by it,” Howard says. “Although many people who experience PCD attribute their feelings to life experiences and even sexual dysfunction, researchers report that PCD represents varying experiences in sexual response.” It doesn’t necessarily mean the experience was bad or that anything is wrong.
We hear about the post-coital blues. People feel vulnerable after sexual intercourse, but what we don’t hear about as often is how we feel after giving ourselves orgasms in the bedroom. But crying after masturbation happens, and it’s normal! And if it’s continually messing with your post-orgasm bliss, there are ways to work through it.
Because I didn't want to ruin masturbation for myself — and because I was curious after the dark hours I endured — I Googled the sh*t out of this. I searched questions like, “Why do I cry after masturbating?” and “Is it normal to feel sad after giving myself an orgasm?”
I wanted to find a medical reason for why I cry — and if (or how) I could prevent myself from it.
What I found was an abundance of confessions from other people who have cried. I empathized a great deal with people online who admitted to feeling sad after masturbating, but I'd be lying if I said I also didn’t find comfort in knowing that I wasn't the only person suffering.
Still, just because this situation is common doesn’t mean it’s necessarily serious. Dr. Richard A. Friedman explained in a 2009 New York Times piece that "sexual problems don't always bespeak deep, dark psychological problems."
Howard adds that “crying after masturbation can occur in anyone and at any time. Hormones can contribute to different experiences, and that's not uncommon.” Your body releases a flood of hormones during sex and orgasm, and those hormones can create strong emotional feelings (good or bad) in the minutes and hours after climax. Underlying emotions can bubble to the surface unexpectedly, too. “PCD can be exacerbated if you're feeling especially lonely or in a conflictual relationship,” Howard says.
In other words, your tendency to cry might have a simple explanation: a hormonal imbalance, waiting too long to masturbate and letting too much tension build, or even your subconscious reflecting on that breakup you went through a lifetime ago. It just may be that crying could be completely out of your control.
Friedman also points out that there is a shortage of research and literature on "sex-induced depression." Therefore, it’s important to remember that if you feel you may be struggling with something else that’s triggering your long cries, it's more in your favor to speak to a professional expert than it is to self-diagnose.
Moral of the story? If you cry after masturbating, it probably isn't the end of the world. To keep it from happening in the future, Howard suggests developing a post-masturbation self-care routine. “Having an aftercare practice such as drinking a hot beverage, or using a weighted blanket can help you to feel more connected to yourself and cared for, which can decrease PCD,” she says. More likely than not, if you're anything like me, you're an incredibly expressive person, or perhaps maybe a bit more anxious or lonely than you might have thought you were. Caring for your body and mind can help you feel happier after that self-loving sesh (because orgasms should be fun!).
My advice is to always surround yourself with people who lift you up. Don't forever associate masturbating with bad feelings, and don't let this association stop you from masturbating. Masturbating is supremely healthy for you — both mentally and physically.
Schweitzer, R. D., O'Brien, J., & Burri, A. (2015). Postcoital Dysphoria: Prevalence and Psychological Correlates. Sexual Medicine, 3(4), 235–243. https://doi.org/10.1002/sm2.74
Maczkowiack, J., & Schweitzer, R. D. (2019). Postcoital Dysphoria: Prevalence and Correlates Among Males. Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, 45(2), 128–140. https://doi.org/10.1080/0092623x.2018.1488326
Shamyra Howard, LCSW, sex therapist
Dr. Richard A. Friedman, M.D., psychiatrist
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