In this article, the authors hypothesized that when analyzing culturally diverse clinical populations suffering from dhat syndrome or “semen-loss anxiety” and the associated symptoms of anxiety the results would show that this syndrome and its symptoms would be found across many different cultures. Thus, disproving the concept that dhat syndrome is culturally bound. This syndrome, “semen-loss anxiety” was analyzed among clinical populations from the Indian subcontinent, Sri Lanka, China, and Western countries. “Semen-loss anxiety” and its correlating symptoms of anxiety, depression, etc. were found among all of these populations suggesting that dhat syndrome or “semen-loss anxiety” is not culturally bound. It was also mentioned that this syndrome seemed to be historically/economically related because it was found to be diminishing in Western countries that were becoming more and more industrialized/urbanized.
The naming of dhat syndrome came from the Indian culture, more specifically the Sanskrit word, “dhatu” which meant ‘elixir’ or ‘constituent of the body.’ Men suffering from dhat syndrome experience symptoms such as fatigue, weakness, anxiety, loss of appetite, and sexual dysfunction. In the Indian culture, these symptoms were thought to be due to the loss of semen either from masturbation, nocturnal emissions, or urination. The Indian culture believed that semen originated through a chain of conversions starting from the consumption of food. It was believed that food was converted into blood and that blood was converted into flesh and that flesh was converted into marrow and that marrow was converted into semen. Thus an imbalance in semen seemed to be due to an imbalance in any of the essential bodily constituents which were believed to cause the significant somatic symptoms mentioned previously. To lose semen would mean to lose the essential balance of the body. This is where the dhat related symptoms of anxiety and depression stem from. As a result, an individual’s state of health, biological, physical and/or psychological, can be damaged from these dhat related symptoms.
When evaluating a clinical population of men from Sri Lanka who suffered from sexual dysfunction attributed to “anxiety-loss syndrome”, the men were clinically diagnosed with significant somatic symptoms such as anxiety, hypochondriasis, or stress reaction. Thus, although not exclusively stated in this article some forms of possible medical treatment for these men could be to alleviate these psychological symptoms.
A. Sumathipala, S. H. Siribaddana and Dinesh Bhugra. Culture-bound syndromes: The story of dhat syndrome. The British Journal of Psychiatry. 2004. 184:200-209.