Things to know about ‘Dhat’ syndrome (Nocturnal emission/Nightfall)

What is meant by nightfall or nocturnal emission or wet dreams?

Spontaneous involuntary loss of semen while the person is in sleep is called as nightfall or nocturnal emission. It is most common in young boys (adolescent age group).

Is there any side effects of night fall ?

There is no evidence that nightfall (wet dreams/nocturnal emission) cause any bodily side effect in men.

What is Dhat disease or Dhat Syndrome ?

Dhat syndrome is the clinical entity seen primarily in Indian subcontinent and present with a features of depression, anxiety, multiple nonspecific body symptoms, sexual dysfunction, fatigability, and impairment of concentration, which are attributable to semen loss. Loss of semen irrespective of the mechanism (during urination, defecation, masturbation, nightfall or nocturnal emission, and even sexual intercourse) is considered worrisome by patients suffering from Dhat syndrome.  

Which age group are mainly affected with Dhat syndrome ?

Patients with Dhat syndrome are often young males in second to third decade of life. Majority of the patients belong to south east Asia continent and belong to low socio-economic groups with orthodox culture. Families with poor education have higher chances of having this entity.

What are the symptoms of Dhat syndrome ?  

The most common presenting symptoms in patients with Dhat syndrome are weakness of the body, tiredness, low energy, low mood and mental stress. It can also be described as the abnormal illness behavior and bodily symptoms due to semen loss, as well as heightened emotional (depression and anxiety) response. These symptoms often get amplified with the stress.

How the symptoms of Dhat syndrome develop ?

At the time of onset of Dhat syndrome, these people get excessively worried with having nightfall or semen discharge and gives lot of significance to this semen loss. Every time they loss semen, they experience stress (as it is not acceptable in their culture). This abnormal thinking leads to stress response which further gets amplified with each time person have semen loss and hence this vicious cycle goes on. Further exaggeration of this stress response leads to the symptoms of anxiety, depression and other body (somatic) symptoms. This anxiety feature can lead to sexual dysfunction seen in few men with Dhat syndrome. Nearly 20% of patients diagnosed with Dhat syndrome do harbour some underlying depression, anxiety disorder.

How to treat Dhat syndrome ?

The patient with Dhat syndrome approach a variety of medical practitioners and specialists with their complaints. Since this culture originated disease entity is rare in western countries, the presentation and management knowledge is deficient in western medical practitioners. Patients with Dhat syndrome require comprehensive assessment to assess clinical severity. Integration of various medical specialities such as Urology, Psychiatry, Psychologists, general medicine, psychiatric nurses, alternative medicine (Ayurvedic/Siddha) can lead to better patient management. Psychosocial therapy, cognitive behavior therapy (imparting sex education and resolving sexual myths is very important), antianxiety and antidepressant therapy are helpful. Educating the traditional healers may help in resolving the sexual myths that they carry and dissipate to the people in the society.

Published by Dr Varinder Attri

MS MCh (PGI Chandigarh), Urologist and Andrologist

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