Betrayal Can Cause Trauma and Here's How to Start Healing


When someone close to you breaks your trust the pain of betrayal can leave deep wounds. Betrayal from someone you depend on to respect your needs and generally help safeguard your well-being might leave lingering trauma.

According to Healthline when you rely on someone for basic needs as well as love and protection, you might accept betrayal in order to ensure your own safety. You might even find yourself accepting the possibility of future betrayals, something that can begin to degrade self-esteem, emotional well-being, and the ability to form attachments with others.

The trauma of betrayal can affect physical and emotional health, but the specific effects can vary depending on the type of trauma. Keep in mind, we all experience trauma differently.

Betrayal during your childhood causes trauma that can show up quickly and persist into adulthood. Signs include:

  • trouble recognizing expressing or managing emotions
  • nightmares
  • physical pain or stomach distress
  • panic attacks
  • thoughts of suicide
  • difficulty trusting others
  • attachment issues
  • eating disorders
  • substance use

If your parent fails to protect you, this betrayal can so deeply contradict what to expect that you end up blocking it in order to maintain the attachment. Blinding yourself to the betrayal and your fear to future betrayals helps you survive in a relationship you believe you can't escape. Your ability to "forget" becomes a coping mechanism. Forgetting may help you cope with trauma but it can also affect your memory and sense of self.

Betrayal in a romantic relationship can also provoke a trauma response, especially in the form of infidelity. Infidelity can lead to:

  • Loss of self esteem and self-worth
  • Numbness
  • Anger
  • Guilt
  • Difficulty controlling emotions
  • Intrusive thoughts about affair details
  • Loss of faith in others
  • Suspicion and hyper-vigilance
  • depression, anxiety, and other mental health symptoms
  • Physical symptoms, including insomnia, pain and stomach distress

Relationships can fulfill important belonging and social connection needs, and betrayal can leave you wondering how you'll get those needs met in the future. Instead of staying alert to signs of cheating, you might choose to ignore or overlook clues in order to safeguard your relationship and protect emotional health.

After romantic betrayal, you might find yourself dealing with ongoing trust issues and self doubt. If you dealt with childhood trauma by blocking out what happened, your memories will eventually resurface, especially if a similar experience happens to trigger their return.

The route to recovery may not look the same for everyone, but these strategies can help you take the first steps:

  • Acknowledge instead of avoid
  • Practice accepting difficult emotions
  • Turn to others for support
  • Focus on what you need
  • Going to therapy

You can heal and you might even come back stronger as you rebuild your sense of self and gain tools for developing healthy relationships.