Let’s imagine for a moment that you’ve just put your body and mind through a fantastic kinky experience with your partner. You feel like you are on cloud nine and connected with your submission, or perhaps your masochistic needs have been fulfilled, and you feel satisfied. Then, you start feeling terrible a few hours or a day later, and you can’t explain it.
You’re in sub drop.
Sub drop is the body’s response to the sudden drop of hormones in the body after a play session. The endorphins and other hormones like adrenaline and oxytocin, released during play, leave your body so that it takes time to rebuild the balance of hormones in your system. There is a more intense side of sub drop that gets very little attention because, for each person, it is different, and describing how to recover can be just as unique. Most of what you read in other resources are the physical aspects; fatigue, sadness, aches and pains, and first aid recovery from marks and bruises.
You could feel depressed just from one play session. Now, I want to be clear that I'm speaking more colloquially when I use the word depressed in this context. For some people, it may aggravate clinical depression. But for others, we're talking about a feeling of malaise, inadequacy, insecurity, or despair—even doubts about the current circumstances of your life, your kink preferences, or your relationship status. You could feel like you have a hangover or partied too hard the night before. You could feel lost and depressed for hours or days. You may just want to sleep it off. These are the more extreme forms of drop. Some people recover in a matter of hours, but others could exhibit signs of sub drop for days after an intense session.
Sometimes it may be necessary to take care of yourself after play. If you find you require self-care after play, read about creating an Aftercare Kit on Submissive Guide.
Reasons Sub Drop Happens More Often in Committed Relationships
Those in casual play relationships tend to not have as many drop issues as those in committed relationships. I define casual play relationships as interactions or relationships where the only function is to explore kinky play or BDSM. Casual can also be one-time scenes at dungeons or parties or even the casual hook up from online dating apps. Casual relationships often don't have the same element of intimacy and vulnerability that exists in long-term relationships. That's not to say that all casual relationships lack intimacy. Still, if you've been in a committed relationship for any time, you will know the intimacy of a committed relationship developed through shared history is different than in a casual one.
This intimacy can cause emotional insecurities with boundaries and love when the hot kinky play is over. The submissive can question the validity of those feelings. Personally, KnyghtMare and I love to play with humiliation and degradation. During sub drop afterward, I doubted if my Dominant loved me and if I enjoyed what had happened; what does that say about me? Of course, it was consensual, and boy, did I love it at the time, but once the headspace is over, the questions can bring emotions of sadness, questioning, and disbelief. These are all normal.
The second reason that sub drop occurs more in committed relationships is that the couple can negotiate the limits we established early and can be tested and pushed a little. The play could be edgier and more intense in these situations. Casual relationships tend not to be able to develop the trust and history necessary to test boundaries as easily.
No matter how strong the trust is with partners, you can still have disbelief that you like something so perverted, kinky, or dirty. Your doubts can bring about fear, sadness, and loneliness. You could even question why you are into BDSM. Again, these are all very normal emotional responses during sub drop.
Address the Emotions
No matter where the emotions come from, you need to address them. These feelings do not have to be rational or accurate. As long as you can express them, they are valid. Don't keep them bottled up. You can write them down, talk about them with your supportive friends or online community and maintain open communication with your partner. They can help you get through your feelings.
Processing emotions takes time and practice. We need to notice them, name them, and then accept them in healthy ways.
- Noticing - It sounds obvious, but you can’t process your emotions until you notice you are experiencing them. When we practice mindfulness, we notice feelings, thought, and physical sensation as distinct from being an emotion, thought, or sensation. It is the difference between ‘I feel sad’ and ‘I am sad.’ Mindfulness is being open and receptive to what is going on.
- Naming - When you first start processing emotions, it is important to name them. To do that, you may need to expand your emotional vocabulary. Did you know there are at least 18 ways to say you are sad? A Feelings Wheel, originally developed by Dr. Gloria Willcox, may help you pinpoint how precise the feeling is that you are experiencing. I use one daily in my journal’s mood tracker. You can read about how to name your feelings in an excellent post by Keridwyn on Medium.
- Accepting (or Allowing) - Often, we are taught to ignore our emotions and distract ourselves from things that hurt us or make us feel unhappy. Accepting your emotions means ending that struggle that rejects them and then allowing them to happen. Let yourself feel what you are feeling.
- Acting on It/Them (Maybe) - Sometimes, once we allow emotions to be present in us, we need to do something about them. If we are always uncomfortable with the feelings of self-doubt or fear of our partner during sub drop, we may need to find a healthy exercise or outlook to learn how to reframe that thinking. Or we might just want to learn how to be compassionate with ourselves and sit with the emotion for a while before we can let it go.
My Best Piece of Advice
Sub Drop is hard. The many times it has hit me the hardest has been the biggest opportunity to learn about my reactions, feelings, and what I’m thinking. The best advice I can give you is to embrace the experience, learn from the emotions that come up and prepare for next time. I know we feel sad, stressed, lonely, depressed, and a variety of other low-impact emotions when in sub drop, but once you know what’s going on, you can process it and make plans to make the next drop less severe.
You can learn to lessen sub drop's effects on your body and mind. If you feel sad, find things to do that make you happy. Are you experiencing physical exhaustion or a sense of illness? Get rest, take your vitamins and take care of yourself. Are you lonely? Then make a date with friends to catch up. You can feel better. You just have to make it happen, and doing a bit of preparation will go a long way to making that happen.
Sub Drop doesn’t have to make such a significant impact on your after-playtime moments. With some preparation and awareness, you can reduce some of it and use it to help you communicate with your partners and express yourself. Before you let your emotions spiral out of control, take steps to process your feelings and see if you can reclaim your mood.