Depression, Anxiety, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder and a History of Pervasive Gender-Based Violence Among Women Asylum Seekers Who Have Undergone Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting: A Retrospective Case Review

J Immigr Minor Health. 2019 Jun;21(3):483-489. doi: 10.1007/s10903-018-0782-x.


We sought to evaluate the frequency of anxiety, depression, PTSD, and any experiences of violence in women who had undergone Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) and were seeking asylum in the United States. We undertook a retrospective qualitative descriptive study of FGM/C cases seen in an asylum clinic over a 2-year period. Standardized questionnaires provided quantitative scores for anxiety, depression and PTSD. Clients' personal and physician medical affidavits were analyzed for experiences of violence. Of the 13 cases, anxiety and depression were exhibited by 92 and 100% of women, while all seven women screened for PTSD had symptoms. Qualitative analysis revealed extensive violence perpetrated against these women, demonstrating that FGM/C is only part of the trauma experienced. The high level of mental health disorders and endured violence has implications for providers working with FGM/C survivors and indicates the need for accessible mental health services and trauma-informed care.

Keywords: Anxiety; Asylum seekers; Depression; Female genital mutilation/cutting; Gender-based violence; Mental health; PTSD.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Africa South of the Sahara / ethnology
  • Anxiety / ethnology*
  • Circumcision, Female / ethnology
  • Circumcision, Female / psychology*
  • Depression / ethnology*
  • Female
  • Gender-Based Violence
  • Humans
  • Qualitative Research
  • Refugees / psychology*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / ethnology*
  • United States / epidemiology