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Do I Have Betrayal Trauma? 26 Symptoms

by | Abuse Literacy

No, you’re not crazy.

No, you’re not overreacting.

No, you’re not controlling, abusive, or just really insecure.

You are suffering from betrayal trauma.

What is Betrayal Trauma?

Betrayal Trauma is a collective term for the relational trauma suffered when a person on whom you thought you could rely, a person you trust, violates that trust significantly.

Coach Joi, certified Betrayal Trauma Recovery Coach

So if you’ve been betrayed by your partner, you are probably experiencing betrayal trauma.

Welcome to Betrayal Trauma Recovery; we’re happy you found us and heartbroken you’re here.

Betrayal Trauma is Caused by Abuse

It’s important for you to know that betrayal trauma is not caused by addiction, codependency, or a dysfunctional or unhealthy relationship… it’s caused by abuse. When your partner betrayed your trust, he emotionally abused you. You are a victim of abuse.

And chances are, he wasn’t forthright about the betrayal. Lying is a form of psychological and emotional abuse, too. 

Women who experience betrayal trauma usually uncover that they are victims of sexual coercion, sexual abuse (even marital rape), covert physical abuse, psychological abuse, financial abuse, and spiritual abuse. 

Symptoms Of Betrayal Trauma

If you’re second-guessing whether or not you actually have betrayal trauma, take a look at the list of symptoms below. Not every woman will have every symptom: individuals are unique, and so are their responses to trauma. However, you may find that you are not as alone as you have been feeling in the aftermath of the devastation of betrayal. 

The following list, compiled by Dr. Barb Steffens and Marsha Means, contains some of the symptoms of betrayal trauma. 

26 Symptoms of Betrayal Trauma

  1. Helplessness
  2. Sleeplessness
  3. Immobility
  4. Reliving the event
  5. Hyper-vigilance
  6. Anxiety
  7. Nightmares
  8. Intrusive images
  9. Withdrawing
  10. Avoidance
  11. Mood swings
  12. Panic attacks
  13. Phobias
  14. Flashbacks
  15. Denial
  16. Over-sensitivity
  17. Depression
  18. Restlessness
  19. Confusion
  20. Dissociation
  21. Inability to eat
  22. Overeating
  23. Rage
  24. Health problems
  25. Chronic fatigue
  26. Immune/endocrine system problems

You Deserve Peace and Healing

As a victim of emotional abuse and betrayal trauma, you deserve peace and healing. Women suffering from the effects of abuse and betrayal trauma can find healing, but first they must get to safety. 

What is Safety and How Do I Get It?

At BTR, we believe that every woman deserves physical, emotional, spiritual, and sexual safety: always. When you are walking on eggshells, verbally abused, never sure if you’ll get the nice or the mean version of your partner, afraid of going to bed because you don’t know if you’ll be coerced into sex, afraid that you’ll find pornography on your partner’s phone…

You aren’t safe. 

You can seek safety through setting and maintaining effective boundaries

Effective Boundaries Protect Women From Emotional Abuse

Boundaries are not statements, requests, or ultimatums. They are courageous actions that women take to separate themselves and their children from abusive behavior. 

BTR Supports Victims of Abuse

Navigating boundaries can be difficult, and BTR provides a plethora of resources to help women as they begin their journey to healing with the first and most important step: getting to safety through setting boundaries. 

One way we can help is by providing a safe place to share. With more than 15 sessions a week, it’s easier than ever to find a Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group session that fits your schedule without having to leave your home. Each session is led by a Certified Betrayal Trauma Specialist.

Tune in to the free BTR podcast, where you will hear stories of triumph over and trauma and abuse by fellow survivors. 

Remember, you are not alone. 

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15 Comments

  1. Lissa

    I’ve absolutely identified with the Trauma Model. And felt incredibly angry at the Co Dependent label.
    Like the examples above, I had NO clue of any of the addiction! All compulsive behaviors were hidden from me.
    If anything was off, A feeling of disconnect, a friendship with a woman… what ever felt off.
    I spoke up, spoke my needs and advocated for my safety and self worth! Not Co Dependent behaviors.

    I do also Identify as a Co Dependent. Now further in recovery, I see my personality defects. I was raised by addicts, and groomed to save, Fix and comfort them before myself. Did that set me up for attracting an addict?
    It’s hard to say. My husband was everything my family of origin was not.
    Stable, kind, loving and a bit quite.

    I was devastated when my safe world came crashing down.The abandonment pain of my husband’s addiction now mirrored my childhood. Selfish self serving behaviors with no thought The how they effected me.
    Disregard of my needs and breaking my heart over and over again.

    I’m trying now to deal with the massive abandonment issues I received as a child, and how this has left me with no sense of safety.

    I have days and weeks now 18months into recovery that I feel "normal, happy and forget about my husband’s
    Addiction." But the deep pain seems to be able to surface and break open easily still.

    Reply
    • Jessica

      This is exactly my story. Raised by addicts that passed away and husbands addiction has mirrors my childhood. Thank you for sharing your story. I need real help.

      Reply
  2. Rita

    I was married for 41 years when I heard my ex spouses full disclosure. Sex addict who lived a secret life since we started dating at 15. One discovery of being with a prostitute at 20 years of marriage.. with complete lying by ex spouse about the incident being "one time only"…2 and 1/2 years post divorce and I still deal with betrayal trauma and ptsd symptoms. Have been to therapy many times. Have re-connected with God and He is my strength and I continually pray for healing. I feel I may have some permanent damage from being in a relationship with a sex addict for 46 years. Divorce does not help healing. Sex addiction changed my life forever. My goal is to help other women dealing with the pain and changes from sex addiction.

    Reply
    • Anonymous

      I’m so sorry that happened to you. That kind of behavior should be against the law since it leaves behind victims. The pain is very real.
      .
      7 months later mine is still denying what he did was wrong.

      Reply
    • Anonymous Mother, 23

      Thank you for sharing this valuable information on betrayal trauma. I’ve been experiencing almost PTSD-like symptoms since being gaslit by my partner during my pregnancy almost two years ago. I still think about it every day. Being lied to and manipulated made me feel so powerless and helpless that I’ve become obsessed with preventing it before it happens again.

      I feel so stupid and pathetic spending my free minutes looking for more of his fake social media accounts or anxiously wondering if he’s still paying other women for nude photos and sex-filled conversation. All of my self-confidence has been depleted.

      For be longest time, I told myself if I were prettier, smarter, etc. none of this ever would’ve happened. He’s apologized and sworn he regrets hurting me, but I can no longer trust my own judgement that he, or anyone else, is being honest with me. Trying so hard to keep my family together. It’s so lonely, and I feel crazy and ashamed. Thank you all for your comments too. I hope you all find healing and peace.

      Reply
      • Donna

        I’m feeling the exact same at this very moment. I’ve been with my partner for 23 yrs – since I was 14. We have 3 kids together, have been thru 17 miscarriages together, lots of deaths in our families, but always thought we were stronger for it.

        I’ve always devoted my life to him and kids. I don’t have a social life. I never go out. I ended up with psoriasis and arthritis at age of 30 and had to give up work. He began traveling for work, and thought he was single when he traveled. And a family man when he was home.

        I found out 4 weeks ago he was having affair, but denied it even though I saw all the messages. I had to find truth out for myself, as he abused me for weeks emotionally and psychologically. He said all sorts of terrible things to gaslight me into thinking his affair was my fault (because I wasn’t attractive anymore, I didn’t love him enough, etc). Even after all the emotional and psychological abuse, I still tried to repair my relationship with my husband until I found out last night that he had another affair for years behind my back with best friend. I don’t know where to go from here.

        Reply
  3. Ron

    My situation was especially confusing as I am a recovered Co-Dependent. Hence a large part of my healing was aimed at finding all the faults in myself that led to the betrayal and rages I suffered. Yet, I did not attempt to control my partner, I took responsibility for my own state of mind and stayed on "my side of the fence". I did not threaten, feigned helplessness or blackmailed.

    Only after coming across articles such as yours, and then finding a therapist experienced with Narcissistic Abuse Victims, could I exonerate myself from being caught by a very sly and believable con-man and could I place the "blame" where it belonged. This created a quantum leap in my healing as I am already over-responsible for the consequences of my choices and I definitely did not seek any of what suddenly transpired a year after our marriage. I left 6 weeks after the first shock and went no-contact.

    I continue to work on myself, but in hindsight I can see that boxing me as a co-dependent dancing with a narcissist was not helpful, as this is definitely not always the case.

    Reply
  4. Jeffery Calder

    Wish you had such a program for MEN who have been betrayed and DEVASTATED (myself) by their trusted loving wife who is a narcissistic cheater who never truly stopped loving the ex-BF from 12 years ago.

    Their trauma has truly impacted my focus and world and I could really use some support.

    I have a therapist and friends support but my heart still holds out for her yet she checked out 6 years ago and yet she stayed and had her cake for all these many years which has just torn me apart. Like I was gaslighted, cheated on, lied, deceived, fooled, and treated like I was never really important or of any worth.

    I have lost my identity and truly worth and dignity.

    I’ve returned to work and still wish for my wife to return to me yet I know she fully won’t and it hurts soooo deep.

    Have tried going on dates and the 3 people I have met all say that I am not ready to date anyone. that I focus energy and conversations about her yet how can I date someone and be honest with them if I am not separated or divorced. Yet our D-Day was just Jan 13th.

    Anyway, I’d welcome speaking with anyone if there is by chance such support eligible for men as it isn’t just women who get betrayed and suffer such trauma as I find myself struggling with.

    Reply
    • Anne Blythe

      Jeffery, I’m so sorry this happened to you. Although we have so much empathy for your situation, BTR is only for women victims of this type of emotional abuse and sexual coercion. Hopefully you’ll find the peace you’re searching for. We wish you the best.

      Reply
      • Carol

        I don’t know exactly what am feeling. One minute am ok another minute my emotions come and breaks me down completely. I realized that my husband has another family somewhere secretly. When I tried to find out, he denies that he is not married but only that he has a child. I don’t know how to move on….am stuck with sometimes sleepless nights, no hunger etc

        Reply
    • i2097i

      Hey Jeff – I am in the same boat as you. I find a ton of articles for women on this stuff but maybe 10% of the time it is for both men and women (rarely find something that is for men). Society doesn’t really understand or support men who go through stuff like this the same way we do for women. The content of these articles can be extremely helpful regardless of gender however. My advice is to ignore the target gender and try to see past it. The advice given for healing from an experience like this is your lifeline. Follow it as best you can and keep following it until your “sad new future” gathers positive energy and becomes “your ONLY and BEST future”. One of the most helpful things that I have found is “As a Man Thinketh” by James Allen. Reading this short pamphlet changed my life and my future for the better. The true treasure in it is the idea that you are the maker and breaker of your entire life. The circumstances in your life are a perfect reflection of what thoughts you have nurtured and the way that you are as a person. This is a really hard lesson to learn and internalize after something like a harsh betrayal. In my situation it took months to shift my focus from HER and HER actions and HER dysfunction. I think that is just part of the process. Yes she really messed up and probably will do this in the future but not to me. Let yourself go through that process but always remember that “her-centric” thinking is a potential trap that you could get stuck in for years if you let yourself. Start looking for ways to think about you and what you need to become the best version of yourself. People in our position, if we are genuine, will go out into the world and never cause this kind of pain for another human being. That is a beautiful place to be and, for me, it is the first step in learning how to love properly and to convey myself to the world in a functional way. Find every possible opportunity for growth during this time. They say buy low and sell high. The price is really low for you right now. Now is the time to pick what to buy and buy it. Whatever you choose to “buy” with your time/efforts will grow. This is true whether or not you choose to nurture resentment and anger or a new future where you work towards being your best self. Whoever did this to you has given you a golden opportunity, a blank slate. Use it wisely because that which you ponder and nurture in your thinking will become your future circumstances. I cannot stress the gravity of that statement enough.

      Reply
  5. Jennifer

    My husband had a emotional affair and we separated for 9 months. We have currently been back together for a year and I still have breakdowns and some things trigger me and it’s like the day I found out. I lose it!! He is supportive and cries with me and tells me how sorry he is however I will ask questions and it feels like I can’t breathe at times and I feel so broken and this comes out of nowhere. We can have a few good weeks or months and something triggers me and it’s like we are back to where we started. Healing is messy and sometimes I feel like I will never heal completely. I have no future plans. I give him 24 hours at a time. My brain won’t allow me to go any further than 24 hours in my marriage! So when I trigger out it’s a rough 24 hours.

    Reply
    • Anonymous

      I’m 21 months into this nightmare. 21 months of continued lies, he apparently stopped his acting out behaviors, only to substitute with others, and lie and hide them.

      My husband had been in prison for attempted rape and window peeping. I knew this, but he explained it was a by product of a divorce and substance use, and that he had treatment and it wasn’t an issue for him any longer.

      I knew though. I knew something wasn’t right. We would have sex literally for hours and he could never finish. His facebook account was full of scantily dressed women, playboy, and nearly nude models. His movie preferences were always extremely sexual, borderline porn. We couldn’t pass a female without him staring at her, front to back and top to bottom.

      Red flags and warning bells were going off, and I asked the question…do you watch porn? He was adamant that he did not. Never. He wouldn’t do that. He gave me a hug and reassured me all was well. If only I had known that porn was the least of my worries.

      I found out on D-day that yes, he looked at “images, just pictures though.” Lies. That he went to public bathrooms to masturbate or pulled over on the road to jerk off before coming home. A tiny snippet of truth, yet still lying.

      Things only got worse.

      He didn’t look at images. He watched porn. He didn’t just watch porn, he was looking at child sex abuse material.

      He wasn’t just going to public bathrooms, he would pull into busy shopping centers, park his work truck, and prey on women, teenagers, kids, while masturbating right there in his truck. Sometimes it would take a while for him to find the right “one” to finally get him off so his travel time was always off. Someday’s he’d get home faster than others, but he insisted it took the same amount of time, no reason for it not to. Lies.

      Then he started working inside people’s homes, and would rummage through their closets or dirty laundry to find their panties to fondle and smell. My husband was standing in strangers homes, smelling other women’s clothes. I have no doubt in my mind that he masturbated in their homes using their underwear.

      Then coming home to me as if nothing happened.

      He started window peeping again, on the night of my birthday.

      Then I found out he attempted to record my adolescent daughter undressing in her room shortly after he moved in, but i just learned this two months ago, but she found his phone before it recorded anything. He insists he never tried again, but I doubt that. I doubt he’s never smelled and fondled my daughters panties too. I’m sure I’ll never know the truth about that.

      All of this has come in staggered pieces. It would have to. Who could handle learning all this at once?

      I have no friends because I couldn’t stand knowing that every single one if them he imagined having sex with. Even my grown sons girlfriends he imagined having sex with. Every time I asked him to stop, he would stroll right across the line, knowing I wouldn’t take action.

      Except, there’s no more asking. He’s in residential treatment now, but he has “attractive” therapists that I have no doubt he’s fantasizing about, so I’m not really sure how that’s even helpful. Since learning this, I’ve removed myself from his treatment because I think it’s a crock of crap and that he’s taking every opportunity to ogle every female staff and imagine screwing every one of them.

      Run. Run as fast and as hard as you can. This isn’t a life anyone should have to live. The constant distrust, never knowing if I’m getting the truth, part of the truth, or something that doesn’t even resemble the truth. He lies about anything and everything.

      Do yourself a solid and separate yourself from an abusive husband. Before he destroys you.

      Reply
  6. Anonymous

    Betrayal by male partner

    Reply
  7. Anonymous

    My husband has old female friends from college that have treated me badly – and he has secretly kept in touch with them for years after promising that he would not have contact with them.
    He feels that it is his right to be “friends” with whomever he wants, regardless of what they have done to me, or how their presence in his life, the secret texting, phone calls when he is angry with me , gift exchanges for birthdays and Christmas, Christmas and New Years texts – what it does to our relationship.

    I do not know what to do, and our last therapist simply told him to lie to me about it, so I feel doubly betrayed.

    Reply

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