Do JW's attract the mentally ill, or do their beliefs cause mental illness?

by gaiagirl 31 Replies latest jw friends

  • Awakened at Gilead
    Awakened at Gilead

    I think that I was starting to have mental problems because of being a witness. It doesn't help to have an elder to you "You're a walking dead man" and that if I would continue with my ways I would be destroyed at Armageddon. I began to have morbid fears of death after that, and perhaps a few panic attacks.

    Leaving the guilt trip of an organization behind has done wonders for my mental outlook!!!

    [email protected]

  • Not Feeling It
    Not Feeling It

    my cousin spent a few years raised as a jw but the majority as a non-believer. once when he visited my family when I was about 12 and he was 14 he asked me, "why are witnesses so weird?". my aposta-dar went off at first. later we talked about it and I realized he was right. witnesses are accepting of anyone who wholeheartedly accepts their message. this includes nuts (no fruits please, they don't like them) and whack-o's of all stripes. regarding the *creation* or cause of mental illness, I think repressing natural independent thought is unhealthy. its all downhill from there.

  • heathen

    I'd say I've met plenty that didn't look mentally ill but rather did hold down jobs and had families .Allot of the people in mainstream religion look mentally ill and just enjoy getting into an emotional fervor . Just check out Benny Hinn sometime, the J-dubs by comparison are very hum drum about it .It's like hard to even stay awake during their meetings .

  • Hope4Others

    I think all kinds of people are attracted for an answer and solution to problems including ones who

    are depressive, many have no where to go, they are usually at a low time

    in life so this is a good cure all alternative, as the years tick on and the pressures surmount on keeping

    up with Wt rules and regulations, then for some this becomes too over whelming and depression sets in.

    Just my thoughts,


  • jamiebowers

    Bergman cites many studies done on the subject. Please see . But even if you're not a Bergman fan, there have been many studies done on stress. It has been proven that people can deal with lots of stress if they are able to manage their circumstances. But there is no room for self management within the org. The WTB&TS gives its expectations, and pressure is mounted on the rank and file to follow to the letter. If you do just the minimum of 10 hours a month in field service and preparation for and attendance of all meetings, what time is left for anything else for those who work a fulltime job or are raising children?

    Even for those few who don't have a time issue, what about the heart wrenching decisions that must be made in relation to blood transfusions, the required shunning of disfellowshipped loved ones, and the fact that abuse victims are shushed at best, and accused of wrongdoing at worst? Throw in the restrictions on independent thinking and recreation, and you've got the perfect cocktail for crazy. If you weren't nuts when you joined the cult, you'll wind up nuts after being in it for awhile.

  • slimboyfat

    Notice how Bergman cites Havor Montague.

    Havor Montague "The Pessimistic Sect's Influence on the Mental Health of Its Members: The Case of Jehovah's Witnesses," Social Compass , Vol. 24, 1977, 135-147.

    Now who do you suppose "Havor Montague" is?

    Beckford wrote a good reponse to Spencer showing the methodology of his "study" was flawed and the description intemperate and far from impartial.


  • Jankyn

    Yes and yes.

    First, people with mental health issues (and I prefer that term to "mentally ill," though I can't explain why) are more likely to be attracted to an organization that says (a) their problems are the fault of the Devil and an evil system of things, and (b) that a magic imaginary friend in the sky is going to fix those problems--someday, real soon, any time now.

    This attaction is even more deep for those who have struggled for years with depression and other mental health problems, because they're being offered a fool-proof solution that they only have to wait for, rather than one that requires a lot of personal effort (as well as some medications that can have nasty side-effects and are expensive) with no promise of full recovery.

    Second, those people then raise their children in "da Troof." The kids, whether they are genetically pre-disposed to depression, mood disorders or other mental/emotional difficulties or not, internalize all the negative ways of thinking about themselves and the world that set up a powerless, hopeless world view. Note that I said hopeless; that's because the "hope" that JWs offer is always delayed--there's no immediate payoff or relief, just endless work for no improved mental/emotional state in the here and now.

    That kind of mental conditioning (and I've heard JWs refer to what they do as "mental regulating") has the consequence, unintended or not, of altering brain chemistry. I think, from observation and from what I've learned about mood disorders, that JWs actually induce depression and low self-esteem in their children through their child-rearing methods. Their "rod" is useful only for getting the meds down from the shelf.

    Kids raised as JWs suffer more than most kids raised by American standards (and there's a lot of suffering for kids in general in this country): the childrens' own observations and feelings are discounted or denied, which causes them to not trust themselves; punishment is arbitrary and "for their own good" (and we all know about the unrealistic expectations of children the JWs have and the brutal way those expectations are enforced); the threat of destruction hangs over their little heads in the most graphic way possible, and they're discouraged from forming close emotional attachments or developing personal interests and strengths (heck, even pets were discouraged as taking time away from Jehovah in my congregation); and finally, no amount of work is enough--always, more is asked. What better way to develop anxiety, low self-esteem, attachment disorder, alcohol/drug abuse and depression? Get 'em while they're young, and they'll spend a fortune on therapy.

    The good news (and I mean "good" in the sense of "good," not in the JW sense of "keep doing more and getting less") is that treatment of mental and emotional problems has advanced so much in the past few years that many who seek it get relief far beyond what they would find even a decade ago. For all their problems, anti-depressants do offer some a platform from which to do the serious behavioral and emotional work required to combat depression, and some of the newer approaches to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD, which as far as I can tell, everyone raised a JW has to some degree or other) are incredibly effective (I'm thinking here of EMDR and some of the new drug therapies).

    There is hope. Just not the "imaginary friend is gonna make me better" kind.

    Jankyn (sober 21 years and hasn't been suicidal in 20 years)

  • Witness 007
    Witness 007

    YES TO BOTH........I have seen some total nut cases study/become Witnesses.....there is ALOT of mental illness caused by their teachings...sometimes I feel alittle "mental" myself.

  • Layla33


    Very very true. A very insightful post. I think that JWs and former JWs can suffer from depression, dissasociative personality disorder and on the other hand narcissitic disorders as well as severe delusions of grandeur. I think because of the verbiage like "the world" and "friends" and thinking that those in "the truth" are better than those that don't realize "the truth" breeds a disorted idea of yourself versus non-JWs...

  • garybuss

    You wrote: "Do JW's attract the mentally ill, or do their beliefs cause mental illness?"

    I'd say both. If yer not nuts when ya start, you will be by the time you leave.

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