What is Religious Trauma and How To Recognize It?

What is Religious Trauma?

Religious trauma is the deep emotional and mental pain that comes from hurtful or damaging experiences within religious or spiritual environments. It often stems from continuous spiritual abuse. It can leave scars on a person's soul, leading to feelings of fear, guilt, and even a struggle with one's faith. It's like a storm that shakes the foundation of your beliefs and leaves you questioning everything.

church ptsd religious trauma cartoon nakedpastor david hayward

This cartoon is one of my most popular. It's titled Church PTSD and is available as a print or digital download.

What is Religious Trauma Syndrome? 

Religious Trauma Syndrome refers to the psychological and emotional distress that can arise as a consequence of religious trauma or spiritual abuse. The term was a term coined by Marlene Winell in 2011. Although not included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, this term has been increasingly recognized and acknowledged. Studies have shown that around one-third (27‒33%) of U.S. adults have experienced religious trauma at some point in their life.

5 Signs of Religious Trauma

  1. Persistent anxiety or fear stemming from religious teachings, rituals, or beliefs.
  2. Intense guilt, shame, or depression associated with perceived violations of religious rules.
  3. Struggles with cognitive dissonance and internal conflict over religious beliefs.
  4. Social isolation or withdrawal due to fear of judgment or rejection from religious community.
  5. Difficulty forming a personal identity or finding meaning after leaving a restrictive religious group.

Healing From Religious Trauma 

Healing from religious trauma involves unearthing and confronting the harmful beliefs that once confined you, while embracing a newfound freedom to explore your own spirituality and beliefs that resonate with your authentic self.

Seek supportive communities, challenge old dogmas, and nurture a compassionate relationship with yourself as you embark on this transformative journey.

In this blog post, I unpack more on how to heal from religious trauma and spiritual abuse.

You can heal yourself.

Support can speed it up.

Back to blog

1 comment

I see and appreciate the steps you have so far taken away from the lies and the deception continuously oozing out of the church and the bible, as well attempting to help those marginalized groups you seem to address the most … lgbtq, bipoc, (and you toss “women” in there), etc. But are you not still promoting the Great Trauma Creator h(H)imself or h(H)erself or t(T)hemself? As a very traumatized female in a (WRONGLY-normalized) patriarchal world, I feel even further traumatized by any male who claims to be trying to help the marginalized-but-should-never-have-been-marginalized-women, and a male who still capitalizes on, and benefits from, male privileges *directly related to his continuing to promote G(g)od the Patriarch, whether you realize you are doing that or not. The churches I came from call that “using the Lord’s name in vain”, but I realize that is up for interpretation. When will it be time for you to take the NEXT STEP and stop altogether promoting patriarchy and the Patriarch, male hierarchy? Patriarchy was NEVER supposed to be a thing. It merely happened that that was what men decided would be the norm, and somehow it stuck, likely because of the promotion of FEARmongering. I do understand that full deconstruction takes time, but after watching one of your testimony videos, I cannot help but feel you merely found a ledge on your way down, and just got re-comfortable, rather than continuing to get all the way away from the lies and deception. I realize someone somewhere will think or say I am being too judgmental. I do not care anymore. I am one of MANY who continues to feel the undeserved consequences, never quite able to get completely free from the insidiousness of patriarchy. I do welcome your thoughts, and even your hopefully non-excusing explanations of your stance, if you desire to comment.


Leave a comment