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No Longer A Prisoner

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No Longer A Prisoner:

Former members of destructive cults often feel emotional triggers firing when watching or listening to documentaries or stories of courageous veterans who faced harsh trials as a prisoner of war. As the former POW describes his or her feeling of helplessness behind enemy walls, former cult members find similarities in their own emotional state while trapped inside a cult. Though the physical state in a military camp is (in most cases) far more dangerous and life-threatening, the mental state of long-term cult survivors bears a striking resemblance to former prisoners of war. The mental scars left behind seem just as painful.

Often, former cult members experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The symptoms they face after having left their destructive group are the same symptoms POWs describe in their testimonies. In both cases, escapees suffer through flashbacks of their captivity, which elevates fear and anxiety. They find themselves unable to trust others, and try to escape through isolation. Continually dwelling on their fear, they often have nightmares and insomnia. In some of the worst cases, former escapees suffer behavioral issues, such as self-destructive behavior, hostility, or social isolation. Those who do not understand these symptoms mistake PTSD for insanity, making matters worse. Adding insult to injury, cult leaders point to these very painful symptoms as examples that hold current members in fear of leaving the group.

In many cases, former members overcome by sharing what they are going through with other former members. They quickly learn that they are not the only ones suffering PTSD. Some require counseling and therapy, and in severe cases, medication. This can be very frightening, especially at first. After understanding the reason for their symptoms, however, former cult members find the path to healing much less painful. The fear of the unknown, in many cases, was the worst fear.