Have you ever experienced an emotional or physical high so great that it made coming back to the real world seem difficult? Some people with experience using drugs can attest to it, as it causes a rush of serotonin or dopamine that then needs to be replenished over the following days, leaving the person feeling drained or emotionally raw. Oddly enough, this is also a phenomenon in the convention-going community, referred to as ‘Con Drop’ in which they feel burned out and irritable in the days following a convention.
For enjoyers of BDSM, Sub Drop tends to follow in the hours or even a day or two after a particularly heavy or intense session in which their system gets flooded with endorphins. I say hours or days after because everyone’s metabolic rate is different and processes excess levels of endorphins and dopamine over varying lengths of time.
You may not even notice that you’re experiencing Sub Drop after an intense BDSM scene until you need to deal with something stressful and find that it’s affecting you more than it normally would. Otherwise, you may find yourself more irritable than normal, or perhaps needing to be alone or surrounded by people. It’s different for everyone, but the bottom line is that someone experiencing Sub Drop will find themselves acting or reacting in ways that they normally don’t.
It’s just like depression in that your body is trying to reboot its normal levels of stress and happiness hormones. The hormones that tend to be at play prior to and during the Sub Drop can be:
- Endorphins & Enkephalins: Your body produces both of these to mitigate pain, at the same time causing euphoria.
- Epinephrine: AKA adrenaline, which is a bodily response to stress. To your primal brain, the pain being inflicted during a BDSM session isn’t so much different from, say, a bobcat attack and it responds in a way that it thinks is appropriate.
- Dopamine: the pleasure hormone that our brain releases when it anticipates a reward like climax or acceptance. Some people experience a dopamine rush from pain, which is why BDSM works for some, but not all, people.
So while you or a partner is waiting for these hormones and natural opioids to replenish, what can you do to keep your spirits up or otherwise just feel a little more even-keeled? This is where Sub Drop Aftercare comes in.
Sub Drop Aftercare
Just like BDSM boundaries and safe words need to be established between partners trying to mix some pain with their pleasure, so too does a framework of BDSM aftercare in which you are attuned to the needs of the submissive partner when the session is done. If they seem distant or irritable in the hours or days after, here are some of the things you can do for them.
Remember that it is temporary. For partners experiencing Sub Drop, it’s important to keep in mind the perspective that it is a short-term state they are going through as their bodies replenish themselves.
Some Subs even keep an Aftercare Kit full of things like sugary snacks, scented candles, even a pair of warm & fuzzy socks to keep them feeling calm in the meantime.
Be with them, be around them, or totally ignore them. Some Subs require extra attention and affection during this time, while others will want to be left alone to deal with their feelings themselves. Others still will want the presence of a person without any interaction — just sharing space in a together-but-solitary way. The one going through the Sub Drop always chooses the way he or she wants to deal with feelings and has to communicate them to the partner.
Colin Hanna is a Volonté contributor and freelance writer who lives in Shanghai, China with his wife. He’s written extensively about sex and human sexuality for LELO since 2010.