Castration anxiety (A complete guide)

In this brief blog, we will discuss castration anxiety, what it is and how to deal with it.

What is castration anxiety?

Castration anxiety is defined as  the fear of being emasculated. This can be both literally and metaphorically.

It is a huge fear which causes overwhelming anxiety about losing or damaging your private part. 

Castration anxiety has been theorized to only happen to males but can also happen to females.

Castration anxiety is a psychoanalytic theory which was developed by Sigmund Freud.

Castration anxiety was regarded as a universal human experience which all humans will experience at some point in their life by its founder, Sigmund Freud.

There have been very few studies and research (except research which was carried out decades ago) to back up his theory of castration anxiety and hence no one really knows if castration anxiety is a feeling we will all experience at some point or the other in our lives.

The main theory of castration anxiety is that a child will live with the fear of the genitalia being damaged or cut off by their parent( parent of the same sex) due to the child having sexual feelings towards their parent of the opposite sex.

This could be for example a daughter being scared that her father will cut of or damage her genitalia due to her having sexual feelings towards her mum.

Castration anxiety has been said to occur between the ages of 3 and 5.

This is known as the phallic stage of development according to Sigmund Freud.

Castration anxiety in the literal sense

“Castration anxiety is the conscious or unconscious fear of losing all or part of the sex organs, or the function of such. In the literal sense, castration anxiety refers to the fear of having one’s genitalia disfigured or removed to punish sexual desires of a child.[2]

In Freudian psychoanalysis, castration anxiety (Kastrationsangst) refers to an unconscious fear of penile loss originating during the phallic stage of psychosexual development and lasting a lifetime. According to Freud, when the infantile male becomes aware of differences between male and female genitalia he assumes that the female’s private part has been removed and becomes anxious that his private part will be cut off by his rival, the father figure, as punishment for desiring the mother figure.[4]

In 19th-century Europe it was not unheard of for parents to threaten their misbehaving sons with castration or otherwise threaten their genitals. This theme is explored in the story Tupik by French writer Michel Tournier in his collection of stories entitled Le Coq de Bruyère (1978) and is a phenomenon Freud documents several times.[5] In this same period, Dr. Kellogg and others in America and English-speaking countries offered to Victorian parents circumcision and in grave instances, castration of their boys and girls as a terminal cure and punishment for a wide variety of perceived misbehaviours (such as playing with yourself),[6] becoming very popular over time.”

Castration anxiety in the metaphorical sense

“Castration anxiety can also refer to being castrated symbolically. In the metaphorical sense, castration anxiety refers to the idea of feeling or being insignificant; there is a need to keep one’s self from being dominated; whether it be socially or in a relationship.[7] Symbolic castration anxiety refers to the fear of being degraded, dominated or made insignificant, usually an irrational fear where the person will go to extreme lengths to save their pride and/or perceives trivial things as being degrading making their anxiety restrictive and sometimes damaging. This can also tie in with literal castration anxiety in fearing the loss of virility or sexual dominance.”

If you are suffering from depression, anxiety, loneliness or any similar mental health issue then seeking help for it may be a good option.

Mental health issues such as depression, loneliness and anxiety can affect anyone of us.

If you are under 18 then CAMHS, an NHS run programme may just be the answer for your mental health struggles.

You should look to see if you meet the CAMHS referral criteria and then fill in the CAMHS referral form.