What Is Betrayal Trauma? The Signs, Its Impact, And How To Start Healing

Last Update on July 22, 2022 : Published on July 22, 2022

No one can recover from the wound left by broken trust. When a loved one (or someone close to you), breaks your trust, the betrayal from that can leave wounds too deep to be treated. When this hurt causes significant emotional distress, it can be called betrayal trauma.

Any distressing event can leave lingering trauma and this can be even more distressing when the hurt is caused by a loved one.

Trust is an important factor in any relationship and when that trust is violated, the hurt can be too deep. And not only a loved one, but your trust can be broken by an institution, an event, or a belief you’ve believed in.

Betrayal trauma can affect your self-esteem and self-confidence, lower your emotional well-being, and can even affect your ability to form healthy relationships.

Let’s explore more about betrayal trauma, its symptoms, causes, the impact of betrayal trauma on your health, and how you can begin healing from the trauma.

What Is Betrayal Trauma?


Betrayal trauma is the emotional distress you experience when your trust is violated or broken, either by a loved one, an acquaintance, or a belief you previously believed in. Betrayal trauma is often associated with betrayal by a parent, guardian, or other similar attachment figures in your life.

First proposed in 1991 by Dr. Jennifer Freyd, an American psychology researcher, the betrayal trauma theory states that one may experience trauma when they are afraid for their physical safety, betrayed by someone (most likely a parent or caregiver), etc.

The theory also suggests that when children experience trauma or abuse by their parents or guardians, they may develop amnesia to dissociate with the trauma to survive the abuse as detaching from their caretakers isn’t possible as they depend on them for their basic needs.

The betrayal trauma theory also states that childhood traumatic experiences can also cause one to develop symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The Symptoms Of Betrayal Trauma

Betrayal trauma can cause severe emotional wounds and can cause health conditions such as:

Physical symptoms of betrayal trauma can be:

  • Insomnia
  • Pain and aches
  • Stomach issues, etc.

Individuals who experience betrayal in childhood are more likely to dissociate or detach from reality to block out the painful memories of the betrayal. This often happens when the primary caregiver (a parent or guardian) is unable to meet one’s basic needs. Shutting oneself to betrayal can help you survive an attachment that you can’t escape.

This action often becomes a coping mechanism and while dissociation can help cope with the trauma temporarily, it can still negatively impact your memory and sense of self-worth.

What Causes Betrayal Trauma?

Experts believe that betrayal trauma can be caused by certain factors such as:

1.Childhood trauma

One of the most common factors that can contribute to betrayal trauma can be childhood abuse or trauma. This kind of abuse can include physical abuse, verbal abuse, sexual, or emotional abuse.

2.Adult trauma

Adult trauma can often be in romantic relationships and can often look like infidelity, financial betrayal, etc. These kinds of experiences can also make one experience symptoms of trauma. Some symptoms of adult trauma may look like this:

The Effects Of Betrayal On Health


Betrayal trauma can be especially painful because in many cases the betrayal is caused by a close relationship such as a parent, children, or a romantic partner. When the betrayal is caused by a parent or guardian, the child can’t escape as they depend on the caretaker for their needs and safety.

This can create a complicated relationship with the parent or guardian who becomes a source of support as well as a harmful figure. As an adult, these children can grow up to form attachments with people who are the same as the ones who betrayed their trust in the past. This kind of attachment can be unhealthy and can cause them to dissociate from the relationship. In other cases, it can make them self-medicate or become addicted to alcohol, food, or other unhealthy forms of coping.

How To Start Healing From Betrayal Trauma?

If you’ve ever experienced betrayal trauma, then there are a few steps that you can take to start your healing from betrayal trauma:

1. Acknowledge The Hurt: The first step is to accept and acknowledge the hurt and betrayal. Be honest with your emotions and accept the trauma and impact the betrayal has had on you.

2. Write Down Your Feelings: One of the best ways to understand your feelings is to write them down in a journal. Writing down your feelings in a journal can help you find relief, self-reflect, and accept your hurt feelings instead of ignoring them.

3. Process Your Emotions: When you face the trauma you experience, it can bring a lot of emotions to the forefront of your mind. This can include emotions such as grief, fear, regret, anxiety, and anger. To start your healing, processing these emotions is important.

4. Set Healthy Boundaries: If you’ve been betrayed or if your trust has been violated in the past, then to make sure your past does not affect your future relationships, you need to set healthy (yet firm) boundaries to protect your emotional, mental, and physical well-being.

5. Recognize The Pattern: Being betrayed in the past can be difficult to recover from, however, it is important to recognize the pattern and how it is affecting your current relationships or attachments. When you recognize the patterns of betrayal, then you can move on and begin your healing journey.

6. Seek Professional Support: Coping with betrayal trauma cannot be easy but you can find help when you reach out to either a friend or a professional therapist. While isolating yourself to avoid all potential betrayal may sound tempting, it might not be the right thing to do. It is recommended that you speak to a professional for support and tips on coping with betrayal trauma.

Being betrayed by a loved one can be devastating and can affect your relationships, mental wellness, emotional well-being, and physical health. To heal from betrayal trauma, you need to address the betrayal and its impact on your life. You need to learn how to process your emotions and seek help to start your recovery. Self-help and therapy can go a long way in helping you heal from betrayal trauma.

Remember, you can heal and come back stronger than before. With the right steps and help, you can rebuild your sense of self-worth, improve your self-esteem, and eventually, regain your trust.

I hope this blog helped you understand what betrayal trauma is, its symptoms, the effects of betrayal trauma, and how you can start your healing. For more, you can write to us at info@calmsage.com or DM us on social media.

You can also share your thoughts with us in the comments section below!

Take Care!

About The Author

Swarnakshi Sharma
Swarnakshi Sharma

Swarnakshi is a content writer at Calm sage, who believes in a healthier lifestyle for mind and body. A fighter and survivor of depression, she strives to reach and help spread awareness on ending the stigma surrounding mental health issues. A spiritual person at heart, she believes in destiny and the power of Self. She is an avid reader and writer and likes to spend her free time baking and learning about world cultures.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

As Seen On