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Betrayal trauma is a type of trauma that refers to the pain and emotional distress that occurs when a trusted institution, loved one, or intimate partner violates someone’s trust. Betrayal trauma may occur alongside things like gaslighting and lead to anxiety and depression. However, therapy and mindfulness can help you to heal from this trauma and move forward to make healthier relationships.

What Is Betrayal Trauma?

Betrayal trauma occurs when a person or an organization that you depend on goes outside your expectation of them in a way that is hurtful to you. The amount of trauma caused has to do with the impact on you. There are many different types of betrayal trauma, including:

  • Parental: When a parent or caretaker, someone you depend on for your needs to be met, abuses you or fails to protect you from harm.
  • Intimate Partner: When the person doing the betraying is your intimate partner. This can take place when your partner is having an emotional affair or a physical affair. If one of the partners has an active sexual addiction, there is often betrayal present.
  • Institutional: When an institution impacts you in a way that is in direct opposition to what they portray themselves to be or their stated mottos and goals. This can also occur when the institution protects the perpetrator instead of supporting the victim or “whistleblower.” This may include an educational institution, the military, healthcare systems, etc.
  • Interpersonal: When a trusted friend, peer, or individual betrays your trust.

Signs & Symptoms of Betrayal Trauma:

A person can be suffering from betrayal trauma and not yet be aware of the betrayal. That nagging sense that something is off in the relationship, that something isn’t quite right, can be a clue of betrayal trauma. Increased depression, anxiety, and dissociation may also be signs of betrayal trauma. This can have long-term damaging effects on both your psychological and physical health. Without proper treatment, the damaging effects may deepen and escalate.

Founder and Psychotherapist

Janet Duffy, LMHC, LPC

As a licensed psychotherapist, Janet provides individual psychotherapy, couple therapy, and treatment for other mental health conditions. With a master’s degree in both Counseling Psychology and Creative Writing, she strives to dismantle the stigma that revolves around mental health conditions by offering a collaborative, highly specialized approach to patient care.