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Anxiety, Shame, and Sexual Health


September 12-18 is Sexual Health Awareness Month. As we launch this week, it's important to understand the impact of shame and anxiety on sexual and mental health.


Several shame-related and anxiety-related can affect sexual health.


First, Purity Culture raises shame levels. Young people raised under the influence of the Purity Culture movement in the 80s and 90s learned that all sexuality was a sin to be feared. Any sexual desire was lust, which must be pushed down.


Meagan Turner writes that in Purity Culture, "if you felt “turned on” or attracted to another person, you had to turn it off and shut it all down. Just as you cannot selectively numb emotions, you cannot selectively shut down bodily processes. Your brain and your physiological, anatomical body parts react to feeling turned on. Years of practice of shutting those down can lead to mental health and physical concerns."[2]


In some women, this repression exacerbated a condition called Persistent Genital Arousal Disorder, or PGAD. This disorder seems to occur frequently in women who are fearful about “sexual conservatism” and who see “sexual desire as a sin.”[1] When a woman fears sexual desire, the more her brain focuses on it. Eventually, she is saddled with the shame-producing arousal nearly 24/7.


But many authors agree that shame only makes things worse.


Debra Hirsch points out, “Our young people don’t need fear-based counsel that compounds the shame they already feel. This only keeps their sexuality in the dark.”[3]


Jay Stringer agrees, "When a religious community practices shaming, the eradication of desire, and silence, it colludes with the effects of sexual shame and trauma.”[5]


Curt Thompson says that it's important that we explore those "deep feelings of shame" that crop up in the "intimate places of being known."[4]


In this blog, we will learn about overcoming shame. We will be learning how to reconnect with our bodies. We will learn how to discover a more healing approach to our selves and our bodies.


Subscribe to the blog to keep up-to-date on the upcoming articles.




[1] Joana Carvalho, PHD, Ana Verissimo, PHD, Pedro Nobre, PHD, “Cognitive and Emotional Determinants Characterizing Women with Persistent Genital Arousal Disorder,” The Journal of Sexual Medicine, Volume 10, Issue 6, June 2013, Accessed February 3, 2022, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1743609515303969

[2] "Purity Culture: Repercussions & How to Heal," https://www.choosingtherapy.com/purity-culture/

[3] Redeeming Sex by Debra Hirsch

[4] Soul of Shame by Curt Thompson, pg 38

[5] Unwanted by Jay Stringer

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