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By Sheryl Kingsberg, Ph.D.

Professor Reproductive Biology and Psychiatry
Case Western Reserve University
Chief of Division of Behavioral Medicine
MacDonald Women's Hospital/University Hospitals
Cleveland Medical Center

Created: 09/21/2009
Last Updated: 05/04/2012

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Q: Two months ago, my very sexually active and pleasurable, but emotionally and physically abusive, relationship ended. My question has to do with crying during or shortly after orgasm. Why do I cry, sometimes to the point of sobbing? Does it have to do with some type of hormonal release? I am 47 years old.

I am so sorry to hear that you were in an abusive relationship, but very proud of you for ending it. You don't say if you cry all the time with orgasm, i.e., even when you masturbate, or only when you're with a partner. And you don't say if it occurs only since the relationship ended.

If your crying began once you ended the relationship, it could be a reflection of your grief. Grief after ending an abusive relationship? Certainly. You probably still have strong feelings for your ex-lover, and are grieving the end of the relationship and the loss of the strong sexual relationship you had, even though this loss may benefit you in the long run. Why after orgasm? Because the intensity of an orgasm can leave you feeling very emotionally raw. Thus, the strongest emotion you're experiencing under the surface is now free to be expressed.

If your crying occurred during the relationship, it's not surprising that the mix of love, fear and anger you likely felt would result in an overwhelming emotion when you were most emotionally open and vulnerable, i.e., during orgasm. Another way to look at it is that you were caught in the conundrum of a relationship with someone who could bring you such pleasure (as experienced as an intense orgasm), but at the same time cause such emotional and physical pain. The acute awareness of this at the moment of orgasm could certainly trigger sobbing.

Having said all that, it is also not out of the question for a 47-year-old woman to experience some hormonal fluctuations at orgasm, with the release of the hormone oxytocin contributing to the crying jag.

I strongly recommend that you seek help from a qualified health care practitioner, as well as a qualified mental health therapist, to work through the complex issues you are most likely dealing with, as well as to evaluate your overall physical health.