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Expect a dopamine crash after an accomplishment

McKinley Valentine — 2 min read
Expect a dopamine crash after an accomplishment
Photo by Joshua Earle / Unsplash

JesseDisasters on twitter asked a question about Dungeons & Dragons. The DM/GM is the sort of host/emcee and they roleplay a lot of the characters:

Hey DMs. You ever get like.. sad? Like immediately following a session?  A few of my other DM buddies have relayed this to me, and I can totally relate.  There’s this feeling that people were bored, or they thought the session was stupid. Regardless how many words of affirmation my party sends my way, I’m continually second guessing the quality of the content, my own delivery, and the consistency of my judgements.  It usually goes away after a few hours, but that DNDepression is real, man.

Ash McCallan replied:

After high energy social engagement, especially one where youre performing, such as GMing or streaming, youll usually get a mood drop when coming "off stage" because of dropping adrenaline & dopamine levels. Know that it will happen & prepare aftercare. Water, chocolate, comfort.

Remembering that a mood crash doesn’t usually feel like something in you is changing, it feels like the external world is changing: neighbours make more annoying sounds, people are more rude, your writing is worse, etc etc.

I was shook by this because I experience it but had never learned to expect it or predict it. Last fortnight after I sent out The Whippet, my friend Peter said “Great whippet McKinley!” and I was like “oh good! I was worried about this issue, I felt like it was a bit flat.” And he said: “You say that literally every issue.” Which I hadn’t realised, but he has the chat logs to prove it.

So: I think this probably happens to other people too, after you’ve succeeded at something. It’s not quite the same as anxiety - you know, like you had a job interview and you pick over all the possible mistakes you might have made. That’s a real but separate thing. It’s noticeable when it’s some kind of achievement that isn’t a test, there’s nothing to worry about, but your whole mood drops suddenly for a few hours. And your emotions might not be related to the success, you just might feel really sad and hopeless about everything for a little while.

If you think this happens to you, start predicting it, not expecting anything of yourself for those few hours, and as Ash says, prepping aftercare.

This piece was originally published in The Whippet #12 – subscribe to get the next one in your inbox!

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