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Religious Trauma Syndrome [Should I stay or should I go now?]










.A Message from Jacqueline

This article is about an organization and an entity called the governing body, not individual Jehovah witnesses or people but a SYSTEM a corporation.

Jehovah witnesses have asked me why expose and talk about the trials and troubles within the Jehovah witness organization? Why be concerned? Why help others? This is why we help. There is a stressor out there that has caused suicide, early death and families torn apart! There must be a platform for these Humans to talk it out, and someone who is listening. It is my belief that religious persecution by the witness organization on other Christians and ex members have produced:

Religious Trauma Syndrome

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 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
  • 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 the witness community)


hurst feelings












.What contributes to Religious Trauma Syndrome?

Authoritarianism coupled with harsh theology which is received and reinforced at the kingdom hall, 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 pressure to shun close family members breaking free.
  • An Exclusive Truth Source: only from the governing body; hierarchy of authority enforced; self not a reliable or good source;
  • 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?

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 leave. 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.


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 the witnesses 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 linked here can help provide some emotional relief and comfort:


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 says they are mentally diseased not realizing that…

Religious Trauma Syndrome mimics the symptoms of many other disorders –

  • post-traumatic stress disorder
  • 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. (http://www.silentlambs.org/murderjwfathers.htm) (http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/family-found-dead-apparent-murder-suicide-article-1.1582545)

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?















.How is this control happening?

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?


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!


happy family 3












Where can I find help now?

Awareness is growing about the dangers of religious indoctrination.  There are more and more websites to support the growing number of people fleeing harmful religions.  Gradually, services are growing to help people with Religious Trauma Syndrome to heal and grow, including help from this website which attempts to offer spiritual healing and encouragement for witnesses with international testimony sessions that you can join by internet, as well as articles to read and call in Bible study groups.  By discussing their experiences with other likeminded people, each one can understand what the other has been through and each of us can take steps to become healthier and happier human beings.


So feel free to open up and talk.  You are safe among friends.  Let others know what you are going through and how you are coping.  Together we can work on freeing each one from the shock, pain and trauma, moving it further to the back of your brain and mind.

Another excellent you tube channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rVU2U2urmys&t=415s

147 comments to Religious Trauma Syndrome [Should I stay or should I go now?]

  • Frank K

    I was not sure where to post this question so, if this is not the place please accept my apology. I have been reading some of the posts here. Years ago I remember hearing about another JW/Bible Student group in Ohio. Since moving to Georgia I have not heard anything. Just wondering if you have local congregations. conventions, etc.

    • greg (Bible Student)

      Warm and friendly greetings Frank.

      You’re post is welcome here. No worries. Though I don’t personally have an answer for you, I expect someone else will follow up and get back to you very soon. I’ve already alerted Jacqueline about your post. Though she’s usually right on top of things, she’s been a bit overwhelmed with “pressing issues” for the past couple of weeks.

      It’s a real pleasure to make your acquaintance. If you’re willing to share a little bit of an introduction about yourself and how you arrived here, we’d love to hear from you. I’d also like to invite you to join us on Saturday evening for our Testimony Meeting.

      See here for more info:


    • Jacqueline (Bible Student)

      Frank welcome, yes there are the Columbus Bible students in Ohio. We also have a group in Atlanta area. I will put link when I get to a computer.
      Also let’s talk here. Tell us a little about your journey. I will be in Acworth Ga. Later on this summer.
      Also we do have conventions and there is a convention tab across the top of the site.
      Wednesdsy night study is the best way to get acquainted many commenting on here are on. Last night we spent some time comforting each other over the death of Bonnie. We had a caller on who dropped off during that time. Feel free to talk here to understand more.
      Take Care.

  • greg (Bible Student)

    A lot of the same considerations I’ve long contemplated were expressed in this video. I really liked it. She linked a great many things like identity, agency, growth, learning, individuality, neglect, erasure, accountability, blind obedience, critical thinking ability, and the quest for truth.

    “Jehovah’s Witnesses, who will teach us?” (~24 Minutes)
    (Published on Jun 15, 2018)


    “Life’s lessons, do they teach. Do we learn from each other? Do you take full accountability for your actions and the decisions you make in your life’s experiences?”


    • just Stay Sweet and Good

      Greg……..On “Who will teach us” The scriptures tell us the answer. The holy spirit which is the spirit of love because God is love. Rev. speaks of a new song that the bride has to master. It says only they will be able to master it. It, of course, is the spirit love that our heavily father is now teaching us. We all just need to relax, and love, and just stay sweet and good.

  • greg (Bible Student)

    A couple of links here. Both about the same thing.

    PROOF Lett Lied, knew JW Child Abuse wasn’t ‘Apostate Lies’.

    And below is the Philly newspaper article that the above video discusses:
    She says she was 5 when another Jehovah’s Witness raped her. The religion’s leaders call such accounts ‘false stories’
    Updated: June 20, 2018 — 5:00 AM EDT

    Yes, the Sexual Abuse is horrific. The Lies and Denials of the Governing Body are just as horrific. But what I haven’t yet heard anyone talk about is how Lett openly betrayed his former friend.

    To me this screams loud and clear that:

    a) The Governing Body does not care one bit about any of the sheep they claim responsibility towards.
    b) You can’t trust ANYTHING the Governing Body says.
    c) You cannot turn to the Governing Body–or even appeal to them–for help, protection, caring, justice, or healing because they will even betray their former friends.

    I’d even go so far as to say that the Governing Body doesn’t care about anybody but themselves–except that I don’t believe they even know how to care about themselves. Not really, anyway, because almost any fool can see that they’re even hurting themselves.

    It reminds me of how powerful fear of inflicted suffering can be–but rarely in a healthy way, most usually only in a destructive short-term way. OH! how I long for the day when we learn to stop punishing and begin to focus more on rehabilitating and preventing. But by then, I expect, we’ll pretty much find ourselves in a very different world than this one with all it’s birthing and growing pains.


    • just Stay Sweet and Good

      Greg…You just reminded me of something I said when three elders came to find out why I left the org. Its really funny what comes out of my mouth when I don’t think first. I blurted out, when they asked me what I thought of the GB, I quickly said: “I don’t know any of those guys. There not in my life. When they come into town they don’t come looking of me” That was really the truth of this matter. We have been fooled into thinking were involved with people we really don’t know. Now how crazy is that?

      • greg (Bible Student)


        We are often wiser than we know.

        Isn’t it a wonderful feeling when we catch glimpses of our own inner wisdom?

        Yay!! Congratulations!! 🙂 And sincere thanks for sharing that!


  • TedR (Bible Student)

    So they are essentially telling JW’s not to go to the “apostate sites” which feature JW material because they can cause “doubts” in some people. If it is the truth, how can reading their own literature cause doubts? How does merely pointing out historic truth detract from Jehovah? Did Jehovah hide the sins of David and Bathsheba for fear it would cast reproach on his name? This article shows that the GB is running scared because they are being exposed. No one should be afraid of the truth, even if it is painful. How is it “apostate” to quote or use articles from their own literature to explore history? It is not so much, in my opinion, the changing beliefs and understandings that are the main issue. It is the fact that they disfellowship you, cut you off from family and friends, and slander your name for just disagreeing with the present truth, even if later they find out that you were right! No where in the Scriptures do we see that among early Christians, brothers were cast out for disagreements. Only when someone went to the extent of denying Christ was the council given not to say a greeting to such a man.

    • Nubby Tope

      Very very very well said TedR – I cannot agree more!!!

    • greg (Bible Student)

      Hi Ted.

      You wrote:
      “If it is the truth, how can reading their own literature cause doubts?”

      I would like to respond to that:
      For years I was a loyal JW, and made sure to ONLY use the Watchtower Library CD and the Bible. I was FULL OF DOUBTS! ALL of my doubts –every single one of them– came EXCLUSIVELY from Watchtower literature.

      SO, like you said, “If it is the truth…”

      I like what Br. Kenneth Fernets said in his Welcome Address to the 1993 Bible Students General Convention. He said:

      “Truth is very Jealous. It will not allow error to enter in. Truth devours Error.”

      Such was certainly true in my life.

      TO anyone who is left feeling confused or condemned by what they’re reading in the Watchtower Literature:

      You are not crazy. YOU ARE NOT THE PROBLEM. It’s the error and falsehood in the literature that is the problem. Trust your built-in Lie Detector!! It works really well, and only gets better as you use it!!

      Remember: No matter how audacious the lie, every lie contains some truth. Don’t let the truth in someone’s lie distract you from the lie.


    • greg (Bible Student)

      May I share another thought? It’s a quote from Oliver Wendell Holmes
      as found in [Reprint 3860].

      (begin quote)
      “THE TRUTH”

      “Have you ever, when walking about out of doors, found some big flat stone that has lain no one knows how long, just where you found it, surrounded by grass that forms as it were a little fence around it—and have you not, obeying some sort of feeling, thought that it has been there long enough, put your stick or your finger or the foot under its edge and overturned it?

      “What a scene, and what an unexpected and disagreeable surprise for a little colony, the very existence of which you did not imagine before you observed the sudden confusion and anguish of its inhabitants when overturning the stone! No sooner is the stone overturned, and the wholesome daylight entered to the compressed and light shy society of creeping things under it, than every one of them possessing legs—and many of them have a whole lot—run wildly about and push against each other and everything in their way, and it ends with a universal general rush for the subterranean hiding places from a circuit poisoned by the sunlight.

      “Never imagine that you can overturn an old lie without causing a terrible confusion and alarm among the sickening little world living under it!

      “Every real idea and every real subject bring one or another to gasp. And having regained the breath he will probably begin to misuse it for blasphemy. These are the best proofs you can get that you have expressed a truth for which the time was ripe.”
      (end quote)

      All I have to say is, look at them scurry in alarm as their sickening world is exposed. They don’t need to fear me or “apostates”. They’re bringing themselves to ruin just fine all by themselves.

      The more they respond with attempts to control, the more people will see, and experience, and rebel against the pain of the Governing Body’s ever-tightening grip of attemp-to-control.


    • just Stay Sweet and Good

      Ted…..may I respectfully add to your comment “only when somebody denies Christ will they kick you out” perhaps should be qualified “when you teach Chirst died for ALL” Its all just word games. But when you TEACH them to “see” everybody into the milleium. thats when THEY get upset. The fact that they teach the second death before the first death for mankind in general is cause enough for us to disfellowship them and not ever say a greeting to them. That being said, I personally evaluate each meeting with a JW on the progress of the individual. Some do need to hear the true gospel, because they really have never heard it. (there but the grace of God go I…..I didn’t “get” it till I was 48 years old and I was a born in) Others are just hardheads and want to look down on other people and elevate themselves. “They are recieving their reward in full” “He who has forgiven little loves little”

      • Ted R. (Bible Student)

        JW’s refer to the scripture which says not even saying a greeting to support their stance on shunning. That scripture however is discussing those who are antichrist,who have turned their back on Christ. It has nothing to do with scriptures that show we must limit association with those practicing wrong doer. Like the Pharisees the JW’s have turned to micro analyzing scripture and creating laws beyond what the scripture actually says. Just because a person disagrees with some doctrine is not a scriptural reason for shunning.

  • Jacqueline (Bible Student)

    Lloyd Evans sent this to me to share on why no one is allowed to publish any of their writings. (watchtower)


    • Chris J

      I do not believe that the “Questions from readers” are anything more than “Questions from the Governing Body”. I believe it’s their way of getting around being dogmatic and “you must believe this”.

      • Jacqueline (Bible Student)

        They aren’t aware we know they are lying. You may quote or post in part or full something you got from your religion just give them credit or say I read or it was said. Public domain on most material out on the web. They should stop printing if it is so painful to see quotes or reuse. They are religion not politics, or are they?

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