What Is Betrayal Trauma? 

Unfaithfulness trauma describes the emotional impact a person gets after their trust or well-being is violated, either by people or institutions that are significant in their life. 

“ This type of trauma usually relates to primary attachment figures like a parent, caregiver, or other important relationship from youth. In adultness, it tends to repeat among romantic significant others, ” says Sabrina Romanoff, PsyD, a clinical psychologist and professor at Yeshiva University. 

This article explores the causes, symptoms, and impact of unfaithfulness trauma, as well as some coping mechanisms that may be helpful. 

Origin of the Betrayal Trauma Theory 

The unfaithfulness trauma theory was proposed in the year 1991 by Jennifer Freyd, PhD, an American psychology researcher, author, and educator. 

According to the theory, someone may witness unfaithfulness trauma when 

• They are terrified, sometimes for their physical safety or their life. 

• They are betrayed by someone who they depend on for survival, similar to a parent or caregiver, whom they rely on for food, shelter, and other basic requirements. 

The theory lists gests like physical, sexual, or sadistic abuse in youth by a caregiver as examples of traumatic backstabbing. Unfaithfulness can beget children to develop post-traumatic stress disorder( PTSD), particularly if the incident caused a lot of fear. 

The theory notes that the child may be more likely to block the abuse or unfaithfulness from their mind and develop dissociative amnesia if they're dependent on the caregiver for their everyday requirements and survival. The kid's brain essentially ignores unfaithfulness to maintain their relationship with their caregiver and survive. 

Otherwise, if the child processed the unfaithfulness normally, they may start to avoid the caregiver and stop interacting with them which could threaten their survival. 

Impact and Symptoms of Betrayal Trauma 

Below, Doctor Romanoff explains the impact of unfaithfulness trauma and the symptoms a person may witness as a result. 

Impact of Betrayal Trauma 

In the instance of a parent or caregiver who is abusive or acts in a way that betrays a kid’s trust, the child remains reliant on them indeed though the parent is no longer dependable or safe. This creates a complex relationship with primary attachment figures who are simultaneously providing harm and support. 

These children may grow up to be grown-ups who end up in partnerships with significant others who violate their requirements in familiar ways. To reconcile the two opposites of people who give harm and care, they tend to avoid processing damaging behaviour, normalize unhealthy behaviours, fabricate fantasies to compensate for painful memories, or even condemn themselves.

At the core, people who have endured unfaithfulness trauma tend to dissociate from the trauma. In turn, they struggle with the consequences of extreme dissociation of their emotions, feelings, and reactions to the trauma. It's common for people to self-medicate with substances, food, partnerships, sexual intercourse, or other forms of distraction. 

Symptoms of Betrayal Trauma 

Unfaithfulness trauma can have a severe impact on the person and cause them to witness symptoms or health conditions similar as 

• Post-traumatic stress disorder 

• Depression 

• Anxiety 

• Dissociation 

• Difficulty concentrating 

• Emotional dysregulation

• Trust and relationship issues

• Physical pain and gastrointestinal issues 

• Substance abuse 

• Eating disorders 

Causes of Betrayal Trauma 

Below, Doctor Romanoff explains some of the causes of unfaithfulness trauma, in youth and adulthood. 

Childhood Trauma 

Abuse witnessed in youth is one of the most common causes of unfaithfulness trauma. It can include physical, sexual, verbal, or emotional abuse. 

Trauma in Adulthood 

In adultness, unfaithfulness trauma is usually endured in partnerships with intimate significant others, especially if a person has endured trauma in history. still, people may also experience unfaithfulness trauma at the hands of others similar to a close friend, co-worker, or another person in their life. 

Someone can also witness institutional unfaithfulness, which occurs when an institution that someone relies upon fails to prevent or appropriately respond to wrongdoings by individuals within the context of the institution( for example, in cases of sexual assault at a workplace or academy) 

Unfaithfulness trauma in adultness could look like 

• Physical, emotional, sexual, or verbal abuse 

• Infidelity 

• Revelations of financial problems or significant debt 

• Ulterior motives or other secretive bearings 

Coping With Betrayal Trauma 

Though, Dr, If you have experienced unfaithfulness trauma. Romanoff suggests some steps that can help you cope 

Acknowledge the unfaithfulness The first step is admitting how you were betrayed and hurt. Be honest with yourself and consider the impact of unfaithfulness on the relationship and your life. 

Write your Emotions in a journal You may find relief through writing down your Emotions in a journal. It can help you identify the feelings you are witnessing and create space to reflect on them, instead of suppressing or avoiding them.  

Process your feelings Confronting the trauma you witnessed in history can bring up a lot of feelings, including grief, fear, wrathfulness, regret, loss, and anxiety. It is important to reuse these feelings so you can start healing.  

Seek support or treatment It is also helpful to seek support by talking with a friend or therapist. People who have endured unfaithfulness trauma oftentimes feel like they can only rely on themselves and tend to cut off themselves when they are betrayed. Instead, it is important to do the opposite and reach out for support or treatment.  

Set boundaries If the person who betrayed you is still in your life in some capacity, set firm boundaries in your relationship with them to protect your physical, emotional, and psychological well-being.  

Recognize patterns If you have endured unfaithfulness trauma in history, it is important to fete whether it is affecting your partnerships in the present. Understand that you deserve to have partnerships that are mutually supportive and favourable.

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