Understanding Betrayal Trauma and Its Overlap with PTSD Symptoms

Betrayal trauma (BT) is a psychological condition that occurs when someone we depend on for survival or are significantly close to, such as a partner, parent, or caregiver, causes us harm. This type of trauma can lead to symptoms that are often associated with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), highlighting the deep psychological impact of betrayal. Recognizing these signs is crucial, not just for mental health professionals but also for those experiencing them, helping to distinguish between feeling "crazy" and understanding these reactions as manifestations of PTSD. This article draws on insights from the Betrayal Trauma Index developed by Eric Schultz, alongside the therapeutic principles of the SABR program, to illuminate the path to healing and recovery.

PTSD Symptoms in the Light of Betrayal Trauma

PTSD is characterized by symptoms that can severely impact one’s daily functioning and quality of life. Individuals suffering from betrayal trauma may experience several overlapping symptoms with PTSD, including:

  • Intrusive Memories: Recurrent, unwanted distressing memories of the betrayal event.
  • Avoidance: Steering clear of reminders of the betrayal or unwillingness to discuss the event.
  • Negative Changes in Thinking and Mood: Feelings of hopelessness, memory problems, and emotional numbness.
  • Changes in Physical and Emotional Reactions: Being easily startled, feeling tense, trouble sleeping, and irritability.

These symptoms underscore the profound psychological distress caused by betrayal, mirroring the classic signs of PTSD. Mental health professionals, by utilizing frameworks like those proposed by Eric Schultz and integrating SABR program strategies, can offer effective interventions for individuals grappling with these challenges.

The Intersection of Betrayal Trauma and Mental Health

One of the most disorienting aspects of betrayal trauma is the sensation of losing one's grip on reality. Women, in particular, often report feeling as though they are going mad in the aftermath of betrayal. This response is a natural outcome of the profound disruption to their sense of safety and trust in their closest relationships. Recognizing these reactions as signs of PTSD rather than signs of losing sanity is a critical step in the healing process. Therapeutic intervention plays a pivotal role in this journey, offering strategies to manage symptoms and rebuild a sense of inner security.

Pathways to Healing: Betrayal Trauma and Therapeutic Intervention

Recovery from betrayal trauma, while challenging, is achievable with the right support and therapeutic strategies. The Betrayal Trauma Index, developed by Eric Schultz, serves as a valuable tool for therapists and counselors to identify and address the specific symptoms of PTSD resulting from betrayal. By employing evidence-based practices and integrating insights from the SABR program, mental health professionals can offer a roadmap to recovery, emphasizing the importance of understanding, compassion, and patient guidance through the healing process.

Embracing Hope and Recovery

Navigating the complex landscape of betrayal trauma and its associated PTSD symptoms can be daunting. However, it is essential to remember that healing is possible. With the support of dedicated therapists and counselors, individuals can overcome the challenges posed by betrayal and reclaim their sense of self and trust in relationships. Let this knowledge serve as a beacon of hope for those embarking on their journey to recovery.

Family Strategies Counseling Center has actively serviced clients since 2000 in treatment for pornography addiction or sexually compulsive behavior. Our SABR program for adults, Tribe for college, and Band of Brothers for teens can help you! Give us a call (800) 614-8142 or visit our website for more information:


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