If you have ever been deeply betrayed, you already know how much pain this can cause. All of us form attachments to others. We grow dependent on people like parents, partners, business associates, friends, and more. Trust develops but then trust is broken. This could be the origin story for most instances of betrayal trauma.

Betrayal trauma most commonly springs from childhood abuse and neglect or partner infidelity. The deep emotional attachment in both cases can result in the victim downplaying or denying the betrayal. But, like any form of trauma, such a scenario requires professional intervention and help.

Jennifer Freyd, Ph.D, is a well known researcher on the subject of betrayal trauma. According to her, betrayal trauma occurs when the people or institutions on which a person depends for survival significantly violate that person’ s trust or well-being: Childhood physical, emotional, or sexual abuse perpetrated by a caregiver are examples of betrayal trauma.

Causes of Betrayal Trauma

Childhood Trauma

Sadly, many children are forced to endure abuse in their young lives. This could be physical, emotional, or sexual abuse — or any combination of the three. Being betrayed by a caretaker at such a vulnerable age can leave an enduring wound. As they grow into adulthood, these folks may find themselves either repeatedly drawn to those who will betray their trust, or avoiding intimacy.

Partner Infidelity

The obvious image this calls to mind is cheating. Indeed, this can be a jolting and traumatic betrayal. However, it could also involve a partner who has lied about financial matters or is hiding an addiction of some sort.

Other Betrayals

You might be in business with someone and discover that they have scammed you behind your back. Perhaps you trusted a friend or family member to help you with a situation only to learn they willfully did not live up to their word. Any of these (especially when coupled with a history of the above causes) can feel shattering.

Some Examples of Betrayal Trauma I’ve treated Include:

  • Victims of Infidelity (Single incident and serial infidelity)
  • Male and Female incest survivors
  • Adults who were abused as children in home, educational and custodial settings.
  • Men and women who have been embezzled
  • Adults and children who were physically and emotionally abused
  • People who have been physically abused by someone in trusted positions. (ex. Priests, Teachers, Child care workers, Foster Care givers, Coaches etc


Symptoms of Betrayal Trauma

  • Reliving the event through nightmares, flashbacks, and intrusive thoughts
  • Changes in appetite and eating habits
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Withdrawing, social isolation, and avoidance
  • Hyper-vigilance
  • Anxiety and panic attacks
  • Denial about what was done to you
  • Mood swings
  • Depression
  • Unexplained physical health issues, e.g. chronic fatigue

man with eyes closed with cloudy sky behind himHow to Cope With Betrayal Trauma


Many of us are unwilling to accept that a loved one has hurt us. We also feel ashamed to have been fooled or lied to. Thus, we don’t fully acknowledge what happened. However, this is the exact opposite of what we need. Healing is made possible by facing reality. This giant step toward recovery can be more smoothly facilitated via therapy.

Name Your Emotions

The experience of betrayal trauma stirs up many different emotions. The decision to resolve the betrayal trauma stirs up another wave of different emotions. It is essential that you become able to identify and name these emotions. No more suppressing and avoiding. Recognize the pain, anger, shame, guilt, sorrow, fear, and more. From there, you should find yourself better equipped to process the trauma and move forward.

Keep a Journal

The physical act of writing often offers a deep sense of relief. This step can go hand in hand with tanning your emotions. Monitors your feelings, your triggers, and your solutions.

Create a Support System

It can be difficult to trust again but leaning on others can be a big part of your recovery. It gives you the support you need. But also, it reminds you that most people can be trusted and will not betray you.

Therapy is the Antidote to Betrayal Trauma

Rebuilding trust is a challenge. When your trust has been shattered by someone you love and trust, it’s devastating. But working with a skilled guide can ease this transition and clear you of the pain you’ve been carrying. You do not and you shouldn’t try to tackle Betrayal trauma alone. Thus, I invite you to reach out and connect. Let’s schedule you for a free and confidential consultation. Trauma therapy can be the first step on your path to once again thriving in a fulfilling life.