Religious Trauma & Abuse
The impact one can experience from cults or high demanding religion can be very traumatic. This can leave one experiencing symptoms that arise in response to stressful religious experiences. While religious trauma is not an official diagnosis in the DSM-5, it is a common experience shared among many who have escaped cults, fundamentalist religious groups, abusive religious settings, or other painful experiences with religion. The symptoms of religious trauma are comparable to the symptoms of complex PTSD.
Religious trauma is in the early stages of research and is gaining traction as a legitimate diagnosis. Below are some symptoms commonly experienced by people suffering from religious trauma.
- Confusing thoughts and reduced ability to think critically
- Negative beliefs about self, others, and the world
- Trouble making decisions
- Feelings of depression, anxiety, grief, anger, lethargy
- A sense of feeling lost, directionless, and alone
- A lack of pleasure or interest in things you used to enjoy
- A loss of a community (family, friends, romantic relationships)
- Feeling isolated or a sense that you don’t belong
- Feeling “behind the times” with cultural happenings
- And many other symptoms of PTSD including nightmares, flashbacks, dissociation, emotional difficulty, etc.
Religious trauma is often caused for different reasons for different people. Many people experience religious trauma as a result from an authoritarian religion or faith community. Individuals suffering from this type of trauma may be struggling with black and white thinking, irrational beliefs, difficulty trusting oneself, low self-esteem, or feeling indebted to a group of people. Distorted views of sex, discipline, emotional regulation, relationships, and self-expression are usually present in toxic religious environments.
If you think you may be struggling with religious trauma, please know that you are not alone. There are many out there struggling with the same feelings you are, and there is hope for healing. Through talk therapy and EMDR you can regain power over who you are and who you want to be. You can move past memories that are too painful to think about and begin creating the life you want to live.
Religious Trauma & Abuse Resources: