What Is Sub Drop and How to Deal With It

Imagine this - you’ve spent an exciting couple of hours or days with your partner. You’ve done all the fun, sexual and/or kinky things that you wanted to do, and it was amazing. Maybe you got spanked, flogged, tied up, humiliated (consensually!) or a number of other things. But now you’re feeling kinda poorly mentally, physically, or both. Why is that?

Well, there is this thing called the drop. Both submissives and dominants experience it. In the kink world, drop is referred to as a sub drop, dom or top drop, kink drop or simply - the drop. So, what is it?

What is Sub Drop?

Sub drop is an emotional and/or physical low that is caused by biochemical changes in the body after a sexy and/or kinky play session. During the scene, your brain releases various hormones, such as dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin and endorphins, which make you feel good. When the scene is over, the levels of these hormones drop. Look at it as your hormones returning to the baseline.

Alesandra from Dom Sub Living has experienced sub drop often.

“It usually happens when I’ve done a more intense scene, like one with elements of consensual non-consent or ageplay, or one that required a lot of physical endurance,” she shared.

Madam Rita has experienced the drop both as a submissive, as well as a dominant. “It doesn’t happen often but when it does – I feel energetically drained. Empty. As if I have given away everything I had and a little bit more. I would describe this state as deep physical and mental apathy,” she said, describing her dom drop. She went on to add,

“As a sub – as far as I can remember because it was years and years ago when I just started – it was a feeling very close to despair. Actually, a mix of feelings. Being extremely sad without any visible reasons, feeling alone and very lonely. Being overwhelmed with partly unexplainable feelings.”

Whilst researching this topic, I conducted an interview with Madam Rita about kink drop. Some of the quotes from the interview are included in this article.

Eryn Rose is a performer who also has experienced the drop from both sides.

“I do experience top drop at least as often as sub drop these days so I make sure I have support available for that if needed. I try not to cram too many toppy scenes into one play party for example, so that I don't exhaust myself both emotionally or physically,” they said. 

This shows us that the drop is not something that is exclusive for submissives and bottoms only. Doms and tops can experience it, too. While the reasons for it might be different, the symptoms can overlap. 

Note: While we don’t necessarily like the word ‘symptoms’ because it makes the drop sound like an illness, it is one of the commonly used terms to describe the various ways a drop can manifest itself.

It is worth keeping in mind that a drop can look different for different people, depending on a variety of factors such as their roles, what kind of a scene it was, how much support they receive from their scene partner, or how good the communication has been before and throughout the scene. So, what is it exactly that causes a drop?

Why Does Sub Drop Happen?

A sub drop happens when your hormones, such as dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin and endorphins, drop. These hormones are often elevated during scenes, and when these hormone levels drop, your body will likely experience an emotional and physical reaction. Sensations that you might feel include moodiness,  mind fog and fatigue among many others.

It is important to note that a drop doesn’t always indicate how successful or unsuccessful a scene has been. Sometimes it happens no matter how well you were prepared and how smoothly everything went. And, it can happen to any (or both) party involved. 

People should know that a sub drop doesn’t mean that you did anything wrong.

- Alesandra (Dom Sub Living)

“People should know that a sub drop doesn’t mean that you did anything wrong. And if you don’t experience a drop, that doesn’t mean you did anything wrong either,” said Alesandra.

“It’s not a goal that we should be striving for with each scene. Sometimes there’s no rhyme or reason behind how each individual does or doesn’t experience a drop, and that’s ok.”

Regardless of how often you experience the drop (if at all), this doesn’t invalidate your experiences in any way. People are vastly different and can feel and react differently after the play session is over. Luckily for you, in most cases a sub drop doesn’t last that long.

A bed frame with black bedding on it.

How Long Does Sub Drop Usually Last?

The sub drop can occur anywhere from a couple of minutes to a few days after the play session and lasts somewhere between a few hours and a few weeks. This massively varies depending on the person.

“Drop, for me, usually lasts a half an hour or so, but occasionally it can last a day or more. It tends to show up as sadness or even mild depression. It can even feel like I have the flu. For the first few minutes I may be non verbal or even cry,” shared Alesandra.

While sadness, mild depression and flu-like symptoms are some of the common symptoms of a drop, there are plenty more things that you can experience after a BDSM play session.

Mental and Physical Experiences of Sub Drop

Now, let’s take a look at all the possible symptoms that people tend to experience during a sub (or a dom) drop. And, to make it more simple, I’ve split them into two categories.

Possible mental/emotional symptoms of a drop:

  • Sadness
  • Irritability
  • Insecurity
  • Loneliness
  • Anxiety
  • Mind fog
  • The desire to withdraw 
  • Confusion
  • Feeling guilty (This is especially true for dominants who might question if they’re a bad person after causing their partner mutually agreed upon pain.)

Physical symptoms of a drop:

  • Sudden drop in energy levels
  • Crying
  • Feeling cold
  • Changes in appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea
  • Pain
  • Dizziness
  • Flu-like symptoms

Eryn does point out how these two different categories of sub drop symptoms might require different things when it comes to aftercare (we’ll also discuss this later).

“Emotional [drop] needs reassurance/discussion after. Often it can be helped by speaking with the other people in the scene, getting reassurance that everyone had a good time, you did well, etc. Where things didn't go to plan, discussing that and making plans to prevent the same mistake recurring can help reduce anxiety and build trust between partners,” they explained.

As for physical drop responses, practical care is required, they went on to say. For example, 

“Tending to any wounds, making sure to eat and hydrate in the days after, stretching to relieve stiffness etc. potentially planning time off following a physically intense scene so that the body has time to recover,” Eryn said.

Before we jump into the topic of aftercare, there are a couple more things we need to look at to have a better understanding of the way drop works.

Subspace and Domspace in Relation to the Drop

Subspace, to put it simply, is a trancelike mindspace caused by biochemical reactions that some submissives get into during a play session. The submissive might feel light, floaty and even euphoric. They might have glazed eyes, giggle a lot or even go non-verbal. Of course, these reactions differ from person to person, and there isn’t one specific way that it shows up.

Domspace is an altered and intense state of consciousness that the dominant may experience during a session. A dominant might feel more connected to their intuition and their submissive partner, be in a state of flow and have their sensations amplified.

How does this relate to experiencing the drop? Well, both subspace and domspace can be quite intense and even euphoric experiences. And what goes up, must come down. After such a high, it’s only normal that the comedown follows, and it might feel rough. Believe me, I’ve been there more times than I can count.

“If drops happen, they usually come after very bright experiences and it gives a hint that most likely the session had something very meaningful, emotional and important in it. If during the session I get into Domspace, there’s a chance I will experience lows after highs and have a Domdrop,” Madam Rita said.

There are some types of play that are more likely to be followed by a drop, especially when it comes to sub drop. Those include impact play, rope bondage, needle play, electro play and more. Anything that causes intense physical exertion will likely cause a sub drop. 

A submissive in a black latex mask, wearing a red ball gag

Types of Sub Spaces

It should be no surprise that not every sub drop looks or feels the same. And it all heavily depends on what kind of subspace the submissive has entered. They can be put into three categories.

  1. Noradrenergic subspace. This happens when the fight-or-flight response is activated. In this state, the submissive may laugh, scream and struggle. This subspace is characterised by an inability to feel pain, mild euphoria and a high level of interaction with the dominant.
  2. Endorphin subspace. While this subspace also produces decreased pain, it can also lead to a decrease in heart rate, activity and alertness. In this state submissives are more likely to become less or non-verbal, meaning that tops/dominants need to be more alert to physical feedback.
  3. Serotonin subspace. This subspace is induced by submission and not pain. While noradrenergic and endorphin subspaces are mutually exclusive, it is possible for each of them to be combined with serotonin subspace to create mixed effects.

If you’re interested in reading more about these subspaces, check out this blog post discussing the neuroscience of sub space in BDSM by Hermes Solenzol.

Different hormone drops and their symptoms

Just like different hormones cause different types of sub spaces, they also cause different feelings and reactions when the levels drop. Let’s take a look at how the drop of each specific hormone makes us react.

When you experience the drop in dopamine, nothing really feels good. Life starts feeling flat and muted, and you feel desperate to do anything to get that good feeling back. 

When oxytocin levels drop, you start to feel lonely, touch starved and disconnected from your partner. (That’s why cuddles can be helpful! More on that later.) 

Serotonin levels dropping can make you feel moody, anxious and significantly decrease your motivation. 

And, last but not least, when endorphin levels drop, the pain kicks in again, you may feel tired and have mood swings.

How to Prepare for a BDSM Play Session

Now that you’ve learned all about sub drop and how it looks and feels, it’s time to learn how to make it easier to deal with. As I’ve mentioned previously, there are two  most commonly mentioned things you can do to soften the blow - preparation for a session and aftercare.

Madam Rita believes that prevention is an important element of easing the experience, and begins before the drop even happens. “I usually ask my subs if they have ever experienced sub drop before and we talk it through. If they have had such experience, they will give me some useful insights and what the best ways for me as their Dom might be to handle that. If they haven’t experienced that, this is still important,” she shared. She went on to add,

“First, we can discuss what it is and how to deal with it. Secondly, by talking about it I can already confirm that I will be there to help and support them in case that happens.”

Madam Rita suggests preparation could begin as early as a day or two before the play session. Here are some things you should do before the session to soften the drop that might follow:

  • Get a good night’s sleep. This can vary from person to person, but the recommended amount of sleep per night is 7 to 9 hours.
  • Stay hydrated. By drinking plenty of water you can minimise the risk of  cramps, give you more energy and successfully regulate your body temperature.
  • Eat healthily. A light meal before the session will keep you going without making you feel stuffed and sluggish. A banana for a snack might be a good idea since it contains potassium, which can help you keep those annoying muscle cramps away. Why is this important? Less things going “wrong” in a scene can help to minimise anxiety.
  • Take your multivitamins and/or medication.
  • Journal.
  • Meditate.
  • Make an aftercare kit and create a self-care strategy. The aftercare kit might look different for each person, however, some things that you can include are: bandaids, bath bombs or bath salts, some juice, your favourite snack, a book, a journal or a colouring book. Feel free to add other things that you might need!
  • Clear a day or two after the scene to get some proper rest.
  • Douche if you’re planning to do any anal play.

This definitely isn’t a comprehensive list of all the things you can do. What kind of things do you do to prepare yourself for a BDSM play session? Please leave a comment at the end of this article! We’d love to hear what you do. 

3 black kink journal books and a pen.

Can Sub Drop be Prevented?

So, is there a way to prevent the drop from happening in the first place? Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be one foolproof method for this. However, there are two ways to ‘soften the blow’ after your play sessions. These include doing some self care before the session (we’ve discussed that previously) and doing proper aftercare once it’s over. 

The Importance of Aftercare

We at HOD believe that incorporating aftercare in your BDSM practice is very important. While it won’t completely prevent sub drop, it can make it easier to get through it.

Originating in the BDSM  community, aftercare is the intentional post play practice of ensuring the physical and emotional wellbeing of all parties involved. The purpose of aftercare is to help all of the involved parties to feel reassured, safe, appreciated, and to have their out-of-scene (in other words, “real life”) identities re-affirmed. It can involve a variety of post-play practices, and can help minimise the impact of the drop.

“I truly believe that with aftercare we can significantly lower the chances or the severity of drops because aftercare is the process that provides this more gradual transition from intense experiences to life-as-usual,” Madam Rita told me. 

“I check on my sub more often, especially after sessions that were physically, mentally or emotionally higher intensity for them. I think it is important to give more than one notice about my readiness and intention to be there for them.”

While there are plenty of aftercare activities that you can do with your partner, there’s a lot of things that you can do on your own, too. In my opinion, combining some activities from both lists will lead to the best results. Let’s take a look!

Aftercare ideas, involving your partner

  • Cuddles
  • Wound care
  • Kisses
  • Reassuring words from your partner
  • Some talking and laughter
  • A relaxing bath or a shower (can be done with or without a partner)
  • Brushing each other’s hair
  • Cooking a meal together
  • A sensual massage
  • An orgasm. Yes, sometimes the answer is more play time that leads to an orgasm. And no, this does not necessarily need to involve your partner. 

Solo aftercare ideas

  • A glass of water or juice to replenish the nutrients and electrolytes. This will help you to prevent getting cramps.
  • A snack or some comfort food
  • A warm blanket
  • A workout. If you still have some built up emotions and feel kind of uneasy, it might be a good idea to go for a run or hit the gym. However, this is not for everyone
  • Sleep. This can be an especially good idea if you’ve had a scene that took up a lot of energy, such as one where impact play was involved. The drop of endorphins can bring back the pain and make you feel tired which is why a nap is a really good idea.
  • Watching your favourite movie
  • Watching some standup comedy
  • Snuggles with your pet. If you don’t have a pet, a stuffed animal can be a good alternative.
  • Journalling
  • Doodling or colouring in a colouring book
  • Reading a book
  • Burning some incense or a scented candle
A black TV remote on a plain pizza box

While this is in no way an exhaustive list of aftercare ideas, these are some of the most common things that the people I’ve spoken to have found helpful. I talked to Slave D from our own team at House of Denial about this, and he said a pizza is always the first thing that comes to mind after a play session.

Feel free to add anything that could cheer you up and make you feel better to your own list!

The Importance of Communication

Last but not least - you can make sub drop more bearable by having great communication before, throughout, and after the session. Ongoing consent is incredibly important, so make sure to communicate with your partner at all times. This can make both parties less anxious and ensure your dom knows that things are going smoothly, which can lessen their guilt after the session. Yes, doms can sometimes feel like bad people when inflicting pain on their submissives or disciplining them harshly in some other way.

“Drop is not just confined to bottoms, tops can also experience it and I find it especially likely when something has not gone quite right in a scene as the top may obsess over what went wrong, feel guilt for any real or potential harm to the bottom, or after any scene might question their own ethics of being a top in the first place,” said Eryn.

When it comes to relieving dom/top drop, there are two options. First, the dom can turn to their sub and get some reassurance that they did a great job. If the sub is experiencing a drop of their own and cannot support their dominant, the dom can seek support from their community and friends. Either way, a dominant can benefit from emotional support and reassurance just as much as a sub can. 

Before the session, make sure that you and your partner(s) have discussed what activities you will be engaging in within the scene, and that everyone is consenting enthusiastically and freely. It is a good idea to have this conversation in a neutral space, such as a cafe, park or your living room, instead of doing it in the space where the session will take place. Make sure that all parties are also of sound mind and not intoxicated. Consent conversation definitely isn’t something that should happen over a pint in a pub where anyone’s inhibitions might be compromised.

Prior negotiation of the session should also involve discussing and agreeing upon a safeword or safe protocol. If you want to keep things simple, the traffic light system works just fine. 

During the scene, the communication should continue. Check in with your partner to confirm everything is going as expected and that everyone is still enthusiastic about what is happening. You can ask questions such as, does this feel good? Should I do more of that? Etc. If you are on the receiving end, you can facilitate this by encouraging your dominant by saying things such as, please give me more! Or, I want it!

It’s also a great idea to debrief with your partner(s) after the session. This usually happens a day or two after the session when you’ve had time to reflect and are more emotionally stable. Pick a good time and a comfortable environment where you can talk about the things you did together, what you enjoyed, what you didn’t enjoy and what you’d like to try the next time. In addition to a debriefing, don’t be afraid to reach out to your partner if a post play sub drop hits you. This could be in the form of a text or a call, or maybe even a coffee date. Whatever works best for you.

“As I know I personally drop worst from feelings that I didn't do a good job, was disappointing, or that my play partner had a bad time, I can preemptively help lessen my drop by ensuring a debrief conversation and reassurance is always a part of my aftercare plan, both as a top and bottom,” Eryn concluded.

Communication is very important before, throughout and after the scene equally. Don’t feel like you have to bare something during the session, and you can only mention it after it’s over. If you feel any kind of discomfort, anxiety or doubts, let your partner know. They’ll appreciate it.

Final thoughts

Experiencing a drop after a play session, regardless of your role in it, is completely normal. There might be some times when you don’t experience it, and some times when you do. Both experiences are completely normal.

Either way, it is important to know how to recognize drop when you start experiencing the symptoms of one and how to deal with it. While it is not completely unavoidable, some preparations, aftercare and honest communication with your partner can do wonders for your well-being after the play session.

Have you experienced a drop? Tell us about it in the comments or on X at @HouseofDenial.

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