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  • Writer's pictureDana Arcuri

10 Signs You Have Betrayal Trauma

What is betrayal trauma? According to, “Betrayal trauma describes the emotional impact a person experiences after their trust or well-being is violated, either by people or institutions that are significant in their life.

The betrayal trauma was proposed in 1991 by Jennifer Freyd, a psychology researcher, professor, author, and educator. According to her theory, someone may experience betrayal trauma when:

1. They’re terrified for their physical safety or their life.

2. They are betrayed by someone who they depend on for survival, such as a parent or caregiver, whom they rely on for food, shelter, and other basic needs.

The betrayal could be by your parent, sibling, relative, teacher, doctor, clergy, friend, partner, or spouse. In some cases, the betrayal trauma is due to infidelity. Jennifer Freyd’s theory on betrayal trauma lists the common links to the following experiences:

1. Physical abuse

2. Sexual abuse

3. Sadistic childhood abuse

I believe that narcissistic abuse. sibling abuse, and psychological abuse is another reason why some people have betrayal trauma. Betrayal is never by our enemies. It is always by those who we are closest to and who we have trusted.

The betrayal could cause a child to develop PTSD if the incident caused a lot of fear. However, the child’s brain essentially ignores the betrayal in order to maintain the relationship with their caregiver in effort to survive.

Rejection, shunning, criticisms, manipulation, gaslighting, harassment, and other toxic behaviors is a betrayal. The betrayal trauma does overwhelm your nervous system. It is connected to toxic shame by the perpetrators.

What makes betrayal trauma so painful is that the person who is betrayed may not be able to sever their relationship with the perpetrator.

10 Signs You Have Betrayal Trauma:

1. You may have been diagnosed with PTSD or Complex PTSD.

2. You may struggle with depression, anxiety, emotional dysregulation, or panic attacks.

3. You can have trouble concentrating or you dissociate.

4. You may have difficulty trusting people.

5. Chronic pain, GI distress, or fatigue.

6. You may struggle with nightmares and insomnia.

7. You can have suicidal ideation or suicidal thoughts.

8. You may have an eating disorder, addictions, or self-destructive patterns.

9. You may experience hypervigilance or paranoia.

10. You may suffer a low self-worth, anger, numbness, or guilt.

In effort to heal from betrayal trauma, understand that it’s essential to process the betrayal. It is normal to feel triggered, to have flashbacks, or bad memories come up to your conscious mind.

The first step is to come to terms with acceptance. This doesn’t mean that it doesn’t hurt. It does mean that you accept what happened and you know that you are not to blame.

Recognize your painful emotions. Build awareness and acknowledge how you feel. Essentially, we feel it to heal it.

Seek emotional support by a trauma-informed mental health professional. Explore somatic embodiment and holistic modalities to use as tools to help you along your healing journey.

Lastly, I recommend that you educate yourself about betrayal trauma to gain more insight. There are countless books, blogs, articles, videos, and credible resources about betrayal trauma and how to process your traumatic experiences.

Books on Betrayal Trauma:

1. Betrayal Trauma: The Logic of Forgetting Childhood Abuse by Jennifer J. Freyd

2. Partner Betrayal Trauma: by Douglas Weiss, Ph.D.

3. Treating Trauma from Sexual Betrayal: The Essential Tools for Healing by Kevin B. Skinner

4. Breaking Through Betrayal: and Recovering the Peace Within, 2nd Edition, by Holli Kenley

5. Betrayal of Innocence: Incest and Its Devastation by Susan Forward

6. Soul Rescue: How to Break Free from Narcissistic Abuse & Heal Trauma by Dana Arcuri

7. The Betrayal Bond: Breaking Free of Exploitive Relationships by Patrick Carnes, PhD.

“We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and when we honor the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness and affection.

Love is not something we give or get; it is something that we nurture and grow, a connection that can only be cultivated between two people when it exists within each one of them – we can only love others as much as we love ourselves.

Shame, blame, disrespect, betrayal, and the withholding of affection damage the roots from which love grows. Love can only survive these injuries if they are acknowledged, healed and rare.” ~ Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection

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