Post-Cult Trauma Syndrome
After exiting a cult, an individual may experience a period of intense and often conflicting emotions. She or he may feel relief to be out of the group, but also may feel grief over the loss of positive elements in the cult, such as friendships, a sense of belonging or the feeling of personal worth generated by the group’s stated ideals or mission. The emotional upheaval of the period is often characterized by “post-cult trauma syndrome”:
The period of exiting from a cult is usually a traumatic experience and, like any great change in a person’s life, involves passing through stages of accommodation to the change:
Passing through these stages is seldom a smooth progression. It is fairly typical to bounce back and forth between different stages. Not everyone achieves the stage of accommodation / acceptance. Some return to cult life. But for those who do not, the following may be experienced for a period of several months:
Most of these symptoms subside as the victim mainstreams into everyday routines of normal life. In a small number of cases, the symptoms continue.
* This information is a composite list from the following sources: “Coming Out of Cults”, by Margaret Thaler Singer, Psychology Today, Jan. 1979, P. 75; “Destructive Cults, Mind Control and Psychological Coercion”, Positive Action Portland, Oregon, and “Fact Sheet”, Cult Hot-Line and Clinic, New York City.
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