Sub drop is categorized by a feeling of depression or guilt after engaging in a consensual BDSM scene. It comes in many forms, from a silent and distant moodiness to a full-fledged panic attack. Sub drop is common among submissives, especially those who are new to BDSM or have hesitant feelings about theirs kinks and desires. Many people do not realize that their emotions after a scene, especially an intense or new scene, may be part of an established phenomenon within the kink community.
While this condition is most commonly found among submissives, Dominants may also experience a comparative situation referred to as top drop. Top-drop is more closely linked with feelings of guilt and is also most prevalent among new or inexperienced Dominants. There are many factors leading to these sensations and causes for this condition can vary among different people.
For submissives, there are two main theories on why this happens:
- A submissive who has just experienced a new or specifically intense scene may be frightened by what they just went through. We see this a lot with people coming out of rape scenes or scenes involving a lot of physical punishment. They may be having self-destructive thoughts, which cause them to withdraw and spiral into depression. They may regret the scene, fear for their safety, or have been triggered due to a past trauma. Even if the submissive actually enjoyed the scene in the moment, they may have bad feelings about it when they leave their submissive mindset.
- Another theory behind sub drop is a purely chemical reaction. During a scene, the body’s sympathetic nervous system releases endorphins that make the body feel good. These endorphins are natural pain-killers and give us feelings of euphoria. They are associated with the sensations of subspace and orgasm. Understandably, when the scene ends and the body stops this rush of chemicals to the brain, submissives can experience a “fleeting happiness” sensation. The decrease of these pleasure hormones make some people panicky, as it can feel like things are spiraling or “going dark” as the scene ends and they returned to normal. Things like an increased heart-rate and blood flow can also make submissives feel like they are having a panic attack if these biological functions take a while to calm down after an intense scene.
The same two theories can be applied to Dominants as well.
- Dominants who inflict pain onto their submissive or accidentally cause real harm to their partner can understandably feel some intense guilt. This is super common among new Dominants who have always been taught not to hurt other people and who are not naturally aggressive. Seeing someone in pain from one’s actions can have impacts on their mental health. These Dominants often feel a sense of guilt for what they have done, even though it was consensual, or describe a “loss of control” during the scene. These feelings easily cause depressive or panicky symptoms, which can lead to withdrawing after a scene, panic attacks, or a depressive spiral. Also associated with this is the feeling that they are undeserving of their role, and express doubts about their Dominant abilities. In men, especially, this can result in feelings of inadequacy due to unhealthy societal standards of masculinity.
- Just like submissives have a chemical reaction going on in their body during play, Dominants do, too! The endorphin rush from topping a partner also comes to a stop when the scene is over, which may cause a drop in mood. Also, since many Dominants practice BDSM to feel a sense of control over their partner and their lives, some people are burdened with a feeling of losing control after these endorphins stop circulating the body.
If your partner is experiencing these feelings, the most important thing to focus on is aftercare. I go into great detail about aftercare in the guide linked in the previous sentence, so please look into that if you need tips on that subject. Aftercare is a way of maintaining stability until a person is back to their normal state after a scene, and it applies to both submissives and Dominants.
Another great tool for avoiding these feelings and sensations before they happen is communication. Talking about kinks, limits, and concerns that one has makes things much more comfortable for everyone involved. If your partner wants to do a specific scene, for example, but is nervous about one of the kinks they want to explore, simply talking about it goes a long way. Nearly everyone who is involved in BDSM has (or had) a kink that they were nervous or embarrassed about but still wanted to try. Communicating that hesitance and having discussions can help validate the situation. If you’ve always had humiliation as a limit, but you really want to try being called degrading things, talk about it before the scene. Hearing your partner say that it’s okay to want these things and that they truly support and care about you can really help with that mindset after the scene is over. Talking about how everything went after the scene is just as important.
Healthy scenes should be a sandwich of a) pre-communication, b) active kink, and c) post-communication.
Only by communicating needs and concerns can you get them met. Dominants nor submissives are mind-readers, so everyone needs to be a part of the discussion in order to safely go about exploring kinks.
That being said, if your partner shuts down, it may take some time to get out of sub-drop or top-drop. Most people will be back to their normal moods by the next morning. If you have communicated everything and serious depressive or anxiety issues persist, refrain from playing and help your partner seek professional help.
If at any time your partner has self-destructive urges that cannot be controlled, take them to the nearest hospital.
Violence or self-harm are huge indicators that something is wrong and requires a professional. Check out my list of kink-friendly therapists who may be able to help more than those unaware of kink. Always be sure your partner is taken care of if their symptoms do not disappear within a day. Depressive symptoms lasting longer than a day may indicate a mental health problem (as opposed to sub drop/top drop) and need to be addressed before play continues.
Stay safe, always communicate, and stay informed!