OBJECTIVE--To determine the adverse psychological implications of referral for colposcopic screening within a genitourinary medicine clinic. DESIGN--Cross sectional survey. SETTING--A colposcopy clinic held within a genitourinary medicine clinic. SUBJECTS--160 consecutive women referred to the clinic were assessed for psychiatric morbidity using the General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-28). Women were referred to the colposcopy clinic because of one or more of the following: abnormal cervical cytology, condylomata acuminata, HIV antibody positivity. A history of prior local ablative therapy to the cervix was also included in the analysis. RESULTS--There was no difference in psychiatric morbidity, as detected by the GHQ-28, in women referred to the clinic because of abnormal cervical cytology or condylomata acuminata. The total GHQ-28 scores indicated a significant increase in psychiatric morbidity, with increased sub-scores indicating social dysfunction, anxiety and somatic symptoms, in women who had had prior laser therapy to the cervix. Women with HIV infection attending the clinic were noted to have an increase in GHQ-28 sub-scores indicating social dysfunction and depression. CONCLUSIONS--Women who have undergone laser therapy to the cervix may benefit from psychological evaluation and supportive measures if they develop further genital lesions which require colposcopic evaluation. Women with HIV infection need further psychological evaluation prior to planning intervention and preventative strategies.