High control Religions that have Governing bodies, Cults with one man or men as their Final authority on decisions of what you have to believe to be a part of their group or organization will have within it persons that speak out and try to reform them. They can’t do this and decide to leave. A very strange phenomenon of behavior presents itself in quite a few of these individuals. Let’s discuss it.
Religious Trauma Syndrome is the condition experienced by people who are struggling with leaving an authoritarian, dogmatic religion and coping with the damage of indoctrination. The benefits of doctrinal insights and zealous dedication are undermined by transferring allegiance from Jehovah GOD to an organization that crushes Christian liberty. Some members struggle through the shattering of a personally meaningful faith and/or breaking away from a controlling community and lifestyle. Religious Trauma Syndrome is a function of both the chronic abuses from harmful religion and the impact of severing one’s connection with one’s faith. It can be compared to PTSD.
Religious Trauma Syndrome has a very recognizable set of symptoms, a definitive set of causes, and a debilitating cycle of abuse. There are ways to stop the abuse and recover.

What Symptoms are evidence of Religious Trauma Syndrome?
Cognitive: Confusion, poor critical thinking ability, negative beliefs about self-ability & self-worth, black & white thinking, perfectionism, difficulty with decision-making
Emotional: Depression, anxiety, anger, grief, loneliness, difficulty with pleasure, loss of meaning to living
Social: Loss of social network, family rupture, social awkwardness, sexual difficulty, Arrested Psychological Development (being ‘stuck’ in an emotional level of development).
Cultural: Unfamiliarity with secular world; “fish out of water” feelings, difficulty belonging, information gaps (e.g. no knowledge of things outside of your religious community)
What contributes to Religious Trauma Syndrome? How are children affected?
Authoritarianism coupled with harsh theology which is received and reinforced at your religious meetings, conventions, and home. It results in:
Suppression of healthy child development: cognitive, social, emotional, moral stages are arrested
Damage to normal thinking and feeling abilities: information is limited and controlled; dysfunctional beliefs taught; independent thinking condemned; feelings condemned; normal familial love is abandoned and there is pressure to shun close family members that are trying to break free.
An Exclusive Truth Source: only from the governing body; hierarchy of authority enforced; self not a reliable or good source; additional books to be studied that are equal too or on par with the Bible.
Mental and sexual abuse: pedophiles thrive in this authoritative environment; unhealthy sexual views; punishment used for discipline; i.e., disfellowshipings; not allowing grandparents to interact with their grandchildren. Women and children on kept on the lowest run of the ladder.
What is the New Cycle of Abuse?
One reader has this to say about their religion does to its members to instill fear.
The cycle now is to send elders by the home or hospital to issue an edict that if you die in this window of time before impending Armageddon hits you will go to Gehenna. One non baptized witness was in a nursing home with incurable cancer and was told this. She died 2 weeks later. Another 82 year old sister hadn’t attended in 10 years but was visited and intimidated with the threat of death in Gehenna and many more insults since their Annual meeting of 2017. Adult children are intimidating older parents and siblings that have left the organization. Not answering text or phone calls, emotional abuse.
This results in an unending cycle of threats and verbal abuse often with shouting and threatening. You get relief when they just leave you alone. Then the elders show up again, they say to encourage you but in the same breath they are threatening sisters with death of their little children at Armageddon. Salvation is not a free gift according to them; you must be in the organization. Some are getting multiple visits within a week even on their job. Is this perhaps how your religion is behaving?
This is getting out of hand and some are going to lawyers to get a cease and desist letter. The governing body says they have fulfilled Matt. 24:14 and are preaching a message of judgement and studying only with those righteously disposed. They are not raising their heads up because their deliverance is near. They are in a panic and fearful!
In the Bible, do we see any evidence of this type of behavior by the Early Church at the time of the Apostles?
Can this cycle of abuse be stopped?
You can stop the cycle of abuse, but leaving your religion is a “mixed blessing.” Letting go of the need to conform is a huge relief. There is a sense of freedom, excitement about information and new experiences, new-found self-respect, integrity, and the sense of an emerging identity.
There are huge challenges as well. The psychological damage does not go away overnight. In fact, because the phobia indoctrination in young childhood is so powerful that the fear of Gehenna and Armageddon can last a lifetime. Encouraging articles and discussions on this site will discuss these issues about Judgement by GOD for leaving
I am reminded of the lyrics to the 1982 song by “The Clash”
Should I stay or should I go now?
If I go, there will be trouble
And if I stay it will be double
This is why there are so many thousands of walking wounded – people who have left a high control man made organizational religion and are living with Religious Trauma Syndrome.
The governing body of one religion says they are mentally diseased not realizing that…
Religious Trauma Syndrome mimics the symptoms of many other disorders –
post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
clinical depression, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, borderline personality disorder, eating disorders, social disorders, marital and sexual dysfunctions, suicide, drug and alcohol abuse, extreme antisocial behavior, including homicide.
There are many extreme cases, including child abuse of all kinds, suicide, rape, and murder. ( (
Not as extreme but also tragic are all the people who are struggling to make sense of life after being severely SHUNNED and losing their family and friends. Many who try to get help from the mental health profession cannot find a therapist who understands Religious Trauma Syndrome. Their solution is to “just leave and forget about going to worship services with others.” But it is not that simple, is it?
Why is this control so difficult to treat?
We have in our society an assumption that highly organized religion is for the most part harmless or good for you. Therapists, like others, expect that if you stop believing, you just quit going to services, putting it in the same category as not believing in The Tooth Fairy. Therapists often don’t understand fundamentalism. Religious fundamentalism refers to the belief of an individual or a group of individuals as the absolute authority of a sacred religious text or teachings. In this case the governing body must be obeyed without question. They say even if you can prove them wrong by scripture you must teach and believe what they say until they change it. They even have a new song to them that states right or wrong follow them. Gehenna is the penalty. When did we ever see a concept like this in the Bible? Can you sing that right or wrong you will follow the Governing Body of one religion?

Therapists do not realize what a complete mind-violation this really is and persons can’t just get over it. They have been indoctrinated (the process of teaching a person or group to accept a set of beliefs uncritically, without questioning.) The governing body is god to most witnesses.
In the United States, we have a bill of rights, our freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and freedom of religion. This makes it extremely difficult to address a debilitating disorder like Religious Trauma Syndrome without it threatening these rights. Raising questions about toxic beliefs and abusive practices in religion seems to be violating a taboo. No one wants to be pointing fingers for fear of tampering with our precious freedoms. In the meantime people are fighting to mentally break this mind control that the governing body has used for so long, threats of death at Armageddon with their minor children dying because a parent left the witnesses.
Sanitizing hierarchy, high control religion makes it all the more insidious when it is toxic. (A system or organization in which people or groups are ranked one above the other according to status or authority. A pecking order, ladder climbing, inclusiveness.)
For example, small children are biologically dependent on their adult caretakers; built into their survival mechanisms is a need to trust authority just to stay alive. Religious teachings take hold easily in their underdeveloped brains while the adults who are controlled keep tight control on the children. This continues generation after generation. Millions of witnesses learn to value self-loathing, never being able to do enough and fear Armageddon. It’s difficult to break this cycle!
Where can I find help now?
Part 2 will have more discussion on this

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