Article  Cultural “illness” in China caused men to believe their penis was disappearing (koro)

C C Offline

KEY POINTS: In China, there have been repeated outbreaks of koro, where hundreds of men become convinced that their penises are shrinking into their scrotums, potentially resulting in death. Though koro is classified as a disease in Traditional Chinese Medicine, caused by spirits or sexual excess, it is actually a mass sociogenic illness that is spread by belief.

People can become convinced they have it when they see others expressing symptoms. Koro outbreaks have grown rarer in the past few decades as China has grown increasingly urbanized and educated. The ultimate cure for koro is replacing superstition with evidence-based medicine.

INTRO: Between November 1984 and May 1985, a strange “illness” spread in China’s Guangdong province. According to the Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, the victims, who were primarily young men, became convinced that their penises were gradually sinking into their scrotums, potentially never to emerge again.

The males’ understandable panic at the thought of losing their prized members was compounded by a belief that, should their phallus completely retract, they would drop dead. Thankfully, none ever succumbed to such a fate.

So what caused this curious episode? As it turns out, it was neither virus nor bacteria, but instead a powerful cultural pathogen: belief... (MORE - details)

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Magical Realist Offline
Interesting instance of a culturally-specific form of delusional mental illness. Perhaps comparable to the compulsive fetish among American males for owning and shooting guns.

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