Spiritual abuse is often a covert type of abuse which can include emotional, psychological, physical, financial, and sexual abuse and/or exploitation. Spiritual abuse can occur in the context of toxic communities or is often perpetrated by a religious leader or someone who is perceived to be a position of spiritual authority, e.g. a minister, group leader, speaker, mentor, etc. Spiritual abuse can also occur in families or between spouses, as a form of domestic violence.
Spiritual abuse can occur in the context of any religion or spirituality, including (but not limited to) Christianity, Catholicism, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, paganism, Wicca, etc.
Because spiritual abuse is typically justified with religious/spiritual customs, spiritual abuse can be difficult to detect. Some common signs of spiritual abuse include:
Perpetrators of spiritual abuse may have narcissistic or psychopathic tendencies. People who perpetrate spiritual abuse use religion/spirituality to justify their behaviors and will make their victims feels afraid to recognize that there is anything unhealthy in the relationship due to spiritual punishment, such as hell/loss of salvation.
Victims of spiritual abuse may experience feelings of worthlessness, helplessness, suicidal ideation, or other symptoms of depression.
Because spiritual abuse is often traumatic, some people may suffer from PTSD or C-PTSD, depending on the nature of the abuse.
Many people who have experience abuse or trauma suffer from dissociative disorders. If the abuse occurred repeatedly/for an extended period of time in childhood, this abuse could lead to dissociative identity disorder.
In this video, Joanna Kujuth breaks down the signs of spiritual abuse in a Christian context and its devastating effects on victims.
In this video, diagnosed schizophrenic Rachel Star Withers shares the trauma she experienced when her church attempted to cure her psychotic symptoms with an exorcism ritual.
This video may be triggering for some people, particularly if you have experienced a similar trauma. It should be emphasized that mental illness is NOT a sign of demonic influence or possession, and subjecting a person suffering from mental illness to exorcism can be dangerous and traumatic.
The Religious Trauma Institute was founded by licensed therapists and social workers with the mission to decreasing the suffering caused by Adverse Religious Experiences (AREs).
This collection includes multiple stories of spiritual abuse including experiences of financial exploitation, intimate partner violence, and toxic religious communities.
In his blog and podcast, Nate offers his experience of recovering from spiritual abuse in the context of an Evangelical Christian community.
Grief to Grace is a Catholic ministry which offers healing retreats, led by licensed mental health professionals, for victims of emotional, physical, sexual, or spiritual abuse.
"We invite you to join our longstanding, safe, non-judgmental & caring support forums. We welcome survivors of all types of abuse & people of any faith or beliefs."