What is Religious Trauma? Signs and Treatments

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What is Religious Trauma? Signs and Treatments

Religious trauma happens when bad things in religious trauma make people feel upset. Signs can include feeling guilty, Anxiety, or ashamed because of the way they were brought up in their religion. People might have trouble feeling good about themselves and making good relationships. To feel better, they can talk to a therapist, join support groups, or explore different spiritual ideas. They need to understand and deal with religious trauma to feel better about how their past religious experiences have affected their feelings and mental health.

Here, we’ll discuss the following topics:

What is Religious Trauma?

Religious trauma is when people feel upset because of things that happened in their religion or when they leave their religious beliefs. This can happen because of strict rules, unfriendly religious places, or bad behavior in religious groups. It makes people feel bad, both emotionally and mentally. It’s important to understand that leaving a religion or having bad experiences in it can affect how someone feels, and it’s okay to talk about it and find ways to feel better.

Religious trauma can show up in different ways, like feeling guilty, ashamed, scared, anxious, or sad because of how you grew up or what happened in your religion. People who went through religious trauma might find it hard to feel good about themselves, make good relationships, and feel hurt or not trust others. 

This kind of trauma is tricky because it’s connected to beliefs, who you are, and the group you belong to. If someone has been through religious trauma, they might feel better by talking to a therapist, joining support groups, or thinking about different, more welcoming spiritual or philosophical ideas. It’s important to talk about religious trauma with care and understanding, knowing it can affect how someone feels inside and in their heart.

Religious Trauma Examples

Religious trauma is different for each religion, but it often involves making people scared or messing with their feelings. People might be told that they’ll be far from God, lose friends, or go to a bad place because they don’t follow certain rules or beliefs. This can affect how they feel inside and in their hearts.

These things that happen can make people believe they must always follow their religion to go to a good place after they die. This can start when they are kids, and if they try to step away from their religion, they might feel like they’re leaving behind everything they understand.

When someone decides to leave their religion, they might not have a new place to belong. They could lose family, friends, and the help they used to have. It’s not just about losing people; it can also feel like losing who they are because they discover that what they believed about their religion wasn’t true. Starting over outside their old religion can make them feel confused and like they need to find new people to support them.

Here are some examples of religious trauma

  • A kid feeling attracted to the same sex is told it’s a sin, and they have to say sorry for their feelings.
  • A teenager sharing their thoughts gets physically punished or beaten by a parent or religious leader to make them obey and “save their soul.”
  • A young woman getting pregnant before marriage might face punishment and be excluded from the community or church.
  • Someone being told they should give most of their money to religion causes them financial problems.

Signs of Religious Trauma

Religious trauma syndrome (RTS) is a lot like complex PTSD (C-PTSD). C-PTSD happens when someone is hurt or traumatized by someone who should keep them safe, like a parent. It’s a bit different from regular PTSD, which comes from other tough events, like natural disasters.

  • Feeling Alone
  • Bad Dreams
  • Trouble Eating
  • Trouble Sleeping
  • Feeling Sad
  • Feeling Worried
  • Feeling Down
  • Hard to Think Well
  • Hard to Decide Things
  • Feeling Not Important
  • Trouble Fitting In
  • Hard to Make Good Friends
  • Not Knowing About Popular Culture/Feeling Left Out

Mental Health Effects of Religious Trauma

Religious trauma can affect mental health in different ways. People might feel extra worried or sad a lot, and it can mess up their sleep. After religious trauma, they might feel all alone, like they don’t belong with others. Sometimes, it makes eating difficult and creates more problems in daily life. People might also feel like they’re not as important. Making and keeping good friends becomes hard, making them feel lonely. It’s tough to decide things, and thinking becomes tricky. Plus, they might not know a lot about popular culture, which makes them feel left out. People need to understand and deal with these mental health effects to get better after going through religious trauma.

Some Tips to Healing from Religious Trauma

Getting over the effects of forced religion and trauma can be tough, but understanding, setting yourself apart from, and learning from your experiences can help you feel better. Even if you’ve been through a lot, there’s a chance to grow and feel stronger after religious trauma.

Here are eight tips to help you heal

Recognize Your Religious Trauma

When you’re dealing with religious trauma, it’s easy to make excuses for how things were when you were a kid. But it’s important to realize that even if people meant well, your community or caregivers might not have understood things correctly. Their actions might have unintentionally caused harm, and you need to admit this to start feeling better about the tough things that happened in your childhood.

Explore What You Believe

Think about what religious leaders taught you and what you believe is true. Find areas where you’re not so sure and want to learn more. To get past religious trauma, start by understanding your own beliefs and thoughts.

Therapy for Religious Trauma

Looking for a therapist might seem hard, especially if you’re searching for someone who knows about religious trauma. But finding a therapist who understands trauma well, especially complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD), can be helpful when you’re trying to heal from religious and spiritual trauma. Some therapy methods to check out for recovering from trauma include EMDR and somatic therapy.

In Summary

Dealing with religious trauma can be tough, but it’s important to know and understand how you feel. Talk to friends, family, or a therapist who can help you figure things out. Take time to think about yourself, set limits on what’s okay for you, and make sure to take care of yourself. Remember, you can become stronger after going through tough times with religion. Try different kinds of therapy, like EMDR or somatic therapy, for extra help. Getting better takes time, so be patient with yourself and be happy about the progress you make.


Q1. How do you recover from religious trauma?

A1. Recognize the religious trauma, connect to healthy supports, and get therapy for religious trauma.

Q2. Examples of religious trauma?

A2. Grief

  • Shame
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Difficulty making decisions

Q3. How do you deal with religious trauma?

A3. Discover What You Believe Get Connected to Healthy Supports & Community Separate Your Values From Your Religion

Q4. How do I get over religious trauma?

A4. Religious trauma affects how individuals view their world and themselves, so to recover and heal from it, individuals must acknowledge its presence in their lives.

Q5. Do I have religious trauma?

A5. According to specific traditions or beliefs, individuals may be separated from God, go to hell, or even face social ruin.