Sex fainting?
July 12, 2012 8:56 AM   Subscribe

Feeling extremely faint but only in certain (NSFW) situations. What's the deal?

The last few times I've started to kiss/whatever a new partner, I've gotten extremely faint within a few minutes to the point of needing to sit down and recover. I've fainted once before a long time ago due to dehydration/heat so I know what it feels like and can tell I'm getting close. After I recover, which takes 5 minutes at most, I can do whatever with no other problems. In all of these cases I've been really comfortable with the other person and not notably anxious, although I suppose it could be a panic attack that doesn't feel like anxiety at all?

I have had a few drinks before each of these encounters, but the drinks were over the span of a few hours and I've never been anywhere near drunk, and like I said, after the initial feeling of faintness goes away I've always felt completely fine, not hungover the next day. I've had my heart checked out and it's not that or any obvious physical cause.

Anyone have any ideas about what is causing this or any way to prevent it? Everyone has been cool about it and I don't find it embarrassing, but the sensation is physically unpleasant and I want to avoid it. It's also been getting more severe.

I'm female and these partners have been primarily male (and one female).
posted by anonymous to Grab Bag (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
IANAD. What's your breathing like when you're making out/whatever-ing? Do you hold your breath when you kiss?

I say this because I've had similar experiences during sex and it's always because I'm getting so into it that I'm not breathing properly or breathing too fast, essentially hyperventilating, so I get super tingly in my extremities and start to pass out. These days I can recognise it happening and so we stop for a moment for a sip of water and to calm down a little.
posted by fight or flight at 9:03 AM on July 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

I have low blood pressure and have fainted during sex when standing--are you sitting, or upright?
posted by epanalepsis at 9:16 AM on July 12, 2012

I used to have this problem too! Pretty much exactly what fight or flight said. The tingles and the feeling of going-to-pass-out-soon.

Once I noticed that I wasn't controlling my breathing well enough, I concentrated on keeping my breathing even, not too fast, and not too shallow. That eliminated the problem entirely!

I recently heard from an anxiety doctor that when you have a true panic attack, having a panic attack is all you can do. So it's probably not that.
posted by Baethan at 2:32 PM on July 12, 2012

Kissing someone new can make you blush.

Alcohol can make you flush.

Not to mention reducing ventricular output to the head:
"We found that low doses of red wine is associated acute depression in left ventricular function and acute increase in right ventricular function," said Cameli. "These findings point out the importance of considering even low doses of alcohol as a socially relevant cause of acute cardiac toxicity because the truth is that light alcohol intoxication represents a very common occurrence worldwide."

Cameli added that this study is the first to examine the acute effects of low doses of red wine on cardiac performance through use of sensitive echocardiographic indices of cardiac function in a population of young healthy volunteers.
And all these operating at the same time take enough blood from your brain to cause you to feel faint.
posted by jamjam at 2:38 PM on July 12, 2012

I have had this happen, with and without alcohol as a factor (and with and without making out as a factor). Look up vasovagal syncope.

When you are kissing with a new person, there's all sorts of stuff going on in your body - hormones, blood pressure is changing, temperature is changing, breathing gets shallow. You may not be feeling anxious, per se, but your nerves can be racing under the surface. Add alcohol into that mix and it totally makes sense that you would feel faint.

Try monitoring your breathing a little better or taking it slower to start, to see if that makes a difference. But in my experience, the best bet is to learn how to recognize it, take five, and recover your bearings. It sounds like you've done that. I'm not sure there's anything else you can do to prevent it, besides not kissing new people, which isn't a fun option.

In my case, I've spectacularly fainted a number of times (in a parking lot, on the subway, in restaurants, among other situations) and I've been to the emergency room and had all sorts of tests run and they never did figure out anything other than "Hey, you faint a lot." Now I know the symptoms and I can recognize them and either take steps to recover (sit down/lie down, take some time to just breathe, drink something cold, etc) or loudly announce that I need help (if I'm in public, so I don't bang my face up again). Management of the symptoms mean that I haven't totally lost consciousness in several years. That's the best I'll ever be able to do with this "condition," I expect.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 4:38 PM on July 12, 2012

Also, a panic attack is 100% different from vasovagal syncope. I don't think that's what you're experiencing at all.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 4:40 PM on July 12, 2012

Doctor time, we can't really answer this for you without a full medical history and you in front of us, your doctor can.
posted by Blasdelb at 4:45 PM on July 12, 2012

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