Although there is not a singular ‘type’ of person who joins a cult, typically cult members are young and vulnerable. There are also some predisposed circumstances that may attract certain people to cults. These circumstances include a desire to belong, a lack of self-confidence, a longing for spiritual meaning, a dissatisfaction with the ‘norm,” and a need for definite answers. It is estimated that there are currently 3,000-5,000 cult groups worldwide, and, recently, 6 to 10 million people have been involved in a cult.
- “a religion regarded as unorthodox or spurious
- great devotion to a person, idea, object, movement, or work (such as a film or book); especially: such devotion regarded as a literary or intellectual fad
- a system of religious beliefs and ritual; also: its body of adherents
- formal religious
- a system for the cure of disease based on dogma set forth by its promulgator.”
- “Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged or even punished.
- Mind-altering practices (such as meditation, chanting, speaking in tongues, denunciation sessions, and debilitating work routines) are used in excess and serve to suppress doubts about the group and its leader(s).
- The group has a polarized us-versus-them mentality, which may cause conflict with the wider society.
- The group is preoccupied with bringing in new members.
- The group is preoccupied with making money.
- Members are expected to devote inordinate amounts of time to the group and group-related activities.
- Members are encouraged or required to live and/or socialize only with other group members.”
Cult conversion techniques are similar throughout many cult groups, and revolve around psychological manipulation. Cult leaders consciously manipulate their cult members through social influence that produces many behavioral changes. Those who left cults try and integrate into society, but it is not easy. Due to the psychological manipulation and destruction, former cult members are often depressed, guilty, scared, and paranoid. They often have slow speech, memory impairment, and rigidity in their body posture and facial expressions. While there is an increased awareness of cults in the mental-health medical realm, many professionals associate “cult mentality” and “psychopathology” when, in reality, cult mentality is more of a psychological and sociological issue and should be treated as such.
 Long, T. E., & Hadden, J. K. (1983). Religious conversion and the concept of socialization: Integrating the brainwashing and drift models. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 1-14.