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  • Writer's pictureDr. Shira Olsen

What is Betrayal Trauma?

Betrayal trauma refers to the psychological harm that results from the violation of trust by a significant other, close friend, or an individual with whom a person has invested their trust. It can involve emotional, physical, or sexual abuse, infidelity in a relationship, or exposure to harmful secrets. Betrayal is often considered one of the most damaging forms of trauma due to its personal nature. It is believed that the closer one is to the person who betrayed them, the more painful their trauma experience. Additionally, the more episodes of betrayal one endures, the more severe their trauma reactions may be.


A breach of trust is particularly devastating because it undermines the foundation of a relationship and disrupts one’s sense of security. A violation of trust can shatter our beliefs and make us question our history of life events, and current reality, all while creating significant emotional distress. Betrayed individuals are often left feeling devastated and unsure how to move forward.


Being aware of the symptoms of betrayal trauma can offer peace of mind knowing that trauma symptoms are a natural response to experiencing betrayal. These symptoms can include feelings of shock, anger, shame, and grief, all of which can significantly impact a person’s emotional and psychological well-being. Many individuals can experience difficulties trusting others and forming close relationships in the future, or struggle with feelings of insecurity and abandonment. Without proper support, symptoms can progress and contribute to depression, anxiety, or other mental health conditions.


Additional symptoms of betrayal trauma to look out for include:

  1. Intrusive thoughts and memories

  2. Avoidance behaviors

  3. Hypervigilance and anxiety

  4. Depression and hopelessness

  5. Irritability

  6. Difficulty sleeping

  7. Poor concentration

  8. Physical symptoms such as headaches, stomach problems, loss of appetite, fatigue

  9. Low self-esteem and self-worth

It’s important to remember that everyone experiences trauma differently and may only have a subset of these symptoms, though they may still be debilitating. Please know that support is available and there are very effective interventions to support those struggling to cope in the aftermath of betrayal. Reach out today to get the support you need and deserve.

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