Brainwashing–also called mind control–is a complex process that overrides a person’s normal beliefs, will, or desires and replaces them with the opinions or will of the person or group doing the brainwashing.

What Is Brainwashing?

Brainwashing is commonly associated with cults and abuse. A cult leader might, for example, present a warm and friendly disposition to gain a person’s trust, then slowly break down the person by calling him or her names, forcing him or her to work, and engaging in other forms of abuse. This abuse might be interspersed with periodic kindness in conjunction with isolation from loved ones, rendering the person completely dependent on the cult leader. Victims of abuse–particularly child sexual abuse–sometimes report that they felt brainwashed by an abuser who, for example, convinced them the abuse was a sign of love. Brainwashing sometimes involves the use of powerful mind-altering drugs to induce feelings of euphoria and hallucinations.

A related concept, Stockholm Syndrome, occurs when a captive begins to empathize with his or her captor and may even collude with the captor.

Brainwashing is not always so extreme. Many media analysts have argued that advertisements and even news reports are a form of brainwashing. For example, an infomercial might repeatedly state the value of the product and insert subtle messages that make a viewer feel inferior without it. Similarly, the news media might choose to take one angle on a story, thus interfering with the viewer’s understanding of the larger world and altering the opinions he or she holds.

Undoing Brainwashing

Once people have identified with an abuser, captor, cult leader, or even a brand through brainwashing, they are often resistant to severing ties. Some groups have established intervention organizations to help cult escapees and other people who have experienced brainwashing.


  1. Brainwashing. (n.d.). Rick Ross. Retrieved from

Last Updated: 08-4-2015

  • Leave a Comment
  • Jean


    December 18th, 2013 at 7:31 AM

    Would you think that women marriage therapists on the internet, who write long artcles, that scold, blame, and tell women to bow down to their husbands, are brainwashed by male doctrines, and are trying to convince the rest of us women to adopt their way of thinking? 12-17-13

  • Elise Gingerich

    Elise Gingerich

    January 11th, 2014 at 8:49 AM

    but, if YOU say such things, then YOU are considered to be CRAZY, or Schizophrenic, by others, around YOU! my father, is ALWAYS telling ME, that a lot of times, when I have these USELESS arguments, with him, that I’m Schizophrenic, or CRAZY= brainwashing?! is uselessly arguing, with my father, a form of brainwashing?! THIS is a VERY SCARY society, to LIVE in, because: THIS stuff, is Actually happening, isn’t it?! ALL of THIS brainwashing stuff, IS actually happening= THIS is a VERY SCARY society, WE live in! my mother, she does THIS brainwashing stuff, in small ways, too?! is my mother, doing THIS brainwashing stuff, to ME, in small ways, too?! but: I dare not SAY anything, because: IT sounds like I’m CRAZY! IF I say ANY of THIS, than I’m CRAZY! are MY thoughts, or MY life, REALLY my own, anyways?! I’m just wondering: IS MY life, or MY thoughts, REALLY MY own, anyways, people?!?! scary, just REALLY SCARY!

  • Jean


    January 14th, 2014 at 3:18 PM

    Again, I ask and to others who know how to make a decent response.
    My question is what could be the cause of internet marriage theapists expecting women to do all the work and make all the sacrifices in their marriages.
    It’s a rhetorical question. I have an opinion but would like to hear from others.

  • B. Leigh

    B. Leigh

    February 5th, 2017 at 6:27 PM

    I too, have been questioning the sexist ways therapy coddled men, and adds more blame and burden on the woman! I’m so glad I’m not the only one who feels this way.

  • Raman


    January 26th, 2018 at 9:07 AM

    I want to breakup with my gf but she she is not leaving me she has mind set in me and she torture me i mentally upset please suggest me the way if mind wash and medicine for it so i can be stress free from it

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