An article by psychiatrist Athula Sumathipala that discusses a curious syndrome involving pathological anxiety about semen loss, has just become available online from last year’s British Journal of Psychiatry.
The syndrome, known as dhat, involves feelings of fatigue, weakness, anxiety, loss of appetite, guilt and sexual dysfunction, all attributed to the loss of semen.
Dhat is typically associated with India and China, where it was discussed in ancient texts. Sumathipala’s review makes it clear however, that such concerns have been prevalent in the west as well.
In fact, they were discussed as far back as early medical texts by Galen, and formed the basis of relatively recent (although spurious) theories on madness and masturbation.
The article starts with a discussion on the shaky psychiatric concept of a culture-bound syndrome – a supposedly culturally specific mental illness – and describes the curious syndrome in detail in the Results section of the paper.