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‘Rapture Anxiety’ Is Real and You Just Might Have It

‘Rapture Anxiety’ Is Real and You Just Might Have It

Picture this. You’re nine years old. You’ve been playing outside for a while and come back in for dinner but, hang on. Where’s Mom? You call her name. No answer. You check every room. She’s not there. You start to panic. There are a lot of possible explanations, but one reigns supreme in your mind: She’s been raptured. She’s been taken up to Heaven by God. And you, either through some divine hiccup in the paperwork or a sin you somehow forgot to atone for, have been Left Behind.

Sound familiar? Well, if so, never fear. You’re pretty normal. In fact, mental health experts have coined a term for such experiences: “Rapture Anxiety.”

It’s being considered a type of religious trauma by both therapists and some religious experts, brought on by growing up in a home with an excessive focus on certain end times theology. Darren Slade, the president and CEO of the Global Center for Religious Research, told CNN that “This is a real thing. It’s a chronic problem.”

“This is a new area of study,” he continued. “But in general, our research has revealed that religious trauma leads to an increase of anxiety, depression, paranoia and even some OCD-like behaviors: ‘I need to say this prayer of salvation so many times,’ ‘I need to confess my sins so often.’”

“Now imagine you are taught that at any minute, you could be left here on Earth,” he concludes. “What does that do to the teenager who just had premarital sex, or even simply took the Lord’s name in vain?”

Though rapture theology — a component of dispensational premillennialism, most frequently associated with evangelicalism in the U.S. — is only one of many different interpretations of the biblical apocalypse, it’s been popularized by books like Left Behind and movies like A Thief in the Night. Such fiction often depicts the rapture as a component in a sort of horror story, with more focus left on the trials of those who don’t make the rapture cut than anything good that would come to those who do. That might explain why the idea of the rapture is so traumatizing for lots of people who come from such backgrounds.

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