Purity Culture & Therapy

Let's Talk

As a therapist who specializes in working with those who grew up in a purity culture, the three words – God, attachment, and sex are at the heart of what I do. Most of us have some idea of what God is to us, but this can vary across denominations, religions, and cultures.  So why attachment and sex?  Attachment is lasting psychological connectedness; an emotional bond between us.  This bond is generally thought of between parent and child, husband and wife, but it is also between us and God.  When our attachment needs are not met as children we learn to cope with this as “my needs are too much, I’m unworthy, I’m not good enough, etc…”   We start to experience (even fear) that we don’t matter.

Purity culture often relates mattering to sexual purity.  Specifically, mattering to God = sexual purity.  Sexual purity means abstaining from sexual or lustful thoughts or actions. The effects from Purity culture may show up on the surface as anxiety, depression, low libido, sexual dysfunction (anorgasmia, erectile dysfunction, delayed ejaculation and premature ejaculation), sexual pain (pelvic pain- vaginismus, vestibulitis, and vulvodynia), confusion around the body, lack of sexual education and belief systems that women are not sexual, it’s not about women’s pleasure and/or women must have sex with their husbands to be good wives.  

Understanding Purity Culture

Purity culture, predominantly found in conservative religious communities, places a strong emphasis on sexual purity and abstinence until marriage. While promoting values such as chastity and self-control, it often comes with rigid rules, expectations, and a heavy dose of shame associated with any deviation from these ideals. This can include thoughts of lust, premarital sex, and even physical touch between unmarried couples.

The Negative Effects of Purity Culture

Shame and Guilt:

Purity culture can instill deep feelings of shame and guilt in individuals who do not adhere to its standards. This shame can persist well into adulthood, affecting self-esteem and self-worth.  Shame turns our view inward that we are bad, that there is something wrong with us. Not only is sex bad but your body and your thoughts become bad. Guilt turns our view toward how others feel or experience. 

We feel shame we view ourselves negatively and guilt we view an action as negative. 


The fear of breaking purity culture’s rules can lead to anxiety, particularly in young people navigating relationships. Anxiety can manifest as constant worry about sinning or disappointing God, family and religious communities.


Purity culture’s strict expectations can contribute to depression, as individuals may feel isolated or judged for their perceived shortcomings.  In shame we are alone, so the isolation that can come from Purity culture can increase feelings of depression

Loss of sexual identity:

In an attempt to conform to purity culture, individuals may repress their natural sexual desires and curiosities, leading to confusion and sexual dysfunction later in life.  Exploration and curiosity are not allowed as they can be associated with impure or deviant thoughts. 

How Therapists Can Help People Who Grew Up in Purity Culture

Therapists, including Christian therapists, play a crucial role in helping individuals and couples navigate the effects of purity culture. Here are some ways therapists can provide support:

Create a Safe Space: Therapists can create an environment where clients feel safe to discuss their experiences without judgment. This safe space allows clients to express their thoughts and emotions freely.

Normalize Feelings: Therapists can help clients understand that their feelings of shame, guilt, anxiety, or depression are common among those who have been influenced by purity culture.

Challenge Unhealthy Beliefs: Therapists can assist clients in identifying and challenging harmful beliefs instilled by purity culture, promoting healthier attitudes toward sexuality and relationships.

Develop Healthy Communication: In couples therapy, therapists can facilitate open and honest communication between partners, helping them navigate any disparities in their upbringing related to purity culture.


Purity culture, while rooted in certain religious beliefs, can have far-reaching negative effects on individuals and couples. Therapists, regardless of their religious background, can play a crucial role in supporting clients in their journey to healing from the impacts of purity culture. By providing a safe and empathetic space, challenging harmful beliefs, and offering guidance, therapists can help individuals and couples build healthier relationships, improve their mental health, and find a path to self-acceptance and self-compassion. If you or someone you know has been affected by purity culture, seeking therapy, whether individual or couples therapy, can be a valuable step towards healing and personal growth.  While its intentions may be rooted in promoting values and morals, the effects of purity culture can have a lasting impact on individuals and couples.

Ready To Get Started?

Give us a call or schedule an appointment and begin your healing journey today.

Call Now Button