Post Coital Tristesse (PCT)

After sex sadness and post orgasmic crying are symptoms of post coital tristesse (PCT).


This after climax depressive state is a legitimate medical condition which can also include feelings of anxiety and general unease and can last anywhere from five minutes to two hours following an orgasm. Males are more likely to be affected by PCT than females are. Why does this happen, you ask?

Historical Origins and PCT

The name of the post coital tristesse condition has Latin and French origins. Coitus is the Latin word for intercourse, so post coital simply means, “after sex.” Tristesse is translated from French to English as, “a state of melancholy sadness.”


Leave it to the French to coin this affliction, after all they are the masterminds behind the famous, “la petite mort,” or, “the little death,” term for orgasms (although French Ticklers and the French Kiss are the antithesis of sadness). But, the Latin speaking population wasn’t all smiles, jazz hands and sunbeams either, as one of their cultural cliches was, “Omne animal post coitum triste, sive gallus et mulier,” which means, “All animals are sad after sex, except the cock and women.”

Prolactin: The PCT Culprit

Prolactin is a hormone which is produced in the breasts and in the prostate, among other places. It is released by both men and women (and many other mammals) and is responsible for milk production and for the feeling of sexual satisfaction after sex. It is released into the brain en masse directly after an orgasm.

This can cause an emotional crash (soaring highs and devastating lows much like a caffeine buzz) because it immediately blocks the happy brain chemical called dopamine from being released. Dopamine is responsible for sexual arousal and virtually almost every other positive feels you may experience throughout the day.

But hold up, ‘cause this hormone is tricky, depending on its levels. Although minute amounts of prolactin are the chemical that’s responsible for sexual satiation, increased levels of prolactin are responsible for the decrease in estrogen and testosterone.


Higher levels of prolactin in the brain are the reason why males have a refractory period after an orgasm, meaning they are temporarily impotent and unable to climax during this time. Therefore these higher levels of prolactin are regularly associated with a loss of libido and impotence. See, tricky!

Does PCT Have a Cure?

There is no cure for PCT, as of yet. A treatment method for prevention of PCT may include taking a SSRI antidepressant medication which will regulate the dopamine levels in the brain. Unfortunately, many people who take SSRIs experience a decrease in libido and sexual satisfaction (erectile dysfunction, vaginal dryness, inability to orgasm)– which counteracts the whole point of taking the medication in the first place.

Coping With a PCT Partner

As you can imagine, lovers who have never experienced this themselves may think there is something wrong with them or their partner if one of them starts crying after a powerful climax. A friend of mine described her post coital melancholic outbursts as, “crygasms,” which I consider to be both brilliant and appropriate.


It’s best to realize that you have no control over your partner’s brain chemistry or hormone levels. They can be slightly affected by you, sure, but when a post-sex hormone shift occurs in the brain, it is no one’s fault. It is simply a physiological mechanism for correcting a series of hormonal checks and balances.

If it really bothers you, to the point of feeling sad or having doubts about the sexual part of your relationship, ask your PCT lover to get professional medical help or offer to go with them to seek counseling. If it is a casual fling, isn’t super serious, and their PCT is getting you way down– to the point of avoiding sexual contact with them– you may want to start thinking about resuming your search for a well-suited sexual partner.

About Condom Depot

The Condom Depot Learning Center provides free safer sex ed and has recently been resourced by Men's Health, Go Ask Alice, Her Campus, LifeHacker, Scarleteen, Bustle, Madame Noire, Jezebel, Vice, Stallion Style, aPlus, Sex Talk Tuesday and Adult Sex Ed Month.

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