A folk diagnostic term used in India to refer to severe anxiety and hypochondriacal concerns associated with the discharge of semen, whitish discoloration of the urine, and feelings of weakness and exhaustion. Similar to jiryan (India), sukra prameha (Sri Lanka), and shen-k'uei (China).
Dhat syndrome is a term that was coined in South Asia little more than half a century ago to account for common clinical presentations of young male patients who attributed their various symptoms to semen loss. Despite the name, it is not a discrete syndrome but rather a cultural explanation of distress for patients who refer to diverse symptoms, such as anxiety, fatigue, weakness, weight loss, impotence, other multiple somatic complaints, and depressive mood. The cardinal feature is anxiety and distress about the loss of dhat in the absence of any identifiable physiological dysfunction. Dhat was identified by patients as a white discharge that was noted on defecation or urination. Ideas about this substance are related to the concept of dhatu (semen) described in the Hindu system of medicine, Ayurveda, as one of seven essential bodily fluids whose balance is necessary to maintain health.
Although dhat syndrome was formulated as a cultural guide to local clinical practice, related ideas about the harmful effects of semen loss have been shown to be widespread in the general population, suggesting a cultural disposition for explaining health problems and symptoms with reference to dhat syndrome. Research in health care settings has yielded diverse estimates of the syndrome's prevalence (e.g., 64% of men attending psychiatric clinics in India for sexual complaints; 30% of men general clinics in Pakistan). Although dhat syndrome is most commonly identified with young men from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, middle-aged men may also be affected. Comparable concerns about white vaginal discharge (leukorrhea) have been associated with a variant of the concept for women.
Related conditions in other cultural contexts
Koro in Southeast Asia, particularly Singapore and shen-k'uei ("kidney deficiency") in China.
Related conditions in DSM-5
Major depressive disorder, persistent depressive disorder (dysthymia), generalized anxiety disorder, somatic symptom disorder, illness anxiety disorder, erectile disorder, early (premature) ejaculation, other specified or unspecified sexual dysfunction, academic problem.