Religious Trauma Syndrome: Examples, Symptoms, & Ways to Cope

Last Update on December 8, 2022 : Published on December 8, 2022
Religious Trauma Syndrome

Religious trauma syndrome is a psychological condition where an individual who has been following a set of beliefs struggles to part ways from those beliefs and value systems. Religious trauma syndrome can have a huge impact on your mental health because the trauma completely shatters your pre-existing beliefs.

We are all brought up with a set of beliefs that our parents have had. As we grow old, we create our own beliefs and value systems that are so strongly rooted that we can’t accept anything that nullifies our beliefs or is the complete opposite of what we have believed for so many years.

Is Religious Trauma Syndrome A Real Thing?


It is as real as your beliefs. You can easily see the stubbornness our parents or grandparents have when it comes to changing their beliefs with the change in time. Superstitions are one example of where beliefs were made to change or evolve and we can still observe some resistance.

Similarly, when you face something that makes you rethink the beliefs you have held for so many years can traumatize you. Homophobia is one example that explains religious trauma syndrome quite well. For a long time, the LGBTQ+ community was not accepted because we held beliefs that were against the LGBTQ+.

However, things are changing now but there is a long way to go. Religious trauma syndrome has a lot to do with bringing changes like these. Therefore, it’s important to understand religious trauma if we want people to evolve with time.

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What Is Religious Trauma Syndrome?

Religious trauma syndrome is not a clinical diagnosis according to the diagnostic manual of mental disorders as of now. This doesn’t mean that religious trauma syndrome is not a serious condition. There are a lot of psychological conditions that have not been registered yet, but they exist.

Religious trauma syndrome has been affecting a lot of people, it directly attacks your mental well-being. I say so because when your long-standing beliefs are questioned, you start questioning everything that has ever happened in your life.

Religion and religious practices have a huge impact on an individual’s mental health. Religion can easily be used as a weapon, a mode of mass destruction, or vice-versa. Religious beliefs are so strongly engraved in our hearts that going against them feels like a sin.

When you do something considered a bad thing according to the beliefs you’ve grown up with, you experience feelings like shame and guilt which convert into trauma. Religious trauma syndrome happens when an individual goes against their religious beliefs. Or do something that is away from what is accepted as normal in your religious community. The guilt of not adhering to religious beliefs can traumatize you.

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Religious Trauma Syndrome Symptoms


Religion is one thing that can easily be misconstrued and misused. There are various examples out there that prove how misunderstood religious teachings have resulted in disaster. However, religious trauma can affect all aspects of your life.

If in case you have grown up with some beliefs that you don’t resonate with now, you’ll be tempted to do things that oppose your long-time beliefs. This can make you feel overwhelmed and disturb your mental peace.

It’s important to break out of limiting beliefs that might have been a part of you for a long time but now make no sense to you. Therefore, let’s look at the symptoms of religious trauma so that you know why you have been feeling that way and how you need to correct it in life.

  • Poor critical thinking skills
  • Loneliness
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Anxiety symptoms
  • Being unfamiliar with mainstream culture/isolation
  • Nightmares
  • Depression symptoms
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Decreased sense of self-worth
  • Difficulty building strong relationships
  • Struggling with fitting in and belonging
  • Sleeping issues
  • Eating issues
  • Grief symptoms

Religious Trauma Examples

There cannot be one definition of religious trauma syndrome. It changes because there are different beliefs, thoughts, and religions. Some ideas can be traumatizing for one and not for someone else.

Based on different beliefs people adhere or do not to different kinds of things. The thoughts you have when you don’t follow a belief can mess with your mind. You feel like you’ll have to face some negative consequences because you’re not adhering to the beliefs of your religious community.

Let’s look at some examples of religious trauma syndrome so that you can understand the condition better;

  • During our teenage years, our bodies grow and we tend to explore them and feel an attraction toward other people as well. According to some beliefs, such feelings of attraction are considered a sin, and the teenager who experiences such feelings needs to repent.
  • A college-going person voices out his/her concerns about not feeling comfortable with the stream he/she has been going through and wishes to go for an alternate career option. Unfortunately, the belief system does not approve of the career you want and can give your religious trauma syndrome.
  • This example is one of the most accurate examples of religious trauma syndrome. A woman who conceives a child out of wedlock is considered to have sinned according to the religious beliefs of different people. The woman is filled with shame and guilt which soon converts into religious trauma syndrome.

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Ways To Recover From Religious Trauma


Religious trauma syndrome is a condition that can affect anyone because we have all grown up adhering to or listening to the religious beliefs of our family members and communities. Some beliefs are so strongly engraved that it becomes very difficult for us to rise above those thoughts.

It can take time but it’s not an impossible task. There are a few things you can do to recover from religious trauma syndrome, let’s have a look at them;

  • Accept the presence of religious trauma: sometimes we fail to understand the reason behind the constantly lingering feelings of shame and guilt. These feelings occur because of religious trauma and you need to accept the presence of trauma so that you can tackle it that way.
  • Separate Your Values From Your Religious Beliefs: religions and religious beliefs are much bigger than you. It’s okay to have some religious beliefs but do not make them your identity, separate them from your values.
  • Get Connected to Healthy Support & Community: get out of your religious community ad get to know people from the outside. It’s important to get a different take on similar things. It’ll only help you broaden your perspective.
  • Explore your beliefs: it’s important to know what you believe in & why you believe it. You should have your own belief and value system and each of your beliefs should mean something to you. Explore them a bit so that you know you aren’t following something blindly.
  • Create Healthy Boundaries: your boundaries can help you with feelings of shame and guilt. You don’t need to allow people to judge your actions and thoughts. Even if they do, the boundaries you set will help you stay clear of such judgment from society.
  • Seek therapeutic support: trauma can damage you in more ways than one. If your religious trauma has taken over your life and is making you feel trapped, it’s time you seek professional help. A mental health expert can guide and help you with your religious trauma syndrome.

That’s All Folks!

I hope you found this blog about religious trauma syndrome helpful, interesting, and thought-provoking. Not many people realize that their religious beliefs have merged with their value system and that makes them extremely self-critical.

We are all seeking happiness and contentment in life and blindly following things that don’t resonate with you is not the right way to be. Being religious is a good thing but the evolution of our beliefs is as important as the evolution of man.

Thanks for reading.

Take care and stay safe.

About The Author

Kirti Bhati
Kirti Bhati

I am an English literature (major) and psychology (minor) graduate from St. Bede’s College, Shimla. Postgraduate in Clinical psychology from IIS University, Jaipur. She has published a Research paper on Music therapy in the military population and Workplace stress in a national seminar conducted by Fortis hospital (gurugram) and international seminar conducted by St. Bede’s College, Shimla, Respectively. Authored a dissertation work on ‘effect of social media addiction on the mental and physical well-being in adolescents’ Currently working at calm sage as a writer.

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