Understanding Betrayal Trauma: Symptoms and Strategies for Healing

Selection Of Resources For Partners And Spouses Living With Betrayal Trauma
Betrayal Trauma- why does it hurt so bad? illustration WH


Naked Truth is passionate about supporting partners and spouses as well as porn users. That’s why we offer support groups, one to one counselling sessions and a library of watch-on-demand webinars to help partners understand the impact and symptoms of betrayal and find hope and help.

One “must watch” webinar is called “Why Does It Hurt So Bad” by Naked Truth’s director of recovery, Cat Etherington. This is vital viewing for anyone asking: “what can betrayal do to a person?”,” does betrayal trauma ever go away?” or ” what are the symptoms of betrayal trauma?”

In the webinar, Cat takes a deep dive into:

  • Understanding the traumatic impact of sexual betrayal 
  • Exploring the symptoms of betrayal trauma, such as anxiety and hypervigilance
  • Sharing real-life stories of individuals who have experienced betrayal trauma
  • Providing strategies for healing and recovery when overcoming betrayal trauma .

This post will give you a basic overview of what you will discover in the webinar, but if this is something that has impacted your life, make sure you take the time to watch it in full. Want to jump straight into watching the webinar? Click here.

NB: Did you know WholeHearted Subscribers can get up to 100% discount on all webinars.

What is Betrayal Trauma?

Betrayal trauma is a type of trauma that occurs when someone or an institution on which a person depends for survival significantly violates that person’s trust or well-being. It is often associated with experiences of infidelity, sexual addiction, or other forms of betrayal in a close relationship. Betrayal trauma can have a profound impact on an individual’s emotional and psychological well-being and can lead to symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues.

As Cat says,

“This type of trauma that can be incredibly isolating and difficult to talk about…But it’s important to know that you’re not alone, and that there are strategies that can help you heal and recover.”

It is also important to begin to deepen our understanding of the effects of betrayal trauma and the ways betrayal trauma alters the mind and body, identify some of the signs of betrayal trauma.

Some Common Symptoms of Betrayal Trauma

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Brain fog
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Flashbacks or intrusive thoughts
  • Negative self-talk or self-blame

One woman shared her experience of discovering her partner’s infidelity and the devastating impact it had on her mental health. “I felt like my whole world had been turned upside down,” she said. “I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep, and I felt like I couldn’t trust anyone ever again.”

Perhaps this sounds familiar—a lived experience for you or someone you know. Perhaps you were also surprised to read about us linking this kind of trauma with PTSD.

Can Betrayal Trauma Lead to PTSD?

Research has shown that betrayal trauma can lead to the development of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In the “Why Does It Hurt So Bad” webinar, Cat unpacks research by Dr. Barbara Stefans, who found that many partners of sex addicts can experience symptoms of PTSD laid out in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Trauma (DSM).

The DSM diagnosis of PTSD suggests that an individual would have symptoms across four symptom clusters, which are:

  1. Intrusion
  2. Avoidance
  3. Negative alterations in cognition and mood
  4. Alterations in arousal and reactivity.

Some of the specific symptoms that may be experienced in each of these clusters include:

  • Intrusion: recurrent, involuntary, and intrusive distressing memories of the traumatic event, nightmares related to the traumatic event, and flashbacks.
  • Avoidance: avoidance of trauma-related stimuli, avoidance of trauma-related thoughts or feelings, and efforts to avoid trauma-related conversations or activities.
  • Negative alterations in cognition and mood: persistent negative beliefs or expectations about oneself, others, or the world, persistent negative emotional state, diminished interest or participation in significant activities, feelings of detachment or estrangement from others, and persistent inability to experience positive emotions.
  • Alterations in arousal and reactivity: irritable behavior and angry outbursts, reckless or self-destructive behavior, hypervigilance, exaggerated startle response, problems with concentration, and sleep disturbance.

It is important to note that not everyone who experiences trauma will develop PTSD, and that the severity and duration of symptoms can vary widely between individuals.

Steps and Strategies that can help

Despite the challenges of healing from betrayal trauma, there are strategies that can help. Cat unpacks these in-depth, but here are a few initial ideas. These may feel obvious or just ‘common sense,’ but often when we are hurting, they are more challenging to put in place.

  • Carve out time to focus on your mind and body: Practicing mindfulness meditation or deep breathing exercises can help calm the mind and body, while engaging in physical activity can release tension and boost mood.
  • Be intentional about processing your feelings: Connecting with supportive friends or family members can provide a listening ear and emotional support, and writing in a journal can help process emotions and gain clarity on thoughts and feelings.
  • Invest in yourself and your healing: Seeking professional help from a therapist or counselor who specializes in betrayal trauma healing and recovery can also be an important step. This may cost you time and money but can be transformative in recovering from betrayal trauma.
Betrayal Trauma- Why Does It Hurt So Bad? Illustration

You can buy lifetime access to the webinar for £25. This is an essential introduction to the traumatic impact of sexual betrayal and the work that Naked Truth does to support hundreds of partners.

To find out about our ongoing support programs for partners and spouses, including professional coaching groups, one-to-one support, click here. Remember WholeHearted subscribers get up to 100% discount on all webinars.

New to All This Recovery Language?

HERE IS A Glossary of some of the main terms used in thIS POST and CAT’s webinar.

  • Betrayal trauma: A type of trauma that occurs when someone experiences a betrayal by a close partner or loved one, such as infidelity or sexual addiction.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): A mental health condition that can develop after someone experiences or witnesses a traumatic event, characterized by symptoms such as flashbacks, hypervigilance, and avoidance of triggers.
  • Hypervigilance: A state of increased alertness and sensitivity to potential threats or danger, often seen in individuals who have experienced trauma.
  • Flashbacks: Vivid and intrusive memories or images of a traumatic event that can feel as if the person is reliving the experience.
  • Triggers: People, places, or things that can remind someone of a traumatic event and cause distress or anxiety.
  • Mindfulness meditation: A type of meditation that involves focusing on the present moment and accepting one’s thoughts and feelings without judgment.
  • Grounding techniques: Strategies used to help someone stay present and connected to the present moment, often used to manage symptoms of anxiety or dissociation.
  • Gaslighting: A form of emotional abuse in which someone manipulates another person into doubting their own perceptions or memories.
  • Dissociation: A disconnection from one’s thoughts, feelings, or surroundings, often seen in individuals who have experienced trauma.
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