Orgasm flu is the new epidemic sickening our nation's ejaculating men

Orgasm flu is the new epidemic sickening our nation's ejaculating men

SexMay 03, 2017 By Isabelle Kohn

For the thousands of men who from what's known as "orgasm flu" (aka Post-Orgasmic Illness Syndrome), ejaculation can trigger a mysterious, physically debilitating response that makes it impossible for them to orgasm without weeks of pain.

If these men do happen to slip up and come, they can expect to experience flu-like symptoms like fever, runny nose, apathy, joint stiffness and short-term memory loss immediately following ejaculation.

Orgasm flu is very rare (less than 1 percent of the population experiences these symptoms), but it's so massively unfair and awful that it's received an inordinate amount of media attention in comparison to its actual prevalence. However, as more information becomes available about it, more men are coming forward reporting these symptoms.

Men's Health interviewed Jason*, a 31-year-old software engineer from Colorado, about his experience with orgasm flu. He's been a long-time sufferer, first noticing symptoms after he hit puberty. Jason can't catch break; whether it’s through sex, masturbation, or even the rare wet dream — Jason’s symptoms kick in about 20 minutes after he ejaculates and can last for up to two weeks. Not surprisingly, this has effectively murdered his sex life.

“It’s gotten to the point where I will not have sex or ejaculate,” he told Men's Health. “As a result, I’ve been abstinent for about a year now.”

Interestingly, the inability to experience sexual pleasure (ahedonia) also leads men who suffer from orgasm flu to lose interest in other areas of their life. Music they once loved doesn't sound as good, food doesn't taste like much and it's harder to find entertainment in the things they once enjoyed. One man with orgasm flu described what it's like on a Reddit AMA:

If I do jerk off, it's, paradoxically, for my own mental health and sanity. Due to the symptoms, particularly anhedonia, it's pretty much impossible to find enjoyment in the things that people normally would (music, socialization, entertainment, etc.) Weirdly enough, even though orgasming is the thing that is causing me to feel this way, it's one of the only things I can actually still enjoy. It's kind of really difficult to go that long without...well, any source of dopamine. So I just sort of do it so I don't go insane sometimes.

Researchers originally thought that orgasm flu was a psychological illness (and it still could be), but recent research from the Netherlands suggests it may be caused by an allergy to semen. One study examined this by giving 33 men with orgasm flu skin-prick tests using a diluted form of their own semen ... and 88 percent of the men tested positive for an allergy.

In a follow-up study, researchers injected two of the men with increasing amounts of their own semen (WTF?) so they could gradually build tolerance to the allergy. After three years, both men saw reductions in their symptoms. Taken together, these studies seem to pin an autoimmune response as the cause of orgasm flu, however neither explains why men only experience symptoms upon ejaculation.

For someone with orgasm flu, a relatively normal life is sorta-kinda possible if you consider "normal" as the complete and utter abstinence from sex and masturbation. Jason's managed to cope by finding a girlfriend who understands his condition and doesn't particularly care for sex herself.

“You need to meet the right person for a meaningful relationship—someone who doesn’t need sex, who’s understanding and patient," he said. "To maintain the relationship without sex, you need to do the small things like spending quality time with your partner, doing kind gestures, and giving small gifts to show you appreciate her. Really go above and beyond. You can still have the physical connection . . . just not a sexual one.” That, of course, is the lifestyle many people who identify as asexual voluntarily enjoy ... so it's not a death sentence. Just a penile death sentence.

Nevertheless, orgasm flu brings about a lot of shame and guilt for the sufferer.

"You know how guys are," says Jason, "especially when we’re young. In our early 20s, we want to have sex often, and if we wait two weeks, that’s a long time! But if you have POIS and have sex frequently, you always have these horrible symptoms. You feel horrible when you have POIS, and the only way to feel better is to have sex. It’s a vicious cycle like a drug user would have.”

Because so little is known about orgasm flu, the only helpful course of action as of right now is therapy or sex therapy. Men’s Health sex advisor Debby Herbenick, M.P.H., Ph.D., suggests seeking a sex therapist through the Society for Sex Therapy and Research.

Damn. Heavy. Well, we always like to look at the bright side and ... think how much money you'd save on Kleenex, socks and condoms every year. You could buy a small island.

Plus, this is just the greatest excuse ever to bring up an article we published a while ago about why men should stop orgasming. Turns out, male orgasm might not be so great after all ... and maybe orgasm flu sufferers are natural selection's little way of saying it.