The emotional and mental health effects of female genital cutting

The mental and emotional effects of female genital cutting

Our latest infographic focuses on the many mental and emotional health effects of female genital cutting.

The psychological impacts are hard to measure and quantify and studies have been few and far between. The trauma and memory of being cut, as well as the pain a cut woman may experience throughout her life especially during sexual experiences and child birth, also result in further distress. 

 In her book, ‘Female Genital Mutilation: Treating the Tears’, Haseena Lockhat quotes a cut woman who says, ‘That fright for the month before I married changed my life. This fright was worse than the actual circumcision time, because I had so many fears… I felt nauseous all the time with anxiety.’

While another simply says, ‘Talking about it like now… I don’t want to remember… I want to forget… Please don’t ask me any more.’

The combination of anxiety about the physiological impact and the stress of dealing with the violation of FGC is symbolic of the suffering those who have undergone FGC experience.

Data from a 2010 study in Northern Iraq reports that girls who have undergone FGC are more prone to mental health disorders: 45.6% of the cut girls surveyed experienced some form of anxiety disorder, while 13.9% were suspected of suffering from personality disorders.

The emotional and mental health effects of FGC

The emotional and mental health effects of FGC

Studies such as this show the value of developing knowledge of an area that is, at present, suffering from a lack of understanding. Other studies on a smaller scale have shown that the effects of trauma such as post-traumatic stress disorder are significantly higher in girls and women that have undergone cutting [i],[ii], while the wider field of sexual violence against women has clearly documented the severe negative impacts on emotional and mental health.

Further research would allow for greater support to be delivered to those have undergone female genital cutting, in the most appropriate manner. In the movement to abandon FGC, those who already live with the consequences must not be forgotten.


[i] ‘Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Memory Problems After Female Genital Mutilation’ Alice Behrendt, Dipl.-Psych.; Steffen Moritz, Ph.D. (Am J Psychiatry 2005;162:1000-1002)

[ii] ‘Female genital mutilation: A discussion on a cultural issue with multiple impacts exploring the effects of FGM in Eritrea, Africa, and the difficult obstetric challenges that the practice presents to midwives.’ Letezghi Afewerki Lhbsu (Midwives magazine: December 2009/January 2010)