Question: What is ‘subdrop’?

A reader recently pointed out to me in email that in my Finding subspace post, I talk about subdrop but don’t define it.  I even go so far as to say that it will be the subject of a future post, but then there is no such post – yet.

Well, I’ll tackle the questions here then : What is subdrop?  How would I know if it was happening to me?  What causes it?  How can I avoid it?

First – What is subdrop?

As with everything in the BDSM world, these are terms that mean different things to different people in different circles and experience levels.  I don’t know where the term ‘subdrop’ originated, but when I was first introduced to it, it was within the context and from the point of view of someone in the Los Angeles BDSM scene at the end of the 1990s.

The Los Angeles scene at that time was defined by extremes.  Play was very rough, people’s egos were very large, status was very important, and drugs and alcohol were prevalent in order to make things even more extreme.  I suspect it’s much the same way now, but I have no firsthand knowledge.  I’m always a bit fascinated by how the scene differs from city to city, but that’s a topic for another day…

Personally, I think that mixing drugs and alcohol with BDSM scenes is extremely dangerous.  Having a drink or two to cut the edge off things is generally regarded as safe, but that is a hazy line to try to draw, especially since alcohol reduces inhibitions.  It makes you exactly the opposite of what you should be when you are impaired.  It makes you bold when you should be meek, it makes you sure when you should question, and it makes you take risks when you should be cautious.  When you couple those reduced inhibitions with cocaine, which was very prevalent in the scene in the late 90’s and you get some really bad things happening.

Tops would not realize how much force they were using because they didn’t feel normal, subs would take more than they should because they were impaired, or in the worst cases, subs would become non-responsive and Tops would fail to note the signs and assume that no reaction meant they should redouble their efforts.

I’m not aware of any permanent injuries taking place, but there were several people that just disappeared from the community after a bad scene.

But I digress… the point of this was that the definition for subdrop was given to me in the context of the ‘come down’ from a cocaine high.

I only did cocaine once.  I steadfastly avoided drugs for the most part in that part of my life.  I am too much of a control freak to do otherwise, but while I did not enjoy the high as much as I was told I would, I certainly got to experience the crash.

I’ve also experienced subdrop myself, and I can say that there are a great many similarities.

So – this is my personal definition of subdrop, based on my own experiences and through the filters which I have developed in which to see these things.

Subdrop is the state of physical, emotional, and psychological withdrawal from an intense interaction with another person.

My definition is simple enough to allow for more than the typical ‘in scene’ views of subdrop, but also requires that there be at least two personalities involved.

I think it’s entirely possible for a submissive to experience subdrop simply from being away from her Dom, whether there was a recent scene or not.  She comes to depend on that personality – that buoying force that helps to keep her on an even keel, and when that is missing, it’s very possible to fall down into the dark places where one feels unsupported, into chaos even.

Subdrop can have many symptoms – in extreme cases it can even involve flu-like symptoms.  The ability of the body to heal itself or make itself sick is well established through literally hundreds of years of study on the placebo effect.  This is not limited to merely taking a sugar pill and feeling better when you have a headache.. there are much more intense reactions that are possible and that happen all of the time.

Subdrop is almost always accompanied by some amount of depression, lethargy, and anxiety.  One person might feel nauseated, another might get headaches, it can be very much like short term withdrawal, and in a sense, it is.

Subdrop can surprise you as well.  The expectation of someone new who has heard about it but not experienced it will be that it is something that is going to hit right away, once the the scene is over, but this is not necessarily always the case.  Sometimes you can still be riding the high out of the scene and even into the next day or two and then subdrop will kick in and pull your feet out from under you.  No amount of aftercare immediately following your scene can prepare you for that.

My partner just remarked to me after reading the first draft of this post that I might want to mention the above situation with delayed onset subdrop, and that when she tops someone new she always mentions to them that she will be checking in and available over the next 72 hours in case they have any issues.  I think this is an excellent practice, and I wish I’d thought to mention it myself.  She is a very wise and experienced partner, and I’m very lucky to have her.

In a BDSM scene, or in a D/s relationship, we establish extremely intense relationships that play exceedingly hard on our emotional and psychological state.  While I’m not aware of any research that has been done on subdrop specifically, it has been shown through other studies on psychological reactions that a person can induce a dopamine response in their own brain from nothing other than thought.  I am, unfortunately, thinking mostly about a study on religious fervor and how really believing in something can make you feel the presence of God.

I’m an atheist, but I did once have faith – true faith – and I know that the intensity of some of the experiences that I have had through BDSM are every bit as intense if not more so because they are accompanied by physical activities.  One has to wonder if the self-mutilation that is often incurred in ‘primitive’ religions is not due to same kind of physical/psychological fervor.

In any case, the intensity of the things that we do and the drug-like effects of being in subspace combine to make for a very powerful intoxicant.  Is it any surprise, then, that these deleterious effects may follow once the stimulus is removed?  Of course, one must not put too much stock into apparent patterns without understanding the scientific processes beneath, and I’m afraid that not much study has been done there (yet… perhaps I should ask for volunteers? For Science!) so we run the risk of magical thinking.

So – with a little bit of hand waving and pseudoscience I’ve arrested the issues of what subdrop is, why I think it happens (this is the pseudoscience bit.. I shall endeavor to provide more rigor in a future post), how you can identify if it is happening to you, but not yet what you can do to prevent it.

The problem there is, I don’t actually think you can.

You can mitigate the problems that are caused by it.  You can be sure to administer appropriate aftercare, and that has the largest benefit in my experience.  Going through withdrawal with a sitter is so much easier than by yourself – the psychological impact alone is massive – but you still have to go through it.  The best thing you can do is plan for it.  Like with any drug, know that there is going to be a hangover effect and plan to deal with it.  Plan for aftercare – whatever that means to you – and plan to be down and out for a bit.  Drink plenty of water, cry if you need to, sit with your emotions if you have to, but resist the urge to wallow.

Take care of yourself.

If you are topping someone, set aside time to take care of your bottom.

If you are in a D/s relationship and you have to be away from your partner for an extended period, plan to spend extra time with them before and after the schism.

If you are a bottom, realize that your top may actually need aftercare as well.

Be mindful, be compassionate, be self aware and subdrop is not such a big deal, and it might not even affect you at all.

Let me know if you have questions, I’m happy to answer.

This was meant to educate, I hope you find it useful.

This was not a rant, but I am still Rant.

Rant off.

 

Postscript: For the first time, I’m going to ask you, my readers, for feedback.  I don’t necessarily want to know what you think about this post (though I welcome that feedback as well) but I want to collect subdrop experiences.  Have you experienced subdrop?  What did it feel like?  How did it happen?  Did you engage in proper aftercare?  Please let me know either in the comments, or through the Contact Me page, or email me at rant@domrant.com.

If I get enough responses to be statistically significant, I will publish the results in a later post and perhaps we can get some real data on the subject.

19 thoughts on “Question: What is ‘subdrop’?”

  1. I know this was written a long time ago, but I came across it today and hopen you may still get this. I’m new to BDSM and think I may have experienced some level of subspace during play with my Master 2 days ago. I felt Him there next to me, and I could hear Him, but I couldn’t open my eyes for about 5 minutes. It was the strangest thing I have ever felt. It felt great, but not what I expected subspace to be? Master is wonderful and gives me lots of aftercare, but I don’t think He even thought it was subspace (He is much more experienced than I am). But then last night I slept for 13 hours, and all I want to do is go home and sleep some more. I feel like crap. I don’t ever sleep that much and I never get sick. Is this subdrop?

  2. I recently experienced sub drop where after a intense multiple orgasmsources for myou dom, I suddenly burst into tears. Never happened before and it was really intense, I was able to pull myself back together quickly, but I freaked my dom out I don’t think he knew what to do.

    1. I think you just experienced sub space not sub drop. Sub drop is (if I am reading correctly) when the Dom loses focus of what his submissive needs/wants. It is dangerous. I think you may just be overwhelmed by your sub space experience because it was so profound. I hope that helps and that you are well taken care of now. Make sure you communicate with your Dom about your concerns. If he really cares he will try to help you with your emotions.

      1. Although it is difficult to tell without more information, I suspect that Jenn is right in that you experienced something in-scene which was overwhelming. That is not really sub drop, but I wanted to clarify a bit that sub drop is something which occurs when you are apart from your Dom, not necessarily because he is failing to keep attention on what you need. It occurs most frequently after a scene and most frequently when there is inadequate aftercare, but it can happen even when you leave aftercare feeling glowy and then come down again the next day or even days later. Tell your Dom what you are feeling and ask him to help you through it. A good Dom will respond with compassion and assistance; a less experienced one may become annoyed and blame you, try to get him to read this article or other resources on subdrop.

        1. I appreciate your reply rant. I have not been in a real BDSM relationship at all so I probably shouldn’t be commenting I just wanted to reassure that the post wasn’t ignored and the subject was something I had to read about after the term was used in a book. Again thanks for clearing things up and sadly I’m disappointed to hear that any Dom would be annoyed about aftercare. Maybe I shouldn’t consider this lifestyle after all but with that being said I would seriously be particular about whom I let dominate me because submission is a gift and shouldn’t be taken lightly in my humble opinion.

      2. subdrop is when the adrenaline from the scene has left your body and you feel low/down. the effects of it can be made easier through aftercare/your dom providing what you need but it isn’t caused by your dom losing focus of what you need and it cant be completely prevented

  3. I think I am feeling it now. I can’t stop crying, can’t stop thinking depressed stuff. Why do you ask. Well there was no aftercare, and the worst part the next day I get a rejection letter. Ya. I am VERY new and this guy just wanted to do a Tasting. I’m not sure if he understand that even a tasted. MY first time being touched has meaning. Well now the damage is done and I don’t know how to fix myself. I want to hide, to run to never go back into the community. I don’t have any friends yet and don’t have anyone to turn to who would understand. What can I do to heal myself so I won’t break? How do I come back from what happened and keep on going? Please if you are still looking at this help me.

    1. I am so sorry to hear about your experience. There are inexperienced Doms out there but there are also just manipulative jerks who prey on our trust and eagerness to explore this new part of ourselves. I know your post was from November, but it worried me. Have you been able to reach out to your community support? Local kink groups and munch discussion groups? That is the best way to grow and become safe and secure in this arena – real support irl – not just the glossiness of Tumblr or fetlife. Best wishes.

    2. I hope that this one very malicious very selfish Dom is found out. I hate that you experienced that! No one can make you do something you don’t want to do but I hope that you have healed and find a Dom that is more caring of you and your needs. I encourage you to look deep inside yourself and the situation that led up to what has made you feel this way. Some think this is a game and only want power over others but not all are like that thankfully. I am married so I am not in a d/s or m/s relationship but if I were ever to find myself single I would definitely court the person whom I may enter into this type of relationship with. Now I only live through books and online boards/blogs like this. Many wishes for a happy trusting and safe relationship for you!

    3. Thanks to my readers for your compassionate responses. I just wanted to note – lest you think I’m an insensitive brute – that I responded to ShellBell via email some time ago. I agree with you all that this sort of behavior is not acceptable.

    1. I’m not sure that a little should be left attended at any time! (at least while in little-space…)

      I’m kidding, but generally, one experiences subdrop when one’s Dom is not around, so if you stay nearby and your Doms remains attentive, you probably won’t feel that way in the first place.

  4. I see my Dom around once a month and I regularly suffer from subdrop four days afterwards, I can feel it start and I can feel it lift again, it makes me needy and brings irrational thoughts. The only thing that reliably actually helps is some kind words from my Dom.

  5. I don.t know if people are actually stiill active here but I.ll write this as a lesson and a “not to do thing”.A year ago I did a scene with a friend who was a dom, because at that time it offered a kind of oblivion and I trusted him.everything went all right, all green :)except the fact it was more intense than it should have? or at that time so I perceived it.I don.t think he realised the fact that immediately afterwards I bottled up all my feelings up and I was responding to his questions very automatic and very rational and detached.I didn.t want to bother him more?stupid and stubborn that.s me.l left him at the club, drove had a glass of wine and fell asleep.the second day I was emotionally dead?I couldn.t feel a thing,not sadness not anxiety nothing, like a zombie, at work I kept tearing up although I didn.t feel sad .it took me four days until I cracked and cried my eyes out to feel like me again .those days it felt like a limbo, subdrop?don.t think so….

  6. Thank you for your article.

    I have experienced subspace in scenes which aways have followed with a subdrop. This occurs with or without aftercare. I become teary and shake uncontrolably, and feel cold. Within 1 hour I am fine again.
    Recently I played and the scene was intense. I subspaced during the scene and within 10mins of the scene being complete, I subdropped. I knew when it was coming on and how to deal with it. What I didnt expect was for the feeling of being so cold for periods afterwards. 3 days after the scene I am still have feelings of being so cold and not being able to warm up.
    Subdrops are real and different to each person. And each one can be different due to the dynamics of the D/s and play that was undertaken.

    Thank you

  7. I believe I have experienced this as well. I have sex with my fiance and we can be quite rough but we don’t use toys or have scenes, it’s just super intense sex after a long time of no sex and like just a little bit ago (which is why I’m on here) we did it and it was quick and intense and a bit rough and then he pulled away and out to come and I just started crying immediately…. No reason and he wasn’t gone and I wasn’t hurting but I just felt so alone and unwanted and didn’t want to talk.
    I hope everyone in here is alright and has someone to love them take care of them

  8. Does anyone know if a subdrop can happen from nonsexual stuff as well? Like, does it always happen after really intense sex or can it happen other times too?

    1. Yes – it can happen from almost any D/s related activities – even when those are pretty close to ‘normal everyday activities’ – but most often it occurs after there is some kind of separation or after the conclusion of some event/process.

  9. I know this is a post from 2014 but it came up in a search when I was looking up sub drop, which I just recently went through. I entered into an online relationship of sorts with another sub, and he said he’d be willing to dom for me. We figured we’d be able to keep things from going too far since the distance would act as a safety barrier. This was a mistake. After our last scene (I’ll spare the details, but only say that I was actually doing whatever he asked me to, rather than just telling him I was), I felt fine for a few hours, and then quickly became overwhelmed with anxiety, fear, and uncertainty. I was scared to be alone but didn’t want anybody to see me, and I couldn’t stop crying. Finally I couldn’t stand it anymore and I messaged him to tell him we needed to take a break from kink with each other. Thankfully he was very understanding (we had established that we could take a break or call things off at any time, no hard feelings), and we talked and figured out that A) we were both pretty new to the world of BDSM so we should have gone slower, B) we’re two very eager-to-please subs who wound up bouncing the desire to make the other happy higher and higher until it popped, and C) aftercare is too important to ignore, and if we couldn’t actually be there physically to administer it then it wasn’t safe to keep going. I’m happy that we could sort things out, but I think it stands as a cautionary tale that just because it’s only words on a screen doesn’t necessarily mean you’re safe from these sort of perils.

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