Circumcision’s Psychological Damage
Psychological Effects of Circumcision Studied
An article titled “The Psychological Impact of Circumcision” reports that circumcision results in behavioral changes in infants and long-term unrecognized psychological effects on men. The piece reviews the medical literature on infants’ responses to circumcision and concludes, “there is strong evidence that circumcision is overwhelmingly painful and traumatic.” The article notes that infants exhibit behavioral changes after circumcision, and some men have strong feelings of anger, shame, distrust, and grief about having been circumcised. In addition, circumcision has been shown to disrupt the mother-infant bond, and some mothers report significant distress after allowing their son to be circumcised. Psychological factors perpetuate circumcision. According to the author, “defending circumcision requires minimizing or dismissing the harm and producing overstated medical claims about protection from future harm. The ongoing denial requires the acceptance of false beliefs and misunderstanding of facts. These psychological factors affect professionals, members of religious groups, and parents involved in the practice.”
Expressions from circumcised men are generally lacking because most circumcised men do not understand what circumcision is, emotional repression keeps feelings from awareness, or men may be aware of these feelings but afraid of disclosure.
Goldman, R., “The Psychological Impact of Circumcision,” BJU 83 (1999): suppl. 1: 93–102
Serious Consequences of Circumcision Trauma in Adult Men Clinically Observed
Using four case examples that are typical among his clients, a practicing psychiatrist presents clinical findings regarding the serious and sometimes disabling long-term somatic, emotional, and psychological consequences of infant circumcision in adult men. These consequences resemble complex post-traumatic stress disorder and emerge during psychotherapy focused on the resolution of perinatal and developmental trauma. Adult symptoms associated with circumcision trauma include shyness, anger, fear, powerlessness, distrust, low self-esteem, relationship difficulties, and sexual shame. Long-term psychotherapy dealing with early trauma resolution appears to be effective in healing these consequences.
Circumcision of the newborn male child consists of removal of the penile foreskin, a normal, functional part of the child’s body. The United States is now the only industrialized country in the world that continues to circumcise the majority of its newborn male children for non-religious reasons. In my client population of adult men, serious and sometimes disabling lifelong consequences appear to have resulted from this procedure, and long-term psychotherapy focusing on early trauma resolution appears to be effective in dealing with these consequences. Early prevention by eliminating the practice of routine circumcision is seen as desirable.
Rhinehart, J., “Neonatal Circumcision Revistited,” Transactional Analysis Journal 29 (1999): 215-221
John W. Rhinehart, M.D. is a practicing psychiatrist and psychotherapist and director of Deep Brook Center, Newtown , CT
Male Circumcision and Psychosexual Effects Investigated
Infant male circumcision continues despite growing questions about its medical justification. As usually performed without analgesia or anesthetic, circumcision is observably painful. It is likely that genital cutting has physical, sexual, and psychological consequences, too. Some studies link involuntary male circumcision with a range of negative emotions and even post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Some circumcised men have described their current feelings in the language of violation, torture, mutilation, and sexual assault. In view of the acute as well as long-term risks from circumcision and the legal liabilities that might arise, it is timely for health professionals and scientists to re-examine the evidence on this issue and participate in the debate about the advisability of this surgical procedure on unconsenting minors.
Boyle, G., Goldman, R., Svoboda, J.S., and Fernandez, E., “Male Circumcision: Pain, Trauma, and Psychosexual Sequelae,” Journal of Health Psychology 7 (2002): 329-343.