dhat syndrome in Asian Cultures

The article “Culture-bound syndromes: the story of dhat syndrome” discusses the origin and prevalence of dhat syndrome a syndrome associated with severe anxiety and depression associated with the loss of semen. The neurosis stems from the belief in these Asian cultures that it takes “40 days for 40 drops of food to be turned into 1 drop of bloods, 40 more days for blood to turn to flesh, etc.” This concept makes the loss of semen a very frightening and depressing concept that eventually turns to an unrealistic fear or anxiety with the loss of semen. The article describes that this CBS may not be as culture-bound as previously thought because it is also apparent in East Indian and Sri Lanken cultures as well. The article goes on to state it is most prevalent in lower social class communities along with non-educated, emotionally immature individuals.

There is really no grounding for a biological component of this disease, it stems from misinformation about body processes and fear that these natural bodily responses are detrimental to health leading to depression and severe anxiety at the idea of reduced life. The cultural component of this disease comes from lack of education of normal bodily processes and fear stemming from old beliefs of how the body works. These older beliefs combined with lack of education cause the misunderstanding at hand which elicits the severe anxiety from old cultural beliefs. The individual dimension of this disease stems again from a personal belief that the loss of something like semen will reduce ones life. This syndrome is caused by an individuals own personal fears, hypochondriasis and lack of education.

This disease is diagnosed as a CBS according to the psychological diagnosis guidelines of the DSM-IV which is considered part of the Biomedical model of these cultures. It is treated in various ways through education and planning to re-condition these individuals into the proper mindset that the loss of semen and other bodily fluids does not actually contribute to the loss of a person’s lifespan. In some severe cases where an individuals mind cannot be changed they attempt to remedy the syndrome through various techniques by suggesting marriage (to alleviate the urge to masturbate) or other extreme methods to make the victim feel better about losing their bodily fluids.



Sumathipala, A.. “Culture Bound syndromes: the story of dhat syndrome.” . http://bjp.rcpsych.org/content/184/3/200.full (accessed July 18, 2014).


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