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September 2022

Am J Psychiatry. 1988 Dec; 145(12): 1538-43.

A sociocultural study of koro epidemics in Guangdong, China.

Tseng WS, Mo KM, Hsu J, Li LS, Ou LW, Chen GQ, Jiang DW.

Department of Psychiatry, University of Hawaii School of Medicine, Honolulu 96813.

Koro, a culture-related psychiatric disorder characterized by panic due to fear of genital retraction, occurred as the rare phenomenon of koro epidemics in a remote region of Guangdong, China, in 1984-1985 and 1987. The sociocultural and historical backgrounds of the area are described. The life pattern and attitudes toward supernatural beings and the commonly shared folk belief of evil-induced genital retraction were considered grounds for the panic, while the community's anxious reaction and hysterical atmosphere facilitated the intensification and recurrence of the episodes. Geographic seclusion associated with localism in folk beliefs and practices may have kept the epidemics confined to the region.

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