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In my previous post I told you that I have betrayal trauma induced post traumatic stress (PTSD), adrenal fatigue, insomnia, depression, and anxiety.
Some of you may have read that and said “huh? What in the world is betrayal trauma!?” I know that’s what I thought the first time I heard the term.
Understanding is the first step to healing, so this post is all about understanding betrayal trauma and its affects on the individual and the relationship.
Betrayal Trauma Definition
The term betrayal trauma was first introduced by Jennifer Freyd in 1991 at a presentation at Langley Porter Psychiatric Institute. According to Freyd “Betrayal trauma occurs when the people or institutions on which a person depends for survival significantly violate that person’ s trust or well-being: Childhood physical, emotional, or sexual abuse perpetrated by a caregiver are examples of betrayal trauma.” (link)
As a wife of a sex addict I experienced trauma when I discovered the ways in which my husband was acting out. When this trauma hit it was a HUGE betrayal because it felt like there was more harm that could come from confronting and standing up to it than there was in putting my head down, walking on eggshells, and trying to maintain the peace.
For me personally betrayal trauma has also been sustained by my husband’s anger management problems in our early years as well. Double whammy!
The Effects of Betrayal Trauma
Freyd further tells us that when trauma involves a betrayal we are less likely to be aware of what is occurring or recall the details. Why? Because when we confront the perpetrator it threatens an attachment that we feel is necessary to our survival. Those awesome survival instincts can kick in and literally erase our memory or change it to make the betrayal seem like less of a threat.
I felt like I was all these monkeys combined into one! I refused to hear or see the abuse in my marriage and definitely terrified to say anything about the things I did notice.
When our conscious mind is protecting us, and our subconscious mind is screaming that everything is not ok it can lead to some pretty severe problems.
In a recent study it was shown that ~70% of wives of sex addicts could be diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Yep, the same thing that military folk come home with is what traumatized wives deal with. Lucky me, I got both!
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I will say, however, that my trauma from deployment was VERY minimal to the extent that I didn’t even really realize that it existed for a long time. My betrayal trauma due to addiction has been much more in my face and in control of my life. PTSD comes with a lot of really fun symptoms including:
- Spontaneous or cued recurrent, involuntary, and intrusive distressing memories of the traumatic events
- Recurrent distressing dreams in which the content or affect (i.e. feeling) of the dream is related to the events
- Flashbacks or other dissociative reactions in which the individual feels or acts as if the traumatic events are recurring
- Intense or prolonged psychological distress at exposure to internal or external cues that symbolize or resemble an aspect of the traumatic events
- Physiological reactions to reminders of the traumatic events
- Persistent avoidance of distressing memories, thoughts, or feelings about or closely associated with the traumatic events or of external reminders
- Inability to remember an important aspect of the traumatic events (not due to head injury, alcohol, or drugs)
- Persistent and exaggerated negative beliefs or expectations about oneself, others, or the world (e.g., “I am bad,” “No one can be trusted,” “The world is completely dangerous”).
- Persistent, distorted blame of self or others about the cause or consequences of the traumatic events
- Persistent fear, horror, anger, guilt, or shame
- Markedly diminished interest or participation in significant activities
- Feelings of detachment or estrangement from others
- Persistent inability to experience positive emotions
- Irritable or aggressive behavior
- Reckless or self-destructive behavior
- Exaggerated startle response
- Problems with concentration
- Difficulty falling or staying asleep or restless sleep
Yeah, that’s a lot. All of these symptoms can also take their toll physically. Adrenal fatigue, thyroid problems, joint and/or muscle pain, headaches, weight gain, and even more often manifest themselves when a person is suffering from trauma.
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So now that you understand Betrayal Trauma what can you do about it? It’s time to focus on your own healing. Check out my blog post 4 Simple Steps for Betrayal Trauma Recovery to get started. You can also check out the Ultimate Betrayal Trauma Resource Guide for more resources.
If you need help with processing your trauma sign up for my 5 day journaling challenge which will teach you a bit about using Journaling to heal and get you on the list to be the first to hear about my Healing Heartwork course that will be launching in January of 2020!