Bizarre Health: Koro


When discussing those things in this world that are simply bizarre, it is hard to ignore certain emotional and psychological disorders. The pain that individuals suffer when they deal with these health issues is not humorous. However, they can certainly be described as bizarre. One such psychological syndrome goes by many names. It is called Koro, genital retraction syndrome, shrinking penis or simply penis panic. It is an intense fear that involves disappearing genitals. In cases of Koro, this is simply a perception that is thought to be brought on by psychosexual stress.

Partial genital retraction syndrome is the fear that the penis is shrinking or pulling back into the body. In women, it is the same fear regarding the vulva and/or nipples. This is most common in Westerners who are afflicted with the syndrome, which is far less common than it is among Chinese and Southeast Asians. Total koro is primarily experienced in these areas. It is the same as partial genital retraction syndrome coupled with conviction that death will follow the disappearance of the genitals and attempts to halt the retraction. People can seriously injure themselves by trying to insert objects into their flesh that they believe will stop the genitals from shrinking.

It is important to note that individuals with Koro are not actually suffering from shrinking or retraction. Doctors who observe these individuals are agreed that it is occurring in the sufferer's mind. The cause, apart from a cultural propensity toward this belief, is thought to be feelings of sexual inadequacy and/or shame. Therapy to treat the underlying cause may be beneficial in many cases. However, the syndrome can be chronic; something like a general anxiety disorder or it can come in attacks, something like a panic disorder. Some cases may also have an underlying physical cause, though there are only six of these cases reported.