Most people associate trauma with a major life-altering experience, like witnessing a tragedy or experiencing physical or emotional abuse. However, there are many different types of trauma and ways it can impact a person. If someone you care about has broken your trust or gone behind your back in some way, you could experience betrayal trauma.
Betrayal hurts, no matter what. But, some people can experience it more severely, leading to trauma symptoms. With that in mind, let’s look at five tell-tale signs that you’re experiencing trauma from betrayal and what you can do about it.
1. Symptoms of PTSD
It’s not uncommon for someone who has experienced betrayal trauma to have similar symptoms to someone who has experienced an extremely traumatic event. You might struggle with symptoms like nightmares, flashbacks, intrusive thoughts, or even fearfulness. Certain things could trigger your symptoms, or they could happen randomly, like emotional outbursts or freezing up in social situations.
2. Physical Symptoms
Again, like symptoms of PTSD, it’s common for those dealing with betrayal trauma to see their symptoms manifest in negative physical ways, too. That could include digestive issues, aches and pains, or intense headaches/migraines. Because your sleep is often disrupted, you might always feel tired or fatigued, leading to more irritability and anxiety.
3. Low Self-Worth
In addition to some of the more common trauma symptoms, betrayal trauma survivors often deal with many esteem issues. You might struggle with shame, guilt, or even depression. You might even think you’re unworthy of love or anyone’s time and attention. When someone you trust betrays you, it can take a heavy toll on your confidence and feelings of self-worth.
4. Trust Issues
It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that trust issues are a common problem for those who have experienced betrayal trauma. After all, you trusted before, and someone broke it. That can lead to problems in future relationships. You might struggle to let people get close to you or have difficulty being vulnerable. Eventually, you might even have trouble trusting your own decision-making abilities, which can lead to greater feelings of fear and anxiety and might lead to future relationship issues.
5. Negative Coping Strategies
People who experience trauma often find ways to cope on a daily basis, especially when they’re triggered or when their symptoms become too much to handle. Unfortunately, those coping strategies aren’t always healthy. Sometimes, they can even make things worse.
When it comes to betrayal trauma, things like being hyper-vigilant, self-medicating with drugs or alcohol, or trying to go emotionally numb are common coping mechanisms that can do more harm than good. While you might think you’re protecting yourself in the moment, they aren’t good long-term solutions.
Finding a Way Forward
If you have been experiencing betrayal trauma, the most important thing to recognize is that it is not your fault. You are worthy of love, care, and truth. It is also important to understand that you do not need to heal on your own or hide away from others because your self-esteem has been diminished.
A support system and people willing to stand by your side is essential. However, it is just as important to seek out professional help. Therapy can take you back to the root cause(s) of your trauma. While that is not always easy, it is a necessary first step in coping with your symptoms and eventually overcoming the hold the experience has on you.
If you are struggling with the effects of betrayal trauma, know you are not alone. Many people have benefitted from Brainspotting to treat their trauma.
About the author:
Darleen Gegich, MA LPC is a psychotherapist with over 20 years of experience. She specializes in couples and family relationships, anxiety, and trauma. Darleen is trained in Imago Relationship Therapy, Family Systems Psychology, Brainspotting, and Sensorimotor psychotherapy. Darleen has offices in Boulder and Longmont, CO and sees clients online and in-person.