Culture bound syndromes: The story of Dhat syndrome

Section of Epidemiology, Institute of Psychiatry, London, UK.
The British Journal of Psychiatry (Impact Factor: 7.99). 04/2004; 184:200-9. DOI: 10.1192/bjp.184.3.200
Source: PubMed


Culture-bound syndrome is a term used to describe the uniqueness of some syndromes in specific cultures. Dhat (semen-loss anxiety) has been considered to be an exotic 'neurosis of the Orient'.
To ascertain the presence of similar symptoms and syndromes in different cultures and historical settings.
Electronic and manual literature searches were used to gather information on the existence and description of semen-loss anxiety in different cultures and settings.
Most of the empirical studies on dhat syndrome have emerged from Asia, whereas its concepts have been described historically in other cultures, including Britain, the USA and Australia. The different sources indicate the universality of symptoms and global prevalence of this condition, despite its image as a 'neurosis of the Orient'.
It appears that dhat (semen-loss anxiety) is not as culture-bound as previously thought. We propose that the concept of culture-bound syndromes should be modified in line with DSM-IV recommendations.

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Available from: Sisira H Siribaddana,
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    • "Syndromes similar to dhat have been reported from China, Sri Lanka, Europe, Americas, and Russia at different points of time in history.[4] Similarly, latah (from Malayo-Indonesia) and imu (from Japan) have been considered by researchers to be behaviorally matching.[8] "
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    ABSTRACT: Dhat syndrome is described as a culture bound syndrome (CBS). There is an ongoing debate on the nosological status of CBS. Dhat syndrome has been found to be prevalent in different geographical regions of the world. It has been described in literature from China, Europe, Americas, and Russia at different points of time in history. Mention of semen as a "soul substance" could be found in the works of Galen and Aristotle who have explained the physical and psychological features associated with its loss. However, the current classification systems such as International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Conditions-10 (ICD-10) (World Health Organization (WHO)) and Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM)-IV-TR (American Psychiatric Association) do not give guidelines to diagnose these culture-bound conditions in the main text. The revisions of these two most commonly used nosological systems (the ICD and DSM) are due in near future. The status of this condition in these upcoming revisions is likely to have important implications. The article reviews the existing literature on dhat syndrome.
    Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine 03/2013; 35(4):326-331. DOI:10.4103/0253-7176.122219
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    • "ideals remains an issue of debate and contention (Ferguson et al. 2011b; Levine and Murnen 2009). According to Sumathipala et al. (2004, p. 200), ''[c]ulture-bound syndrome is a term used to describe the uniqueness of some syndromes in specific cultures.'' However, Grabe et al. (2008) point out that increased incidence of eating disorders across the early and mid-twentieth century seem to coincide with trends in the media toward emphasizing thinness in women. "
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    • "Cultural values also influence the acceptability of obesity which in some societies (e.g. in Africa and the Middle East) is encouraged in men for status and in women for fertility. Another example is the dhat syndrome or semen-loss anxiety [16] "
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