Sex Tips

Some People Get Sick Every Time They Orgasm. It’s Called Post-Orgasmic Illness Syndrome

December 18, 2017 by Justin Lehmiller


Most people think of orgasms as a positive experience—one they look forward to repeating time and again. However, this isn’t true for people who experience something known as post-orgasmic illness syndrome, or POIS for short.

POIS is a rare medical condition that, for the most part, seems to affect men and involves getting sick for up to one week after each orgasm. Symptoms vary a lot, ranging from allergic reactions (e.g., congestion, sore throat, itchy eyes) to feeling like you have the flu; either way, symptoms tend to set in quickly after orgasm occurs (sometimes within just a few seconds). Needless to say, when someone has POIS, it typically has significant and negative implications for their sexual and romantic lives.

So what’s the cause of POIS? That we don’t know for sure. However, most doctors believe it’s the result of an allergy to some component in a man’s own semen—specifically, a chemical produced by the prostate. On a side note, some people are allergic to their male partner’s semen, but that’s a whole other issue you can read about here, including how it’s treated.

With all of that said, given how much variability there is in symptoms, it’s possible that POIS could potentially have multiple causes, meaning that maybe it’s an allergy for some, but not necessarily for others. Indeed, an alternative theory is that POIS stems from a brain chemical issue—one akin to opioid withdrawal.

To learn more about the opioid theory, as well as treatment options for men with POIS, check out this article I wrote on the subject over at TONIC.

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Image Credit: 123RF/Vladimirs Poplavskis

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Written by
Dr. Justin Lehmiller
Founder & Owner of Sex and Psychology

Dr. Justin Lehmiller is a social psychologist and Research Fellow at The Kinsey Institute. He runs the Sex and Psychology blog and podcast and is author of the popular book Tell Me What You Want. Dr. Lehmiller is an award-winning educator, and a prolific researcher who has published more than 50 academic works.

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