Religious Trauma Test

Religious Trauma Test

by Eduardo Reyes
Published: Updated:

An Informal Trauma Self-Assessment from Catalina Behavioral

For some people, belonging to a religious community is full of benefits with not much downside. It allows you to share a connectedness with those in your community and believe in something greater than yourself. Unfortunately, though, this same community can violate personal boundaries, cause stress, and even be abusive or degrading under certain circumstances.

If you are unsure of whether your relationship with your religious community is healthy or not, that is where a religious trauma test from Catalina can help.

One of the major benefits of this informal religious trauma quiz is that you don’t have to provide any contact info at all. This quiz is completely anonymous and your identity remains protected, something that may be important to individuals.

Below, you’ll find our free religious trauma test, followed by some FAQs regarding religious trauma syndrome and details on our effective trauma treatment services at Catalina Behavioral Health.

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Religious Trauma: Testing Yourself

We will start with several questions about religious trauma syndrome and your religious past. This is not an official test, but it should shed some light on the symptoms of religious trauma and help you realize your experience so you can get the necessary support to heal.

Do You Feel Comfortable Questioning Your Religious Beliefs?

For people who have a religious upbringing, it can feel unnatural to question religious beliefs. Often, their belief system is something learned in early childhood and carried with them through life.

However, even when you have an upbringing like this, you should feel comfortable asking questions. Questioning your faith is a big part of religion. Many churches encourage their members to ask questions as a way of exploring and deepening faith.

How Do You Feel When Reflecting on Past Experiences with Religion?

Take a moment to reflect on and explore your past experiences with religion. Did you belong to the church as a child, adolescent, or adult? Have you ever felt ashamed for thinking on your own or discouraged for questioning your faith?

As you go through this religious trauma quiz, keep your personal experiences in mind and think critically about how the church has influenced your life.

It may also be helpful to review our online assessment tool for complex trauma alongside this resource, particularly if traumatic incidents occurred in childhood or your younger years.

Do You Feel Comfortable Making Decisions Outside of Your Church or Religious Organization?

Religious Trauma - Making Decisions Outside of Your Church

Individuals with religious trauma syndrome often worry that they are not making the right decision. This can cause a lot of guilt and anxiety when trying to make a decision.

  • Are independent decisions difficult for you, even on minor matters, without first getting approval from a religious authority figure?

Has Your Self-Esteem Been Negatively Influenced by Religion?

If you are at all demeaned or insulted as a part of your religious beliefs, this can cause a lowering of self-esteem and, over time, lead to trauma symptoms. Some questions to consider include:

  • Are you treated as an equal to other members of your church or religious community?
  • Is shame-based motivation used by authority figures to compel activities that you are not comfortable with?

How Do You Handle Feelings of Guilt Resulting from Religious Teachings?

  • When you do feel guilty about decisions that you’ve made, how do you react?
  • Do you feel the need to punish yourself or that God will punish you?

While feelings of guilt can be normal, you should not feel guilty for things like setting boundaries with the church or being an individual.

Do You Feel Your Church or Religious Organization Lacks Boundaries?

Toxic religious organizations are overly involved in their member’s lives. Often, this information is used to cause guilt or enact punishment when members go against the teachings of the church.

Individuals with symptoms of religious trauma syndrome might also struggle with setting boundaries both within their religious organizations and in their personal lives.

Are You Comfortable Discussing Religion with Family or Friends?

For individuals experiencing religious trauma syndrome, it can be hard to discuss religious teachings or beliefs regarding spirituality with those close to you. Some organizations discourage this type of discussion, particularly indoctrinations that want all their members to hold specific beliefs.

How Do You Feel About Spirituality vs Organized Religion?

Feelings on Spirituality vs Organized Religion

Spirituality and organized religion are two different things. While spirituality has more to do with finding meaning in your life, religion is an organized entity that follows a higher power. Your religion is something that should be beneficial to you and provide a sense of community.

If it results in more negative feelings than positive ones, it’s important to address whether it is a good fit for you.

What Are Some Policies of Your Church or Religious Organization?

When diagnosing religious trauma syndrome, and looking at post-traumatic stress syndrome in comparison to post-traumatic stress disorder, it can be helpful to take a critical look at what religious institutions look like. Churches that require financial participation or use fear and shame to control congregations are often abusive.

  • Do you often feel shame when considering choices about daily life in relation to your religion?
  • Were shaming and even exiling the punishments for behavior outside of accepted religious beliefs?

Additionally, some religious organizations might discourage individuals from thinking on their own or limit access to the outside world. Children who grow up in these communities might struggle to relate to others or feel sheltered from the world around them.

It’s also not uncommon for toxic organizations to punish members, either through psychological, physical, or even sexual abuse. If you’ve experienced any of these things, it’s a good indicator that you’ve experienced religious trauma.

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What is Religious Trauma Syndrome?

Religion is meant to bring individuals together. Some people find comfort and peace at church, while others seek hopefulness or a belief in something greater following a tragedy or when recovering from addiction.

However, religion doesn’t always create a positive community that betters your life. In some indoctrination, members of the faith lose their sense of autonomy and do not act as individuals.

There may be deep shame associated with individual emotions and members might fear repercussions either from the church or a vengeful God for their actions. Additionally, members of these religious communities might feel they deserve the bad things that happen to them because of their decisions.

These punishments might be physical or psychological, brought on by either the religious organization they belong to or a God that they displeased.

Identifying Common Religious Trauma Symptoms

Identifying Common Religious Trauma Symptoms

Religious trauma syndrome can take a serious toll on one’s mental health. Here’s a look at common religious trauma symptoms. If you are experiencing these as a part of a religious community, it may be time to seek help.

  • Decreased sense of self-worth
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Symptoms of grief, anxiety, or depression
  • Being isolated from culture and society
  • Difficulty building relationships outside of the church
  • Poor critical thinking skills
  • Difficulty feeling like you fit in or belong in other communities
  • Loneliness
  • Sleeping issues and nightmares
  • Difficulties with food

For individuals experiencing these religious trauma symptoms, it’s a good indicator that your relationship with the church or religious community you belong to has been damaging.

Your answers to the religious trauma syndrome quiz above can also indicate a negative relationship with the religious affiliation in your life.

While there are no ‘hard and fast’ answers to the above questions that indicate religious trauma, the answers to these questions should provide insights into whether their approaches are problematic.

What Does Trauma and Abuse in Religion Look Like?

Trauma and Abuse in Religion

In addition to the signs mentioned above, trauma in religion can take on different appearances. Some examples of religious trauma include:

  • An adolescent being beaten by parents or religious leaders after expressing their thoughts
  • A child being punished or told they are going to Hell for being attracted to someone of the same sex
  • Adults being forced into financial hardship because they are “required” to donate to the church
  • A woman being shunned by the congregation after getting pregnant without being married

These types of trauma can be incredibly damaging to an individual’s sense of self and mental health. Many people seek group or individual therapy following religious trauma. They may also seek out another religious community, though many people are apprehensive about religion following a bad experience with religious organizations like this.

Escaping from Religious Trauma

Religion is something meant to unify people and create a sense of belonging among those involved with the church. While this sense of belonging can feel good, it can also make it hard to remove yourself from the trauma and start the healing process.

Even after you’ve identified religious trauma and how it has affected your life, it can feel like it’s impossible to break free. Escaping religious trauma can feel like leaving a toxic relationship – it isn’t always easy.

Overcoming Trauma Through Effective Treatment

Effective Treatment for Trauma

Many people also struggle with their sense of identity and self-esteem after a long religious past. However, it’s important to remember that there is a difference between spirituality and organized religion. You can still believe in and feel connected to something greater than yourself even when you remove organized religion from your life.

Many people find that working with trauma-informed therapists familiar with religious trauma can help. Not only will this improve mental health, but it allows for self-reflection that lets you explore your relationship with religion and spirituality on your own. This reflection is done without fear of repercussions from members of your faith community.

At Catalina, our trauma programs are offered at all levels of care, from inpatient to outpatient, and are available to clients with or without a substance or alcohol use problem.

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Get Help Healing from Religious Trauma at Catalina

So, what is the next step? For individuals who are unsure of how to heal from religious trauma, contact our team at Catalina Behavioral Health today. We provide inpatient services for individuals who have experienced extreme religious trauma and abuse.

For those who are only looking for support, we also provide an outpatient program or can refer you to a therapist who specializes in trauma. Don’t hesitate to reach out. Healing is much easier when you don’t have to do it alone, and Catalina is here to support your healing!

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