Koro syndrome, fear of the genitals receding

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Koro syndrome, fear of the genitals receding

Written and verified by the psychologist GetPersonalGrowth.

Last update: December 14, 2021

Koro syndrome is a disorder characterized by the fear that a sexual organ or an erogenous zone of the body is shrinking or retreating to eventually disappear into the abdomen. Men fear that the penis will shrink or disappear, the fear of women focuses on the disappearance of the labia majora, nipples or breasts.



Often these episodes of uncontrolled fear are accompanied by the belief that the conclusion of the process is death. This allows us to establish a differential diagnosis between Koro's syndrome and body dysmorphic disorder.

Patients with body dysmorphic disorder (formerly known as dysmorphophobia) obsessively worry about one or more physical defects; they see themselves as ugly, unattractive or even abnormal and deformed. Those suffering from Koro syndrome, on the other hand, are not afraid of being ugly, but that the perceived alteration will lead to death.

The origin of the Koro syndrome

It is part of the cultural syndromes and often occurs epidemically in the regions of Southeast Asia, especially in Singapore. A seconda del paese asiatico, viene chiamata shuk yang, shook jong, jinjinia bemar o rok-joo.

Although the origin is Chinese, cases have been reported all over the world, even collective episodes in some African locations. They are typically intense, but short-lived crises that respond well to therapy and the rational approach.

It is therefore estimated that Koro's syndrome has a powerful etiological agent of a cultural nature. For this reason, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders includes it as a cultural syndrome, as is Dhat syndrome.



Dhat syndrome, the cultural origin of malaise

Despite the name, more than a syndrome it is a cultural explanation for a set of symptoms traditionally linked to the loss of seminal fluid.

These symptoms are anxiety, depression, fatigue, weakness, weight loss, impotence, and other somatic complaints.

The main symptom is certainly anxiety about the loss of Dhat, in the absence of any identifiable physiological dysfunction. 

Dhat is referred to by patients as a white discharge present in stool or urine. The image of this liquid is connected to the concept of Dhatu (seed), described by Hindu medicine (Ayurveda) as one of the essential body fluids, the balance of which is necessary to stay healthy.


This syndrome has been described as a diagnostic guideline. This became necessary once the link between beliefs, loss of seminal fluid and psychosomatic illness was demonstrated. 

Medical research confirms that about 64% of men in India who go to mental health centers for a sexual disorder have such beliefs.

The prevalence of this syndrome is higher in young men living in a low socio-economic background, although there is no lack of cases of middle-aged men. Similar symptoms have been recorded in women, but associated with vaginal discharge (leucorrhoea).


As you can see, beliefs and beliefs of a sexual nature can underlie mental disorders. Faced with such a reality, it would be good to make a critical reflection on the influence of culture and society on problems of the psyche such as anxiety or depression, the two titans of Western culture.

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