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What is Religious Trauma Syndrome?

Image by Paola Chaaya

Religious trauma pioneer, Dr. Marlene Winell, describes “religious trauma syndrome” (RTS) as a set of symptoms and characteristics related to harmful experiences with religion.  Dr. Winell points out that these symptoms and characteristics are the result of two things: Immersion in a controlling religion, and the impact of leaving a high-control religious group. 

According to Dr. Winell, RTS is experienced by those struggling with leaving an authoritarian, dogmatic religion and coping with the damage caused by indoctrination. The trauma arises from both the abuses of harmful religion and the impact of severing one’s connection to their faith (Marlene Winell, PhD. Leaving the Fold ©1993, Apocryphile Press).

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