When someone close to you betrays you, you may feel as if your entire world has fallen apart. Betrayed feelings can be so overwhelming that they feel impossible to deal with.

It may seem like you will never be able move on, or you won’t be able trust anyone else.

Broken trust, especially in situations where the person who has been betrayed needs to keep a relationship with their betrayer can cause long-lasting stress and trauma.

Betrayal Blindness

Betrayal is painful but it can go unnoticed. It can be difficult to accept that someone you rely on would do something so damaging.

They may feel that leaving the relationship could put their safety at risk. So they might try to protect themselves, by denying or minimising the betrayal. The betrayed person may feel that they are the only one experiencing this pain, or that no-one will understand.

To survive and move forward, they may disassociate themselves from the emotional pain or blind themselves to the broken agreements. The betrayal will not go away by ignoring it or forgetting it. Trauma can manifest in both the mind and body, and is often expressed as mental or physical illness.

Betrayal: Signs and symptoms

The following may happen to children whose parents or caregivers betray their trust:

  • panic attacks
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • nightmares
  • difficulties expressing and managing emotions
  • having difficulty forming attachments or trusting others
  • behavioral problems
  • substance use disorders
  • eating disorders
  • physical pain

They can occur immediately following a traumatic event, or even years or decades after.

Adult romantic relationships that are betrayed often lead to:

  • anger
  • guilt
  • numbness
  • low self-esteem
  • Uncontrollable emotions
  • Hypervigilance and paranoia
  • depression
  • anxiety
  • overwhelming stress
  • insomnia
  • physical pain
  • digestive problems
  • sexual dysfunction

Healing is possible for those who are suffering from the effects of betrayal.

Dealing with Betrayal

Accepting the truth of what happened is usually the first step in healing after a betrayal. It can be difficult to accept the truth, especially if you have been denying or minimising the betrayal for a very long time.

It’s not about blaming oneself. You need to take a good look at yourself and your situation. You need to face the stress head-on so you can understand it and respond in a healthy manner.

By naming and putting into words the feelings that you are experiencing, you can interact with them. You may even be able to reframe your perception in a manner that allows for healing.

It can be beneficial to distance yourself from the person who betrayed you or the situation. You can use it to reflect and rest, but rumination and isolation can cause more distress.

Although you may feel reluctant to trust people again, the key to healing is to connect with people who are supportive and understanding.

You don’t need to do this alone. Talk with a friend or therapist. Join a support group.

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