Dhat syndrome

Dhat syndrome
Classification and external resources
Specialty psychiatry
ICD-10 F48.8

Dhat syndrome (Sanskrit: धातु दोष, IAST: Dhātu doṣa) is a condition found in the cultures of the Indian subcontinent in which male patients report that they suffer from premature ejaculation or impotence, and believe that they are passing semen in their urine. The condition has no known organic etiology.[1]

In traditional Hindu spirituality, semen is described as a "vital fluid". The discharge of this "vital fluid", either through sex or masturbation, is associated with marked feelings of anxiety and dysphoria. Often the patient describes the loss of a whitish fluid while passing urine. At other times, marked feelings of guilt associated with what the patient assumes is "excessive" masturbation are noted.

This is based on an old Hindu belief that it takes forty drops of blood to create a drop of bone marrow and forty drops of bone marrow to create a drop of sperm.

Many doctors view dhat as a folk diagnostic term used in India to refer to anxiety and hypochondriacal concerns associated with the discharge of semen, with discoloration of the urine, and feelings of weakness and exhaustion. Dhat is thought to be a culture-bound syndrome similar to jiryan (South-East Asia), prameha (Sri Lanka), and shen-k'uei (China).[2] Dhat syndrome might be related to other post-orgasmic diseases, such as post-coital tristesse (PCT), postorgasmic illness syndrome (POIS), and sexual headache.


Young males are most often affected, though similar symptoms have been reported in females with excessive vaginal discharge or leucorrhea, which is also considered a "vital fluid".

Premature ejaculation and impotence are commonly seen. Other somatic symptoms like weakness, easy fatiguability, palpitations, insomnia, low mood, guilt and anxiety are often present. Males sometimes report a subjective feeling that their penises have shortened. These symptoms are usually associated with an anxious and dysphoric mood state.[3]


The term Dhat gets its origin from the Sanskrit word Dhatu (धातु), which, according to the Sushruta Samhita, means "elixir that constitutes the body". Indian doctor Narendra Wig coined the term Dhat syndrome in 1960 and described it as being characterized by vague psychosomatic symptoms of fatigue, weakness, anxiety, loss of appetite, guilt, and sexual dysfunction, attributed by the patient to loss of semen in nocturnal emission, through urine or masturbation.[4] Literature describing semen as a vital constituent of the human body dates back to 1500 BC. The disorders of Dhatus have been elucidated in the Charaka Samhita, which describes a disorder called Shukrameha (शुक्रमेह) in which there is a passage of semen in the urine. In China, various names such as (Shen K'uei), Sri Lanka (Prameha) and other parts of South East Asia (Jiryan) symptoms and conditions are similar to dhatus.[1] The International Classification of diseases ICD-10 classifies Dhat syndrome as both a neurotic disorder (code F48.8) and a culture-specific disorder (Annexe 2) caused by "undue concern about the debilitating effects of the passage of semen".[5]

Culture-bound syndrome

Some doctors believe dhat syndrome to be either a culture-bound presentation of clinical depression, as a somatized set of symptoms, or a result of Western doctors' misinterpretation of patients' descriptions of their condition.[6][7]

It is very common in Nepali culture as well. Most of them come with the complaints of "drops" and become extremely anxious about it and see it as loss of "male power". It is often related with obsessive ruminations and somatoform symptoms. Others see it as a distinct clinical entity which is less culture-bound than these critics assert, and describe it as one form of a syndrome of "semen-loss anxiety" which also occurs in other Eastern cultures as jiryan and shen-k'uei, as well as in Western cultures.

Chlamydia infection might also be related to it because of similar symptoms in case of infection of the urethra (urethritis), which is usually symptomatic, causing a white discharge from the penis with or without pain on urinating (dysuria).


Cognitive behavioral therapy is the mainstay of treatment. At other times counseling, anti-anxiety and antidepressant medications have been shown to be of use.[8]

See also


  1. 1 2 Mehte, V., Abhishek, D. & Balachandran, C. 2009. "Dhat Syndrome: A Reappraisal". Indian Journal of Dermatology,54(1): 89-80. doi:10.403/0019-515449002.
  2. American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (DSM-IV-TR) (4th ed., text revision). Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric Association. Pages 897-903.
  3. A., Avasthir., O. P., Jhirwai. (2005). "The concept and epidemiology of dhat syndrome".The Journal of Pakistan Psychiatric Society.2(6).
  4. Narendra Wig, "Problems of Mental Health in India", Journal of Clinical Social Psychiatry, 1960; 17: 48–53.
  5. Issa El Hamad, Carmelo Scarcella, Maria Chiara Pezzoli, Viviana Bergamaschi, Francesco Castelli. "Forty Meals for a Drop of Blood". Journal of Travel Medicine. 16(6): 64-65.
  6. Sumathipala A, Siribaddana SH, Bhugra D (March 2004). "Culture-bound syndromes: the story of dhat syndrome". Br J Psychiatry. 184 (3): 200–9. doi:10.1192/bjp.184.3.200. PMID 14990517.
  7. Dhikav V, Aggarwal N, Gupta S, Jadhavi R, Singh K (2008). "Depression in Dhat syndrome". J Sex Med. 5 (4): 841–4. doi:10.1111/j.1743-6109.2007.00481.x. PMID 17451483.
  8. Ruterbusch, K. (2012, July 20) "Dhat Syndrome in the Indian Subcontinent", Retrieved March 29, 2013 from antrhopology.msu.
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