November 4 2022

Is Betrayal Trauma PTSD?


When the foundation of a once-trusted relationship becomes broken through betrayal, the betrayed partner can feel hopeless as they struggle to navigate the aftermath. Betrayal trauma manifests itself through a variety of symptoms, one of which is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

What is betrayal trauma, and how does it relate to PTSD? 

What is betrayal trauma? Betrayal trauma is the pain, and emotional distress experienced after severe deception by a loved one.

Situations such as infidelity, the discovery of an addiction, or even institutional betrayal (when others betray an individual within the context of an organization) can cause betrayal trauma and create a lasting impact. 

Among the many symptoms of betrayal trauma, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a common response to the traumatic event. Research into the connection between betrayal trauma and PTSD has shown that the presence of betrayal trauma at any degree can predict PTSD symptoms in individuals. 

Below is a comparison between common traits of betrayal trauma and how they relate to PTSD. 

How Betrayal Trauma Symptoms Manifest in Posttraumatic Stress Disorder 

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), PTSD has five significant ways in which it can present itself in individuals. You may be exhibiting betrayal trauma PTSD if one or more of the criteria below apply to you. 

  1. Life-Threatening Experiences 

Some victims of betrayal trauma experience or are threatened with physical or sexual violence at the hands of their betrayer. If sexual infidelity has occurred, you might need to consider the risk of STDs. If you are unsafe because of your betrayer, please reach out for support so you can find safety. You can visit the National Domestic Violence Hotline at thehotline.org or by calling the hotline at 800-799-7233. If violence is currently occurring, call 911 immediately. 

  1. Reliving the Events

Reliving the events of the incident(s) is a common trait of PTSD. Individuals suffering from betrayal trauma may have recurring memories or dreams, flashbacks, or be triggered by internal or external cues that remind them of their traumatic experience(s) from betrayal. These incidents may cause you to feel that you are reliving the betrayal trauma you have previously experienced all over again. 

  1. Avoidance

Individuals suffering from betrayal trauma PTSD may avoid thoughts, feelings, or memories that cause their pain to resurface to protect themselves from further emotional pain. It is also common for individuals to avoid physical reminders of their trauma, such as situations, people, places, or conversations associated with the trauma. 

  1. Mood and Cognitions 

Negative mood changes after the trauma characterize this trait of PTSD. You may be experiencing this if you cannot remember key aspects of the events, have a consistent thought pattern of negative beliefs about yourself or others (including blaming yourself or others), or dwell in a negative emotional state. You may also be suffering from depression and/or suicidal thoughts. If these thoughts and feelings persist or intensify, please do not hesitate to find support by confiding in a trusted individual, reaching out for counseling, calling the National Suicide Prevention Line at 988, or visiting 988lifeline.org.  

  1. Emotional Arousal and Reactivity 

Betrayal trauma PTSD can also be marked by living in a reactive state of anxiety or anger. This state may manifest through angry outbursts, reckless behavior, and difficulty concentrating and/or sleeping. Additionally, betrayal trauma PTSD may cause you to feel anxious or even hypervigilant. Especially in the case of infidelity or issues of addiction within a relationship, you may begin to monitor the betrayer’s emotions or actions obsessively. 

Decreasing Symptoms Through Social Support 

Finding social support while dealing with betrayal trauma PTSD is critical in healing. Research has shown that having positive social support while dealing with betrayal trauma PTSD can lower PTSD symptoms. If you are struggling with betrayal trauma PTSD, find social support through trusted individuals within your social circles, such as trusted friends, family members, coworkers, and your community. Additionally, group therapy and counseling can be great resources to help you find space to unpack, understand, and learn how to cope with your trauma. 

How Bloom Can Help You Navigate Betrayal Trauma PTSD? 

Taking the courageous step to begin your recovery doesn’t have to happen alone. One of the ways in which you can navigate betrayal trauma PTSD is through the Bloom community. Our coaches can work with you to start pinpointing the ways betrayal trauma alters your mind and body and discover how to best respond. 

Sign up with Bloom’s free trial today.

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