What is betrayal trauma and what are the signs of being a victim of a traumatic event?

When you hear the word trauma, you immediately know that the person who is going through it went through some serious psychological trauma. You know that something terrible happened to them and that now they deal with the consequences.

Even if there are different types of trauma, one type is especially painful and it is called betrayal trauma, aka partner betrayal trauma.

As the name itself says, betrayal trauma is a type of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) caused by a traumatic event—a betrayal in a relationship. A betrayed partner experiences a spectrum of complex emotions and such a traumatic event significantly (sometimes even irreversibly) damages their ability to trust again, their self-esteem and feelings of safety and security.

Being betrayed by your loved one can result in one of the most painful and draining traumatic experiences and I’m not only talking about sexual betrayal. It is important to notice that there are different types of betrayal and every single one of them has an equal chance of resulting in severe damage to the betrayed partner‘s well-being.

The most frequent types of betrayal are sexual betrayal (infidelity), domestic violence, child abuse, sexual assault, sexual abuse, compulsive sexual behaviors like sex addiction or other types of a partner’s addictive behaviors and sexually acting out. 

The trauma of betrayal makes the person feel like their whole world is falling apart and that they will never be the same. The symptoms of experiencing a betrayal trauma or PTSD symptoms are severe and can also be life-threatening. 

That is why it is important to notice in time every change regarding your behavior, habits and lifestyle. If any of the following signs sound familiar to you, I’m sorry to tell you but you might be the victim of a betrayal trauma!

1. You struggle to fall asleep

When you are confronted with a betrayal trauma, sleeping becomes the last thing on your mind and on your list of priorities. You’re simply unable to stop thinking about these past events and falling asleep feels more like a struggle or a chore rather than something natural or essential for your well-being.

The worst part of all that is blaming yourself for all the things that happened. You know you’re suffering from a betrayal trauma if you’re constantly asking yourself if you could have done anything to prevent all the problems in your past relationship but you won’t be able to come up with a decent solution.

You know you’re the victim of a betrayal trauma when spending so many restless and sleepless nights becomes a routine which affects your physical health as well. If this is happening to you, I want you to remember that you are not alone and you’re definitely not the reason for your trauma! Instead, you are a victim of it. 

So, instead of punishing yourself for the things you didn’t do, find the strength in your heart to start healing from betrayal trauma and surround yourself with people who love you and care about you.

2. You feel anxious and depressed

When you experience a trauma like this, you’re simply unable to relax because betrayal trauma manifests in having anxious and depressive thoughts on a daily basis. 

It’s the feelings of helplessness, disappointment and confusion because until recently, you were in a happy relationship and now you are left all alone.

You start blaming yourself for the end of the relationship but the truth is that you didn’t do anything wrong. You just gave your heart and your soul to the wrong man and he took advantage of you.

You also start experiencing hypervigilance syndrome, where you wait for something to go wrong at any minute and scan your environment for potential betrayers.

3. You want to be alone all the time

When something painful like betrayal happens, you surely won’t feel like going out and mingling. Instead, you feel like staying at home, in your four walls, thinking about everything that’s happened to you.

You aren’t able to think straight and you constantly go over the same things, thinking that you could do something about them.

Maybe you think that being alone in those moments is what you need the most but in fact, that is the worst thing that you can do because hiding from your past is like hiding from a natural disaster, even though you know you can neither fight it nor escape it.

So, instead of being alone and thinking about all the bad things that have happened to you, you need to do the exact opposite. You need to go out with your friends and distract yourself from all the negative thinking.

Being in your four walls won’t help you heal and instead it will only prolong the pain and that is why you need to expose yourself to different environments and activities.

4. You believe you will never love again

After you end up being the one who was left, you don’t think so positively about yourself at all. You feel that you are too broken and that you will ever love anyone again.

You catch yourself crying over every single thing that reminds you of your ex-partner and you simply can’t calm down. This is what happens to people who have experienced a severe betrayal trauma and getting over it is harder than you think.

You can’t help but experience love and hatred at the same time. You hate yourself for not noticing all those red flags earlier and that is why you promise yourself that you’ll never dare to love again, no matter what.

You are scared that you will make the same mistake again and that you will end up dealing with unhealthy codependency issues in your future relationships. That is why you are convinced that you will never be able to love again, no matter how hard you try.

Your ability to trust again, your self-esteem and self-worth are severely damaged and that is why you will need time to heal from a betrayal trauma but trust me, you will be able to love again sooner than you might think.

5. You are confused and you don’t know how to move on

If you’re dealing with a betrayal trauma, you probably feel confused since you’re not able to make the right decisions.

You think that nothing will be good anymore and that you will be alone for your entire life. You feel like you are an unlovable one.

But what you don’t know is that all your symptoms are a consequence of a trauma that happened to you and it is normal to feel confused and disoriented. But you need to know that being in that condition for a long time will do you harm.

You need to accept what happened and move on. I know it won’t be easy but you have to do it. For your life, for better days to come, for the people who love you and for yourself.

That way, you will show yourself that nothing can bring you down and that no matter what happens, you will rise from the ashes like a phoenix.

6. You have flashbacks of your once happy relationship

When you go through something as painful as a betrayal trauma, you will think about it. A lot.

It will happen that you have flashbacks of your once happy relationship and you will wonder if you did something that could have led to it falling apart. These flashbacks might come to you during the day, before you go to sleep and when you least expect it. 

They come in the form of images and mini clips where you can vividly see yourself and your partner laughing, dancing and doing things together as a couple. These images might create discomfort and a feeling of closeness at the same time but you need to know that they are not real.

They are just a product of your mind because your mind is trying to occupy itself with happy moments instead of the sad ones. It’s your mind’s attempt to erase all the bad things that happened to you but, unfortunately, things don’t work that way.

Having flashbacks will also be present in the early stages of healing but you need to try to lead as normal a life as you can. It won’t be easy to get over something so painful but the sooner you get over this, the quicker you will feel better.

It won’t be a simple process but once you realize that it wasn’t your fault and that you shouldn’t stress out about that anymore, you will finally be able to move on!

7. You feel like your life is passing you by and you don’t enjoy it

You feel stagnant, hurt and psychologically and physically sick. You feel like your life has just stopped even though you’re still alive physically. You have difficulties smiling and even faking a smile because deep down in your heart, you’re missing reasons to be happy.

You force yourself to try to look normal when around other people but as soon as you go back to your four walls, you let your guard down and get back to your standard melancholic behavior. And then you’re mad at yourself because you can’t get rid of those haunting feelings of unfairness and injustice.

You would do anything to feel like you used to but you’re not sure what exactly was the trigger for making you feel this way. If any of this sounds familiar to you, you’re probably a victim of a betrayal trauma and the sooner you start the healing process, the sooner you’ll get rid of all this numbness and the limbo you’re currently in.

8. You don’t feel like you’re good enough

You feel like whatever you do is simply not good enough and never will be. You feel guilty for everything your partner did to you, even though you know it was not your fault. 

Not feeling good enough is a typical example of being a victim of a betrayal trauma. Your subconscious is making you believe that all of that what happened was because you weren’t good enough for your partner and that is why you can’t stop feeling that way. 

You can’t stop blaming yourself for the things you didn’t do, even though you’re aware of all of it. But once you admit to yourself that none of this is your fault because you’re a victim in the whole story, you will realize that there’s no need to feel less worthy, let alone guilty about anything.

9. You have suicidal thoughts

The most serious sign of a betrayal trauma is having suicidal thoughts, which can be linked to depression and anxiety. If you feel like you’ve lost the will to live and you no longer recognize yourself, then it’s time to ask for professional help and the help of the people around you.

Having suicidal thoughts is a serious condition that needs to be treated because the longer you stay in limbo, the longer you’ll feel like there’s no hope. But trust me, there is! All you need to do is wake up and realize that the reason why you’re feeling all of this is because your body and soul have been betrayed by someone you used to care about.

It’s important for you to understand that this is not the real you and all of it will pass once you start the healing process and once you learn how to deal with what happened to you.

Final Thoughts

Betrayal trauma happens when a person is betrayed by their intimate partner in a relationship (mostly a romantic one). There’s no denying it: Being in a situation like this hurts like hell. 

And if you’ve just realized that you’re a victim of this painful trauma, please do not freak out. What you need to do is find some sort of help because if you continue living like this, it will only get worse.

Now, I’ll be honest with you. Recovering from a betrayal trauma won’t be easy and even if you get over something serious like a betrayal trauma, you will feel the consequences later in your future.

There will be days when you will feel bad but then you will realize that life is much more than worrying about the past. And that is something you need to stick to. If you decide not to fight it and let your problems define you, you will end up depressed and sad.

But if you decide to fight your problems with your head held high, life will be easier. It is all up to you.

But one thing is for sure: 

Your fight will make you a stronger woman/man than you once were. Your fight will turn you into a person who knows how to act in every bad situation life puts in front of them. Your fight will teach you valuable lessons that only a few of us will ever have a chance of learning.

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