Andrew Pledger

Activist | Writer | Life Coach | Influencer

I'm a religious trauma survivor who was raised in a fundamentalist Christian cult (the IFB cult). I bring awareness to spiritual and religious abuse. My podcast Speaking Up with Andrew Pledger offers a platform for people to share their stories of surviving toxic religions and cults. Being a part of the LGBTQ+ community, and experiencing religious trauma has inspired me to pursue psychology to help survivors. In the meantime, I'm a religion recovery coach helping people grapple with life after religion. I am an influencer on the rise and my vocation started with a controversial interview with Josh Harris (Kissed Dating Goodbye, author). I've appeared on several podcasts like Preacher Boys, IndoctriNation, This Little Light of Mine, The Phil Drysdale Show, and many more. I am the Social Media Manager for the IndoctriNation podcast which is hosted by renowned cult expert Rachel Bernstein. I'm now on a mission to spread awareness of these issues by using social media platforms.

What is Religious Trauma?

Religious Trauma Syndrome (RTS) is group of symptoms that arise in response to traumatic or stressful religious experiences. While Religious Trauma Syndrome is not an official diagnosis in the DSM-5, it is a common experience shared among many who have escaped cults, fundamentalist religious groups, abusive religious settings, or other painful experiences with religion. The symptoms of Religious Trauma Syndrome are comparable to the symptoms of complex PTSD.

Religious Trauma Syndrome is in the early stages of research and is gaining traction as a legitimate diagnosis. Below are some symptoms commonly experienced by people suffering from Religious Trauma Syndrome.

  • Confusing thoughts and reduced ability to think critically
  • Negative beliefs about self, others, and the world
  • Trouble making decisions
  • Feelings of depression, anxiety, grief, anger, lethargy
  • A sense of feeling lost, directionless, and alone
  • A lack of pleasure or interest in things you used to enjoy
  • A loss of a community (family, friends, romantic relationships)
  • Feeling isolated or a sense that you don’t belong
  • Feeling “behind the times” with cultural happenings
  • And many other symptoms of PTSD including nightmares, flashbacks, dissociation, emotional difficulty, etc.

Religious Trauma Syndrome is often caused for different reasons for different people. Many people experience RTS as a result from an authoritarian religion or faith community. Individuals suffering from RTS may be struggling with black and white thinking, irrational beliefs, difficulty trusting oneself, low self-esteem, or feeling indebted to a group of people. Skewed views of sex, discipline, emotional regulation, relationships, and self-expression are usually present in toxic religious environments.

(Source: Religious Trauma & Transitions — RESTORATION COUNSELING (