NOTICE: Please do not link to this page during an argument.
This resource exists to provide support for asexual-spectrum survivors and to help mental health care providers better understand barriers to treatment. Please consult this post about how to link responsibly, this series on using survivors in political arguments, and this post on how mentally ill asexuals’ voices are silenced by arguments about “how bad asexuals have it.”
If you see a post linking to this page (or any post listed on it) for the purposes of arguing on tumblr, DO NOT REBLOG IT. Our bandwidth is not free, and there is an emotional cost to survivors when people participate in these arguments. This makes it more difficult for us to share our stories and get the help we need.
Ace-spectrum people face significant hurdles accessing mental health treatment, because asexuality is not widely known by professionals, and low sexual desire is frequently pathologized—and even though the DSM-5 explicitly excludes those who identify as asexual, it’s still not enough. Therapists and medical professionals still frequently assume that this is something that must be fixed, and treat asexual-spectrum clients/patients in ways that are damaging rather than helpful. Here, we intend to highlight the need for an educated and affirming approach to treating asexual-spectrum clients, with an eye towards diversity and intersectional issues that affect our community.
Below is a collection of writing on the topic of asexuality and mental health, created by asexual individuals themselves.
June 2015 Carnival of Aces: Mental Health
The Carnival of Aces is a monthly event where people blog on a specific topic for one month, and then at the end of the month the host blog posts links to all the submissions.June 2015’s Carnival was on Asexuality and Mental Health. Most of the following links are from that event, but we have also added—and will continue to add—links to articles written outside of that time period.
Therapy and Barriers to Treatment
In August of 2014 there was a call for discussion of “corrective therapy” in which medical professionals aim to change asexuals’ orientations.
An anonymous person offered a South Korean perspective on asexuality and mental health. [tw: erasure, invalidation, abuse, suicidal ideation]
Laura P.’s second submission dealt with obstacles to therapy as an asexual Muslim convert.
Stormy wrote about why it’s okay to refuse therapy. [tw: medical abuse, therapist abuse, rape mention]
Epochryphal wrote about CBT and the sneakiness of therapeutic abuse. [tw: gaslighting, abuse, self-blame, invalidation]
Alice wrote about relationship status and sexual orientation as gatekeeping for transition, and the importance of ace affirmative therapy.
Nicola wrote about difficulties finding competent treatment, therapy that works and doesn’t work [tw: invalidation, ableism]
Writer Ace wrote about the need for therapists and schools to make spaces explicitly safe for asexuals.
Kirstin Kelley at Everyday Feminism: Why We Need Mental Healthcare Without Asexual Erasure
Smrf wrote about dealing with acephobia from therapists.
Personal Narratives and Asexual Community Discourse
I’m Afraid of Identifying as Asexual by Olivia is about fearing to claim the identity because what if it’s just a symptom of mental illness? Also by Olivia: Sexuality as Selfhood and Body Hatred, and Beautiful Asexuality, both dealing with eating disorders and body hatred.
Laura (hella-non-mono) wrote about having Binge Eating Disorder. This post spawned a lot of good conversations (check out the notes), and then an entirely new blog specifically for the intersection of asexuality and eating disorders (as well as other body image-related issues).
Thicketofcomplication shared her story [tw: sexual assault mention, hypersexuality, mention of sex, self-harm, dissociation, drinking].
Laura P. wrote about how isolation, erasure, and invalidation have affected her mental health.
Jon wrote about the complicated tangle of asexuality, neurodivergence, and bipolar illness. [tw: abuse, suicide ideation, compulsory sexuality]
Aqua wrote about asexuality and codependency. [tw: sexual coercion, emotional abuse, invalidation]
Queenie wrote about what having PTSD is like. [tw: sexual assault mention]
Sara at Flying While Falling Down wrote about deciding not to talk about sexual assault anymore. [strong TW for rape, abuse, not being believed, self-harm, eating disorder, suicide attempts, pregnancy]
The Anonymous Asexual wrote about how assertions that “asexuals aren’t broken” hurt. [tw: gaslighting, ableism related to mental illness, brief mentions of trauma]
Tristefere wrote about the way that the asexual community’s respectability politics harm, and how the simplistic narrative around mental illness needs to change. [tw: depression, anxiety, suicide ideation, Oppression Olympics]
Soodalgwayeou wrote about identity crisis, self-questioning, and invalidation. [tw: brief mention of childhood abuse, corrective therapy]
Kria wrote about sexual self-harm, and a delayed realization of asexuality because of it. [tw: self-harm, sex discussion, depression, some abuse mentions—nothing graphic, however]
Maris wrote about neurodivergence, anxiety, and doubting their asexuality. [tw: mentions of abuse, sexual trauma, homophobia, suicidal implications]
Demisexual and Proud hosted a series of responses: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13[tw: Number 8 mentions sexual assault and victim-blaming.]
Coping and Support
Elaine wrote about her mental health leaving her with few options other than marriage for financial security, and the bind that would put her in due to asexuality and Islam. [tw: compulsory sexuality, some discussion of marriage as prostitution]
Elizabeth wrote an overview of components of resilience, which helps herto identify how she can fortify her own ability to cope. (Cross-posted here at RFAS, where she will likely write a further breakdown in the future.)
Nicola’s third and fourth submissions were about community and coping, and support.
Hope for Aces, a “dedicated space for asexual spectrum, aromantic spectrum, and sex-/romance-repulsed people to discuss eating disorders, body dysmorphia, or other body-image or food-related issues,” was created. There have been a lot of good posts geared towards coping and supporting one another there!
Asexuality Basics for Health Professionals Printable Info Sheet
A resource for those who: Need to come out to their therapists about asexuality, but aren’t up for fielding 101 questions Want their doctors to understand asexuality to avoid misdiagnosis, bad assumptions, or awkward questions Simply want to do activism to promote better understanding of asexuality and competent treatment of [...]
Asexuality, hypothyroidism, and PTSD
The only reason they found out that I have hypothyroidism at all is because I decided to try some medication for PTSD, so they screened me for it. PTSD shares some of the same symptoms—poor memory and concentration, depression, and fatigue (from PTSD affecting the quality of sleep). Some of my other symptoms could have been explained by other factors, too. So I think it went undiagnosed for a long time.
It Gets Better: Chasing the ‘Before’
Probably the worst part of it was how my grandparents urged me to go back to who I was 'before'. For me, there was no before. I didn't realize it then, but for many of the victims of repeated childhood sexual abuse, there is no 'before'. You know the one. Before the abuse. Before the pain. Before the brokenness. Now, when I think about who I was 'before', I realize that it wasn't as clear-cut as my grandparents and the psychologist made it out to be. Now, I realize that the 'before' they referred to was their own—namely, before they knew about the abuse. Today, I have a different 'before'. Before I decided to live for me. Before I forgave myself. Before I realized that my life is valid, no matter what.
Why It’s Okay to Refuse Therapy
Medical professionals of all kinds are well known for abusing every marginalized group known to humanity, and therapists are no exception. But we are told to get over it or told to "find another doctor." So for all of the people out there who feel that therapy is toxic: I'm making room for your narrative in the survivor discourse. It's okay to refuse therapy. It's okay to be hostile towards medical personnel, especially when they have abused you. It's okay to talk about your horrible experiences with therapy.
Playing on HELL MODE
When I tell people I have PTSD, I think they have a very particular image in their head of what that’s like--PTSD is a (male) veteran waking up from nightmares of the war, drenched in sweat. The problem is, while that might be what PTSD is like for a very particular subset of the population, that’s not what PTSD is like for me at all.
What is Resilience?
Resilience is the ability to recover from really tough, painful situations. But there's so much more depth to it than that. There are several components that are thought to contribute to overall resilience. Each of these is a skill that can be developed, or a practice that's built up based on skills that can be developed. This isn't the kind of thing that you either have or you don't. Everyone has some degree of resilience. And it's something you can always improve.