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Specialty psychiatry

Shenkui (shen-kʼuei; simplified Chinese: 肾亏; Traditional Chinese: 腎虧; pinyin: Shènkuī) is a culture bound syndrome native to China in which the individual suffers somatic symptoms with anxiety, believed to be caused by a loss of semen.[1][2] And in Traditional Chinese Medicine, shen (kidney) is the reservoir of vital essence in semen (ching) and k’uei signifies deficiency.[2]

Shenkui or shen-k'uei is one of several Chinese culture-bound syndromes locally ascribed to loss (or fear of loss) of Yang (Chinese: 陽) . In Traditional Chinese Medicine, Shenkui is believed to result from a deficiency in yang, obtained through the loss of semen. Semen is believed to be "lost" through excessive sexual activity or masturbation, nocturnal emissions, "white urine" which is believed to contain semen, or other mechanisms. Symptoms within the Chinese diagnostic system include dizziness, backache, tiredness, weakness, insomnia, frequent dreams, and complaints of sexual dysfunction (such as premature ejaculation or impotence). From an ethnopsychiatric perspective, additional symptoms are preoccupation with sexual performance, potential semen loss, and bodily complaints which may be taken as symptoms of lost yang.[3]

Losing semen reduces Yang, causing an unbalance in the body. Nocturnal emissions, too much intercourse, and masturbation resulting in ejaculation lower the levels of semen, causing loss of Yang. Somatic symptoms may include body soreness, aches, lack of energy, fatigue, and possibly problems in sexual performance.[4]

A person suffering form Shenkui may endure body aches, dizziness, tiredness, inability to sleep, and sexual dysfunction, all for which no physical cause can explain.[5]

The passing of semen too often is avoided because it is believed to be crucial to a person’s health and safety. It is believed to be life-threatening if too much semen is lost.[6][better source needed]

"Chinese martial artists that remained celibate through years and years of extensive training were believed to be most powerful, therefore maintaining the power of one’s vital essence."[6][better source needed]


The Symptoms of Shenkui include:[2]

  • Dizziness
  • Backache
  • Tiredness
  • Weakness
  • Insomnia
  • Frequent dreams
  • Sexual dysfunctions; premature ejaculation or impotence.


Chinese folk beliefs hold that the Yin (Chinese: 陰) represents femininity, slow, cold, wet, passive, water, the moon, and nighttime. And that Yang represents masculinity, fast, dry, hot, aggressive, fire, the sun, and daytime.[7]

Loss of yang would result in an abundance of Yin. It is also believed that if a case of Shenkui is severe enough, it could result in death. Informal or incomplete education about sexual health in China leaves a lot of room for folk beliefs to thrive. Often, advertisements support such beliefs to encourage use of traditional medicines. In Chinese folk beliefs, the loss of semen can cause imbalance in the body, leaving you with aches and pains and trouble performing.[8]


Specific treatments are not mentioned. The affected person may go to a medical clinic that specializes in sexual health. If no medical problems are found, therapy may be used to help deal with stress, or anxiety medicines may be used.

Disorders, who they affect, and how they affect are different within each culture. In order to diagnose someone, it is necessary to make the effort to understand their home culture. Whether it is a culture bound syndrome or not, a person’s background determines how they see and interpret their own symptoms and how it must be treated.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ [1][dead link]
  2. ^ a b c Wen Jung-Kwang, Wang Ching-Lun. Shen-k'uei syndrome: a culture-specific sexual neurosis in Taiwan. In: Kleinman A, Lin Tsung-yi, eds. Normal and abnormal behavior in Chinese cultures. Dordrecht, Reidel, 1981: 357- 369.
  3. ^ Archived from the original on December 31, 2006. Retrieved January 21, 2014.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  4. ^ Goleman, Daniel (1995-12-05). "Making Room on the Couch for Culture". Retrieved 2015-02-21. 
  5. ^ "Top 10 Bizarre Cultural Disorders". Listverse. Retrieved 2015-02-21. 
  6. ^ a b "Culture-Bound Syndromes in the DSM-IV-TR flashcards". Quizlet. Retrieved 2015-02-21. 
  7. ^ Archived from the original on August 5, 2012. Retrieved January 21, 2014.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  8. ^ Charles E. Osgood; Meredith Martin Richards (June 1973). "From Yang and Yin to and or but". Language. Linguistic Society of America. 49: 380–412. JSTOR 412460. 
  9. ^ Goleman, Daniel (1995-12-05). "Making Room on the Couch for Culture". Retrieved 2015-02-21.