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Arch Sex Behav. 1975 Sep;4(5):519-28.

Dhat syndrome: a culture-bound sex neurosis of the orient.


The Indian Dhat syndrome is a culture-bound symptom complex. The clinical picture includes severe anxiety and hypochondriasis. The patient is preoccupied with the excessive loss of semen by nocturnal emissions. There is a fear that semen is being lost, and mixed in urine. A study was carried out to investigate the cultural basis of the Dhat syndrome. One hundred and seven respondents from the general public were interviewed. A vignette describing an individual having nocturnal emissions was read aloud to the respondents. Attitudes toward nocturnal emission, its causes, and its management were investigated. A large segment of the general public from all socioeconomic classes believed that semen loss is harmful. Seminal fluid is considered an elixir of life both in the physical and in the mystical sense. Its preservation guarantees health, longevity, and supernatural powers. This belief is more frequent in lower socioeconomic classes. The susceptible individual reacts to the prevalent belief system and to the fears of semen loss. The symptoms usually disappear if the misconceptions about semen loss are effectively dealt with. It is expected that with increasing literacy and progress in sex knowledge the syndrome will become less common.

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