How Does Betrayal Affect Your Mental Health?

If you’ve been betrayed by someone you are close to, it can feel like your world is crashing down. The pain of betrayal can be so intense and all-consuming that it feels impossible to cope with the pain.

You may feel like you can’t trust anyone again, that you’re not good enough, or that you’ll never be able to move on.

Especially in cases where the betrayed person needs to maintain a relationship with the betrayer, the broken trust can create long-lasting trauma and stress.

Betrayal Blindness

While betrayal can be painful, it can also go unnoticed or unacknowledged. It’s difficult to face up to the fact that someone we rely on could do something so hurtful.

Leaving the relationship might put the betrayed person’s safety at risk, so they may try to protect themselves by denying or minimizing the betrayal. They might feel like they are the only ones experiencing this pain or that no one will understand.

They blind themselves to the violated agreements or perhaps disassociate from the emotional pain to survive and move on. But avoiding and forgetting the betrayal doesn’t make it go away. The trauma exists in the body and mind, often manifesting as physical or mental illness.

Signs and Symptoms of Betrayal

Children who their parents or caregivers betray them may experience:

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

These can happen immediately after the traumatic event or years or decades later.

Betrayal in adult romantic relationships often leads to:

  • anger
  • guilt
  • numbness
  • low self-esteem
  • uncontrollable emotions
  • suspicion, hypervigilance, and paranoia
  • depression
  • anxiety
  • overwhelming stress
  • insomnia
  • physical pain
  • digestive problems
  • sexual dysfunction

If you are struggling with the aftermath of betrayal, know that help is available and healing is possible.

Coping with Betrayal

The healing process after betrayal typically begins with accepting the reality of what happened. This may be incredibly difficult, especially if the betrayal was denied or minimized for a long time.

Acknowledging the trauma doesn’t mean blaming yourself. It’s about taking an honest look at your situation and how it’s affecting you. It’s about facing the stress directly so that you can look at it, understand it, and respond to it in a healthy way.

Naming and putting words to the feelings you’re experiencing allows you to interact with them, perhaps even reframe your perspective in a way that provides for some degree of healing.

Distancing yourself from the person or situation that caused the betrayal can be helpful. It can give you space to rest and reflect, but isolation and rumination can also cause you more distress.

While you might feel hesitant to trust anyone again, it’s important to remember that the path to healing involves connecting with supportive and understanding people.

Whether it’s with a friend, therapist, or support group, you don’t have to go through this process alone.