What is Koro Syndrome? - Genital Retraction Syndrome
Our relationship to our own genitals is something we often take for granted. As we develop through puberty, they change and fascinate us. Some people simply accept them as the biological equipment they are, some may have dysphoria in regards to them and often people can be either insecure or too secure when it comes to displaying them. For some, the way they view their genitals can become a mental disorder which is related to various mental health problems. This is what we investigate today with oneHOWTO when we ask what is koro syndrome? In understanding genital retraction syndrome, we can learn why one might develop it and how we can help resolve the issue.
Koro's syndrome definition
Otherwise known as genital retraction syndrome, koro syndrome is a mental disorder in which patients are deluded and believe their sex organs are retracting into themselves. Our genitals will change as we age, but very slowly and similarly to how the rest of our body ages. Someone with koro syndrome believes their genitals are retracting significantly and will eventually disappear. They may even go as far as to believe they will die once their genitals are fully retracted. This is not related to penile shrinking due to cold temperatures.
A person with koro syndrome, sometimes called shrinking penis syndrome in males, will have an anxious and anguished clinical picture. Panic attacks or paranoic episodes often accompany koro syndrome. It is most commonly a secondary symptom of another psychiatric condition such as body dysmorphic disorder or paranoid schizophrenia.
Although the majority of cases affect young-to-middle-aged men, it can also affect women. In women with female genitalia, it usually develops as a fear their labia, nipples or breasts will retract or decrease in size.
Koko syndrome is culture bound. This means that it is linked to certain cultures, specifically Asian countries. In various Chinese ethnic groups, koro syndrome has a history which appears to be linked to both their spiritual beliefs and traditional medicine. The work ‘koro’ translated to ‘head of a turtle’ in Malay. This is in reference to a penis retracting like a turtle's head into their shell.
Types of koro syndrome
Two different types of Koro have been distinguished and each one has different characteristics. Below we will analyze both of these types to better understand the depth of this disorder.
Primary koro syndrome
This is the one that appears for cultural reasons and manifests itself in people who do not have any other diagnosed mental health disorder. It has been common in countries like India, China and Japan. This is because its appearance is strongly linked to the cultural beliefs related to sex that exist within each of these countries.
The profile of the patients is usually that of single men, who are poorly educated and have little knowledge of sexual health. They tend to believe strongly in supernatural aspects such as witchcraft, spells or sorcery. The most frequent symptoms are fear, anxiety and the fear of dying because of this retraction.
Patients with primary koro often believe this phenomenon occurs because they have had sex with a prostitute or have recently masturbated. It may even be due to environmental causes that could affect their health. The lack of sexual education is the most common characteristic of patients with primary koro syndrome.
Secondary koro syndrome
Secondary Koro does not appear for cultural reasons but for health reasons. It most commonly occurs in patients who suffer from other mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, chronic anxiety, hypochondria, etc.
In this case ,Koro syndrome would appear to be caused by another mental disorder that would lead a person to believe their genitals are getting smaller and retracting. Their clinical picture is one of anxiety, but it is not as serious as in the primary form. In addition, they do not believe they can die from it.
Common causes and symptoms of koro syndrome
As we have indicated, the causes of primary koro syndrome have to do with culture and community. Mainly, they involve ignorance of the sexual field of study and superstitious beliefs. In secondary koro syndrome, the cause is a symptom of another mental disorder such as schizophrenia, paranoia, among others. The underlying causes of these mental health issues are varied and depend on the individual. Many are idiopathic.
The symptoms presented by patients with koro syndrome have to do with mental and psychological aspects. Here we will list the most common:
- Anxiety attacks: people who suffer from this disorder often suffer from a strong panic attack and experience a deep fear of losing their sexual organs and/or dying. These attacks can disappear within a few hours, but it has also been the case that the patient experiences them for several days.
- Paresthesia in the genitals: these are strange sensations in the genital areas, such as feeling hot, tickling, tingling, etc.
- Fear of their own body: the patient may believe their body is bewitched or enchanted. They may fear that their urinary tract will be blocked, they will become sterile, they will lose the ability to have an erection or experience other unfounded fears related to their sexual organs.
Due to the strong panic attacks that patients may experience, it may be the case that they try to avoid this retraction with very dangerous methods. These may include tying the penis to a place so that it does not shrink or, in the case of women, stretching nipples to prevent shrinkage.
Diagnosis and treatment
Now that we know what Koro syndrome is, we are going to discover how it can be treated medically. As this problem is a mental disorder, only a qualified doctor should be in charge of doing a complete review of the patient. They will examine their psychiatric history and provide therapy sessions to understand what may be the origin of this fear. Questions about your appearance or your sexual experiences can be basic methods to achieve a medical diagnosis.
As far as treatment is concerned, this disorder requires psychological or psychiatric therapy. The nature and duration of this therapy will depend on its severity. In addition, anatomy lessons and sex education will be required so that the patient understands it is totally impossible for the genitals to retract. Cultural support will be needed and it can be difficult to counteract superstitions. Support from local communities can help in some cases.
This article is merely informative, oneHOWTO does not have the authority to prescribe any medical treatments or create a diagnosis. We invite you to visit your doctor if you have any type of condition or pain.
If you want to read similar articles to What is Koro Syndrome? - Genital Retraction Syndrome, we recommend you visit our Mental health category.
1. Ntouros, E., et al. (2010). Koro-like symptoms in two Greek men. BMJ Case Rep., 2010, bcr08.2008.0679.