If you have read Ralph Ellison’s popular novel ‘Invisible Man’, you would remember the farmer who had claimed of a unique medical condition of raping his daughter in sleep. What seemed like a weird crime to us, as we read the novel, now appears to have been a disease, as a young man came to seek help from the doctors at Sion hospital with a similar complaint.
Satish Khanna (name changed), a twenty-one-year-old engineering student from the western suburbs, came to a city clinic seeking help with a peculiar problem of performing sexual activities such as masturbating and groping, while asleep.
Dr Sagar Karia, secretary of Bombay Psychiatric Association as well as consulting psychiatrist at Sion hospital said, “In my practice, this condition is very rare and often, it goes unreported. It is called as sleep sex or sexsomnia. Satish stays in a hostel where his roommates reported to him about his acts during sleep. Initially, he thought they were making a fool out of him, however, on repeated complaints by many friends, finally led him to call for a professional help. Currently, he is on medications.”
Doctors, across the city, are quite puzzled with the case as it is not a reported disorder. “Sexsomnia is under-reported and also, equally uncommon. It can be due to an abnormality in the non-REM (rapid eye movement) phase of sleep. It could be due to sleep deprivation or stress and so on. It falls under the category of parasomnias, like sleep walking or sleep talking,” said Dr Priyanka Mahajan, a psychiatrist at Masina hospital.
When My Medical Mantra tried to ask doctors from the city if they have seen any such cases, many of them denied having any such patient. One of the reasons, according to doctors, is that the case goes unreported. “Not many people will come ahead and report about this. Say, for example, a guy suffers from such a disorder, his wife would probably never come forward to report it,” added Dr Mahajan.
Another doctor seconded Dr Mahajan’s thought. “I haven’t come across any such patient as yet, but yes, the reason for this could be that the case goes unreported. It is a kind of parasomnia which is uncommon,” said Dr Kersi Chavda, a consultant psychiatrist from PD Hinduja Hospital and Medical Research Centre.