For many decades, the cult phenomenon has fascinated the masses. A cult is an organization with deviant beliefs and practices, and is characterized by the apparent life-time membership of its participants. It seems to be very popular among troubled teenagers and adults. The psychology behind why some people are more susceptible to the charms and the lure of being in a cult is not very widely researched or understood. Many people are concerned with cultist behavior and the effect that they have on the individuals involved, believing that they have been “brainwashed” into this lifestyle. This paper deals with cult mentality and how people become involved in certain religious and secular cults. It will explore the personality traits of current and ex-cult members as well as look at case studies of members of particular cults. The format of this paper will first look at some preexisting dispositions, the psychological effects while in the cult, and any short term or long term effects upon leaving the cult, as well as some treatment options.
Individuals with certain preexisting or underlying psychological issues can render them more likely to join a cult. It’s evident that there are severe psychological problems originating in childhood including physical, sexual and emotional abuse and neglect in the cult members. There seems to be a life-long pattern of self-destructive patterns of behavior that manifests in early childhood, which include self-mutilating behavior, chronic substance abuse, absent parents, and sexual perversion. Placing these individuals in emotionally and physically vulnerable situations such as in a cult seems to have adverse effects. The severity of the cult members’ psychological problems...
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..., to note that there seems to be no adverse effects while a person is in a cult, as their levels of stress goes down and they seem happier. Overall, the cult mentality is one that continues to be an enigma to society today.
Marc Galanter, M.D., Richard Rabkin, M.D., Judith Rabkin, PH.D., and Alexander Deutsch, M. D. (1979). The “Moonies”: A psychological Study of Conversion and Membership in a Contemporary Religious Sect. American Journal of Psychiatry, 136(2).
Miller, T. W. (1999). An Adolescent Vampire Cult in Rural America : Clinical Issues and Case Study. Child Psychiatry and Human Development, 29(3), 209–220.
Schawrtz, L. L. (1979). Religious Cults, the Individual, and the Family. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, (5), 15–26.
Walsh, Y., Russell, R. J. H., & Wells, P. A. (1995). THE PERSONALITY OF EX-CULT MEMBERS. Pergamon, 19(3), 339–344.
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