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Sad Nipple Syndrome

Sad Nipple Syndrome

"Doom. Guilt. Shame"

Sad Nipple Syndrome


Sometimes it can be hard for us to explain what's happening in our bodies. How can we understand something we’ve never felt before? If one day, touching your chest makes you feel something unpleasant, how do you rationalize it? My nipples hate my hands…? Fortunately, you would not be alone. You would not be the first person to experience this, and there is some information out there about it. It's called ‘Sad Nipple Syndrome’.

About the Sadness that Comes Every Time We Touch

✔ Sad Nipple Syndrome, SNS

Sad nipples syndrome is not actually a medical term listed in the textbooks. It is used to refer collectively to symptoms of ‘a depressed mood when the nipples are stimulated’, that have emerged online since 2014.

In August last year a video clip of a TikToker captioned, "When my nips get touched, and I suddenly feel this uncontrollable sense of sadness" became a hot topic with 4.6 million views, and as many as 12,000 people leaving sympathetic comments.

✔ Diverse People, Diverse Symptoms

Those who experience Sad Nipple Syndrome say that negative emotions developed when the nipples were touched coincidentally during a shower, when changing clothes, or by a partner during foreplay. However, specific aspects and duration vary greatly from person to person. In some cases, they only react to their own hands, but in others, they also react to other people's touch and other objects.

The only way I can describe it is an incredibly intense feeling of impending doom, guilt and shame if I were to even brush up against my nipple. - Mia
Along with the sadness, I definitely feel a mix of anxiety, discomfort and maybe a slight sense of impending doom. - Bahn

Some people also say that they feel complex emotions such as longing, homesickness, fear, and nausea along with the sadness.

The best way of describing it is homesickness for a place to which I couldn’t return. It subsided fairly quickly but was acute at the time, much like déjà vu. - Jen
As if I was a child and my mum is about to tell me off for doing something really naughty, or if I had done something wrong and had to confront it. - Tracey

There are many people here in Korea who also share similar experiences. Comments have increased since the singer Bibi appeared in "Witch Hunt 2" and explained her symptoms. The specific feelings described by Internet users are all different, but the most common are feelings of emptiness and loneliness.

When I get stimulated what I feel is… I think of my mother, and the universe. I get really depressed… - Bibi
I feel like I'm sleeping naked in a strange place by myself. The emptiness of being left alone in the world. I miss my mom. Even if she is right next to me. - an Anonymous Netizen

✔ What the Experts Say

Is the Sad Nipple Syndrome real? Why does it happen?

💡 To begin with: no one knows.

While discussions have been going on online for nearly a decade no scientific research or medical data has emerged yet about these symptoms. Experts can only make inferences from meeting with patients who experience these symptoms.

Possibility One. The Role of the Limbic System?

"There is no scientific basis," said Jeon Yong-pil, a biology professor at Sungshin Women's University. “But presumably this could be what happens when the limbic system of the brain (the various structures responsible for motivation and emotion) doesn't function normally”.

Possibility Two. Relation to a Breastfeeding Reflex?

Dr. Monte Swarup, a breastfeeding medical expert, notes a possible association with a condition called "Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex."

"The closest condition to look at is D-MER, or Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex, which is a medical condition which affects women when breastfeeding."

In the case of D-MER, hormones trigger discomfort. When a baby sucks on the mother's nipples to feed, breast milk comes out and the secretion of a hormone called prolactin increases, and in some women, dopamine decreases causing negative emotions. Negative emotions such as discomfort or anxiety occur mainly 30 to 90 seconds before breast milk excretes, and they often regain stability within 5 minutes. There is a small study that shows about 9% of mother experience these symptoms.

Possibility Three. Sensitive Nipples?

Dr. Swarup also states that individuals with very sensitive nipples could also experience these symptoms. It is hypothesized that if a large amount of endorphins are released quickly due to nipple stimulation, it may feel unpleasant rather than pleasurable.

✔ What Should You Do?

In reality, Sad Nipple Syndrome is unproven and the cause has not been identified, but the solution is simple.

💡 Simple Solution: Don’t touch.

Sad Nipple Syndrome occurs with touching of the nipples and the symptoms disappear quickly if not touched. When you feel unpleasantness cease the contact and turn your attention to something more enjoyable. Meditation or exercise can also help. If a partner is trying to caress your nipples, explain your symptoms and suggest a different way to bring you pleasure.

If the discomfort lasts a long time or is a major obstacle to daily life, you may seek medical advice from a breast health specialist.

Most importantly, there is no reason to feel any guilt or anxiety. If you suddenly feel lonely, thinking, "Am I the only one experiencing this?" remember that countless people around the world have experienced and will experience similar sadness. You’re not alone in the sad nipple world.

“Sometimes we get sad about things and we don't like to tell other people that we are sad about them. We like to keep it a secret. Or sometimes, we are sad but we really don't know why we are sad, so we say we aren't sad but we really are.” - The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time


  • ‘Sad Nipple Syndrome’ is a phenomenon in which you feel negative emotions when your nipples are touched
  • Although a medical cause is not known, many people live with the symptoms of Sad Nipple Syndrome
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