6 Tiny Signs You Suffer From Betrayal Trauma

How to heal if you want a healthy relationship.

Suffering from betrayal trauma fcscafeine, Devonyu, aga7ta | Canva

Most people relate trauma to a car accident, a natural disaster, or being psychologically damaged in battle. As devastating as these types of trauma are, there's another kind of trauma that affects about 70 percent of people. Its symptoms are no different from physical or battle trauma. It causes relationship problems, trust issues, and damage to personal growth unless we face it and take steps to heal it. This is called betrayal trauma.


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Here are 6 tiny signs you suffer from from betrayal trauma:

1. Nightmares and night terrors

About 60 percent of people who have been traumatized by betrayal have nightmares. This damages the quality of your sleep and can cause problems with depression and focus.

2. Avoiding family and friends

Of those experiencing betrayal trauma, 60 percent avoid friends, and 60 to 70 percent avoid family. About 60 to 70 percent feel unlovable.

People who have experienced betrayal trauma often feel ashamed to talk about what happened and how bad they feel. They tend to isolate, which just makes the trauma worse.


3. Hyper-vigilance

Another common symptom of betrayal trauma is hyper-vigilance. About 60 to 70 percent experience this. Hyper-vigilance is a constant scanning of the environment for more trauma. Hyper-vigilance can make you suspect that others will hurt you as the betrayer did. It becomes difficult to trust people, which doesn't make for healthy relationships.

4. Feeling unlovable

About 60 to 70 percent of people feel unlovable. It's common to feel like the betrayal was your fault and something is wrong with you. This robs you of the support that safe friends want to give you.

5. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

About 60 to 70 percent of people with betrayal trauma meet the criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This symptom of betrayal trauma is debilitating, causing problems with functioning at home, school, or work. It can be damaging to relationships and can cause depression and overwhelming anxiety.


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6. Suicidal thoughts

Last and extremely important, six out of ten people with betrayal trauma have suicidal thoughts. This one bothers me. It says everything about how damaging betrayal trauma is to one's will to live. This is why you must come out of the shadows and get help. There are other symptoms of betrayal trauma — being easily startled, having flashbacks, and reliving the trauma over and over. There are also physical symptoms — a racing heart or sweating. You may have trouble remembering the key features of the traumatic event or loss of interest in enjoyable activities.

As you can see, the symptoms of betrayal trauma are serious and can be life-threatening. Ignoring them can be devastating to you and others close to you. I had a couple come to see me who were in their 60s. He had betrayed her once when they were in their 30s, and because he refused to talk about it, her emotional trauma memory had gone underground. Thirty years later, something that reminded her of the betrayal reactivated her traumatic memories. She had full-blown PTSD symptoms that nearly destroyed their 40-year marriage.

RELATED: How Past Emotional Trauma May Still Be Affecting Your Relationships


Here are 6 ways to heal now that you know the symptoms of betrayal trauma and the importance of facing it.

1. Give your trauma emotions a voice

You need a safe place to talk about your emotions. You need to have the experience of feeling the empathy of another person for your emotions. You will need the empathy of the person who betrayed you if you will trust them again.

walking away from the past in the present

Photo via Getty

2. Be open about your emotions

Open up the painful emotions, especially to your betrayer. You need the validation he will always love you, and that your feelings matter. You need to be able to tell them when your trauma is activated and trust them to help you navigate around what is triggering you.


3. Couples therapy

You will probably need couples therapy if you want to repair a relationship with a betrayer. You'll need to learn not to attack them when you need them the most. They need to not be defensive and tell you they are deeply sorry and will keep you safe. Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy is effective for couples that have had betrayal trauma.

4. Trauma treatment or therapy

You may need specialized trauma treatment. There are specialized forms of psychotherapy for trauma. Both EMDR and Brain Spotting are very effective. EEG biofeedback has also been found to be very effective in healing trauma symptoms.

5. Self-regulation

It's crucial to learn how to self-regulate your trauma emotions. Spending time daily doing mindfulness meditation can help you learn how to feel and let go of your traumatic emotional memory. Learning how to breathe, feel, and let go without thinking is vital to the success of mindfulness.



6. You are not your trauma

Your betrayal trauma is an unhealed emotional memory. It does not define who you are. It does not have anything to do with how lovable you are. It is important not to define yourself by what happened. Nearly everyone can relate to being betrayed in one way or another.


You can probably remember how much it hurt when a high school boyfriend walked out on you. You were likely sad, hurt, and angry for weeks or months. But in time, the sting wore off, and you let go and found other people to connect with. The paralyzing and overwhelming effects of betrayal trauma could have lasted months or years.

You don't have to live with the pain that comes with these traumatizing events. You must understand how to identify, face, and heal betrayal trauma. Betrayal trauma is a topic that often gets shoved under the carpet. And dangerously so!

Now you know how to recognize its symptoms and how to heal, you'll be well-equipped to take critical steps toward healing.


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Dr. Michael Regier is a clinical psychologist, marriage counselor, and executive coach with over 30 years of experience working to help couples repair unhappy marriages and create forever love. He and his wife Paula are authors of the book 'Emotional Connection: The Story & Science of Preventing Conflict & Creating Lifetime Love.'