Updated 28 June 2013

When orgasms make you sick

Imagine getting ill - for days on end - every time you have an orgasm.


 For most of us, having an orgasm is about as pleasurable an experience as we can think of. Now imagine getting ill - for days on end - every time you have one. Sounds like a nightmare, right? Well, for some men it’s a horrible reality.

The anti-pleasure syndrome

It’s called post-orgasmic illness syndrome or POIS and nobody really knows exactly how many men are afflicted by it because many sufferers are likely to be too ashamed of the condition to discuss it with their doctors. Some medical researchers believe that as many as one in 100 men may have it. That might not be a huge number, but if you’re one of the unlucky ones, POIS potentially has a devastating effect on your sex life.

The symptoms

POIS was formally documented in the medical literature for the first time in 2002. It comes with both mental and physical symptoms which typically appear within half an hour of having an orgasm and may take several days to disappear.

Common psychological symptoms include:

  • anxiety and irritability;
  • depressed mood;
  • cognitive dysfunction resulting in difficulty reading, concentrating, communicating, remembering words, retaining information and socialising;
  • intense discomfort and a craving for relief; and
  • frightening dreams.

Common physical symptoms include:

  • flu-like symptoms such as feverishness and a runny nose;
  • mild to severe headaches;
  • nausea;
  • back-ache and muscle pain; and
  • allergy-like symptoms such as itchy eyes and nose, sneezing, swollen lips and throat, rashes and hives.


Nobody really knows what causes POIS, but several possibilities have been suggested. Initially, some researches thought the condition was entirely psychological in nature, but more recently, there have been speculations that chemical imbalances in the brain, a lack of progesterone or low levels of testosterone are to blame.

This year, a team of Dutch scientists has discovered what may be the most likely cause: an allergy to semen. They suggest that in men suffering from POIS, the hormones and other chemicals secreted during and after sex cause an auto-allergic reaction and an inflammatory response similar to that one experiences when getting infected with a disease. In short, they claim, men with POIS are allergic to their own semen.


Many men who suffer from POIS avoid sex and orgasms, including masturbation, altogether. Alternatively they schedule them for times when they have several days to recover from any debilitating effects.

Doctors have had some success in treating the condition by administering drugs, including antidepressants and non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, just before and just after an orgasm.

The Dutch researchers who belief that POIS is caused by an allergy to one’s own semen have had positive results with a treatment method called hyposensitisation which is used to treat other allergies. Over an extended period of time lasting for as long as several years, the patient is inoculated with small, diluted amounts of his own semen. Progressively less diluted injections are administered, reportedly resulting in a gradual improvement of the symptoms.

(Andrew Luyt, Health24, March 2011)




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