The Mental Abuse of Jehovah’s Witnesses and Former Members

There is not a shadow of a doubt that millions are being psychologically abused at the hand of, and under the guidance of Jehovah’s Witness Watchtower Society. We cover the proof in the statement, as evidenced by scholarly research by mental health professionals who are educated in cultic abuse and it’s components. Those who have faced emotional or psychological abuse by cults are victims who largely require treatment, whether or not they leave the Jehovah’s Witness cult.

Child Abuse in Jehovah’s Witnesses – Mental

As determined by mental health professionals’ guidelines, the DSM-V manual provides classic signs and symptoms of mental health illnesses, abuses, and varying differences between common disorders. There are varying codes under which treatment providers must treat the a) abusers and b) victims (995.5 and 995.81 respectively).

The following classic symptoms and actions are noted in the manual, Value Options Provider’s Handbook, used by mental health professionals:


Child abuse and neglect may include but are not limited to the following:


  • Consistent and or frequent conflict between parent and child
  • Parental incompetence
  • Lack of parental control in the home
  • Poor parent/child communication
  • Inappropriate use of discipline or heavy discipline or punishment
  • Unrealistic expectations of child behavior (severing friendships with “outsiders” or “worldly” children)
  • Parent overprotective of child
  • Isolation of child (from other children who don’t share the same religious beliefs)
  • Reports of physical or sexual abuse by the parent (including hitting slapping, extreme punishment, etc)
  • Verbal and emotional abuse including withdrawal of affection and humiliation (if the child “sins” or is “unrepentant of sins” or “making Jehovah upset”)
  • Failure to provide a nurturing and safe living environment (or threats of same)

Failure to provide a nurturing environment can include severe punishment of a child’s actions, which are viewed as “sins”. The adult may punish the child using guilt tactics if the child isn’t “obeying Jehovah”. The parent may also choose to let the cult elders reprimand the child, removing themselves from having parental control. This can lead to the child having no parental authority, but rather having to live under the authority of the organization. This can cause confusion in the child, as to who is really the figure they must show obedience to as “role models” who can protect them. This is known as Paternal transference.


Adult Abuse

  • Consistent or frequent conflicts between adults
  • Efforts to maintain control over another adult
  • Inappropriate use of adult discipline
  • Inability to establish boundaries
  • Overprotective of another adult
  •  Isolation of an adult
  • Emotional and verbal abuse including withdrawal of affection and humiliation
  • Caregiver neglect including failure to provide necessary skilled nursing assistance, nutrition, access to support for activities of daily living
  • Censoring of mail or phone calls
  • Censoring of an elder’s financial assets through coercion or manipulation

Reference: American Psychiatric Association, May 1994

Value Assets Provider Handbook: V-Codes, Abuse (


Jehovah’s Witness children and adults are undoubtedly emotionally abused, and are taught to mentally abuse while in the Watchtower organization.

Inadvertant Abuse and Control by Watchtower over Victims

  • Threats of shunning if one leaves the religion
  • Threats of abandonment by family
  • Threats of death by Armageddon
  • The awareness that one will lose their family if they leave
  • Actual shunning of, abandonment of, and cutting off of all love/contact of former members.

The video below offers significant proof that Jehovah’s Witnesses are abused through manipulation talks given at meetings and large assemblies. Threats loom over the heads of children and teens, causing anxiety, depression, phobias, and massive fears of abandonment, which may provoke and even directly cause mental disorders in adolescence and adulthood.

Common disorders amongst Jehovah’s Witnesses and former Jehovah’s Witnesses include:

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder
  • Specific phobia
  • Borderline Personality Disorder
  • Panic Disorder
  • Major Depressive Disorder
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

In 1994, the DSM-IV introduced religious and spiritual problems as important areas needing to be covered by mental health professionals. Among the topics discussed are loss of faith and change of religious affiliation, membership, practices and beliefs. However, many mental health professionals placed focus on the specifics involved in treatments of former religious cult members.


Researchers also conducted studies on common psychiatric disorders of criminals, such as murderers inside cults. The results found:

  • Paranoid schizophrenia
  •  Dependent personality disorder
  • Shared paranoia 
  • Shared psychotic disorder
  • Mixed personality disorder with features of narcissism
  • Paranoia
  • Antisocial traits
  • Delusional disorder with grandiose and persecutory themes
  • Psychotic disorder, not otherwise specified
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Bipolar Disorder

Jehovah's witness abuse

In studying cults which ended in catastrophe, the largest importance seems to be placed on the cult leaders. However, the victims many times seem to go with significantly less focus and attention.


Potential Psychiatric Disorders Among 7 Watchtower Leaders

The members of Watchtower Bible and Tract Society Governing Body include, as of 2016:

  • Samuel Herd
  • Geoffrey Jackson
  • Stephen Lett
  • Gerrit Lösch
  • Anthony Morris III
  • Mark Sanderson
  • David Splane

Psychiatric disorders of the above mentioned men may include:

  • Antisocial Personality Disorder
  • Narcissistic Personality Disorder
  • Psychopaths

No one truly knows the personal lives or history of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses. No psychological assessments are offered on their mental abilities in leading millions of members. Nothing is known as to their personal mental health or illnesses. Traits may be studied through talks they give, mannerisms, and personal encounters of those who know and have had experiences with them.

Millions profess “love” of these 7 men who do not disclose personal aspects of their lives to faithful followers. In fact, those who claim to know and follow the Governing Body members have never met them, yet they blindly follow any and all instruction given by the cult leaders.

For further research on cultic psychiatric disorders and their leaders: International Cultic Studies Association, John Burke, PhD


A former F.B.I. agent also states:

“Studies of individuals who exhibited psychopathic traits, such as the cult leader Jim Jones, reveal persons who apparently lack the ability to experience genuine empathy for others. Also, these individuals seem not to be able to use emotional feedback from others to alter their life course. However, what makes such psychopaths dangerous to society is that even though they apparently possesses a defective empathy, they are still able to intellectually analyze the emotional makeup of other people, and then turn that understanding to a criminal advantage.”

-Joe Navarro, MA, Former F.B.I. Counterintelligence


Destruction of the Mind of Cult Members

In a 1982 article in the New York Times, a prominent mental health expert states:

”Keeping devotees constantly fatigued, deprived of sensory input and suffering protein deprivation, working extremely long hours in street solicitation or in cult-owned businesses, engaging in monotonous chanting and rhythmical singing, may induce psychophysiological changes in the brain. The rhythmical movement of the body can lead to altered states of consciousness, and changes in the pressure or vibration pattern of the brain may affect the temporal lobe.”  – Stanley H. Cath, Psychoanalyst and Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Tufts University School of Medicine (1982)


Watch the video below and pay close attention to the mind control techniques used by a religious cult speaker in the Jehovah’s Witnesses, during a large convention of brainwashed members. (2016)

Take note of :

  • Manipulation tactics which associate leaving the cult with leaving God.
  • Encouraging abandonment (abuse)
  • Instilling of fear of abandonment in children and teens through use of dramatic media
  • Distortion of biblical passages

Also take note that the speaker leaves out the following critical reasons why hundreds of thousands leave the cult:

  • Uncovering the scandalous history of the cult
  • Finding serious errors in literature written by Watchtower
  • False doctrinal teachings
  • Identifying unbiblical treatment of victims
  • Profound realization that the member is in a cult
  • False accusations of wrongdoing
  • Furthering biblical studies using outside resources
  • Abuse within the cult (mental, sexual molestation, abusers allowed to stay in the congregation)
  • and more.

An upcoming article will detail more reasons people leave the cult of Jehovah’s Witnesses.


Read more about Transference and Projection


*If you are a professional in the mental health industry, and wish to be cited in an upcoming article on cultic or religious abuses, and wish to offer your counseling services to our readers, please contact us as and place “I want to help” in the subject line. 


8 thoughts on “Abuse & Mental Disorders in Jehovah’s Witnesses (DSM IV)”

  1. Hi Jill,
    Another wonderful,insightful and sympathetic evaluation
    of the topic under discussion and scrutiny of the dreaded ‘Shunning’.
    Since the Australian Royal Commission’s expose of the soul and psychological damage that this practice causes.The WTBTS has taken a rather stern stance on this choke-hold doctrine and made it a cause-celebre to ‘teach’ the still-hanging-in-there adherents, a lesson in outright wickedness.
    Thank you for posting this great blog.
    Kind Regards, Arnold.

  2. I can say from experience they will disown you and put you down for the simplest of mistakes for the rest of your life. NEVER become a baptized witness if you have family members in the religion. It is the only way to keep them, if they’re worth it. It is very wrong what they do to people. They will ruin your life while constantly claiming they are saving it.

  3. Can someone tell me where I may find a mental health professional that is a cult expert (I was never in this cult, my mother was and still is). I made terrorists threats against this organization…which I have fought all my life (haha, I am a Roman Catholic…father raised me that way). This is not about the RC church. My STUPID mother got into this when I was a young child……she is and always was a loser.
    FYI……JWs….GODS name is NOT JEHOVAH!. These damn people would come into our house (when I was a child), stupid mother would SNEAK around my father’s back who forbid them to come in,
    Long story short….my Dad is long dead….and my brother (who married a CATHOLIC started to get involved with the JWs in around 1999. HE COMMITTED SUICIDE!. in 2001.

    I am writing this in 2017 because last winter I made threats against them. Anyone wanting to report me….by IP address…go ahead….FBI is already investigating me and took other computer.

    I therefore will give fake name etc.

    Why am I here, I am the VICTIM but may end up in FEDERAL PRISON….due to my threat which was mailed to their stupid Kingdom Halls….look like town meeting halls and not like a church.

    I could write a book on the HATE I have for these people, they ARE NOT CHRISTIANS! They do not believe that Jesus Christ died on a CROSS……and they wrote their own bibles….they make me want to vomit at the sight of them.

    Bottom line, I blame them for brothers death…..
    Due to possible indictment for these threats I need a Clinical Psychologist who is knowledgeable in the area of cults and their manipulation.

    I live in USA (New England)……will not give specifics as lawyer told me not to discuss case…..

    I like the way these geeks have their own names for things….Kingdom Hall (Church/Parish), Assemblies ???, Bothers and Sisters….??? celebrate no Christian holidays….say they are all pagan….no blood Transfusions, would rather die for Jah (sounds like Muslims wanting to die for ALLAH)……they do not salute flag…..on and on…..

  4. I remember exactly why I left the Jehovah’s Witnesses for the last time. I was using a bathroom stall during one of the big conventions. The restrooms are fitted with speakers so you can still hear the program going on if you need to use them. The skit being performed on the stage was a allegedly a reenactment of a young woman discussing her future with her guidance counselor shortly before her graduation. The girl was academically gifted and had been offered a full scholarship to a college, which she turned down in favor of entering the field ministry full time.The “worldy” counselor could not understand why the student was throwing away such an opportunity and strongly encouraged her to reconsider this decision. (Of course, they spun this as “pressuring” her.) But the young woman was steadfast and unwavering in her commitment to Jehovah, and ultimately declined “Satan’s invitation” to obtain a college education so she could make Jehovah proud and spread his word door-to-door on a daily basis.

    This was extremely offensive to me on so many levels that I found it difficult to hold in my reaction to it. I even gasped out loud at one of the comments as I washed my hands in the sink. I felt angry and sickened and just wanted to leave. The fact that they held this young woman up as an example for all the young girls to model their behavior after was just WRONG. They had been suggesting that college is unnecessary for a while, but this crossed the line. Why was it a girl up there? I’d have been slightly less offended if it had been a boy in the skit. I couldn’t help but worry about this girl’s future, that she’d go through life being financially dependent on a man and vulnerable to abuse because she’d chosen to go door to door with the Bible instead of getting an education?

    I returned to our seats and told my daughters that was NOT an example to follow and that the JWs were wrong for holding her up as one. I convinced my husband I’d had enough and we left. I never went back again.

  5. I remember that talk like it wa yesterday and said the same to my young daughter. Yes have a master’s degree though being born and raised a JW and could never stomach the stance on higher education. It’s taken me another 8 years to finally leave … but at least my two sons attend college and my daughter is on track

  6. Most witnesses I know are born in they have everything laid out for them . Where would they be without their family. About 45per cent wouldn’t be in it. Fancy spending eternity with such boring individual’s.what miserable boring years they are.

  7. They tell you about how hell does’nt exist but you will be cut off forever if you don’t believe . What’s the difference?how you will be able to see dead loved ones again
    But if you’re loved ones don’t believe they will be destroyed at Armageddon . What a comforting message they have
    Tell me this how many of the production line of born in’s would be in it if if their mummy and daddy wasn’t in
    About three quarters at a guess

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