Definitions

Homosexual panic

Homosexual panic

Homosexual panic is a term, first coined by psychiatrist Edward J. Kempf in 1920, describing an acute, brief reactive psychosis involving delusions and hallucinations accusing a person of various homosexual activities. Despite the psychotic nature of the disorder, Kempf called it "acute homosexual panic". The disorder is also known in Kempf's honour as "Kempf's disease".

The condition most often occurs in people who suffer schizoid personality disorders who have insulated themselves from physical intimacy. Breakdowns often occur in situations that involve enforced intimacy with the same sex, such as dormitories or military barracks. It was most common during the mass mobilization of World War II when barracks typically provided little privacy with communal showers and often without doors or even cubicles around toilets.

Treatment usually involves hospitalization, firstly to remove the person from the situation and also because the condition may lead to suicidal or homicidal acts. Antipsychotics, either the typical or atypical, help symptoms subside if they continue much after admission. It is best to avoid further provocation and for this reason caregivers often are selected from members of the opposite sex, and invasive procedures such as injections with needles or suppositories are avoided. Return to previous levels of adaptation is common after symptoms subside, but treatment usually involves advice not to return to the type of environment that prompted the condition.

This condition has been used as a legal defence (see gay panic defense) and the validity of this has been challenged in some jurisdictions.

References

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