top of page

Betrayal Trauma

When you are betrayed by the person who is supposed to love, respect and support you the most, your world shatters. It may feel as though the whole life of your relationship has been a lie.

Sexual infidelity in a relationship often triggers a cascade of difficult and painful emotions in those who have been betrayed. After discovery, those who have been betrayed often can’t sleep or eat. They can’t stop thinking about what their partner did, and they begin avoiding people and places that they used to enjoy. Their trust in others goes down and they question themselves, often believing that there is something wrong with them. In many cases, they struggle with depression and anxiety. Finally, they experience anger in ways that surprise even themselves. 


Betrayal trauma is a condition that literally parallels PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). PTSD can occur anytime the mind attempts to process a traumatic event that surpasses the customary or natural human experience. When trust and safety are broken, the betrayed spouse naturally calls into question the bond they have with their partner, and the reaction is manifested in characteristics aligned with PTSD; namely depression, anxiety, flashbacks, recurrent nightmares, and avoidance of reminders of the event.


Betrayal Trauma creates feelings of hopelessness, danger, anxiety and impacts our ability to express ourselves, making it difficult to regulate our emotions. As a result, our problem solving is impaired, and we begin to shut down and lose our ability to connect to others, creating further feelings of loneliness and fear.


Betrayal Trauma creates the fight, flight or freeze response. The trauma is stored in the body, down to the cellular level. If the trauma is not released or resolved, the way we think, learn, remember and feel is altered. Symptoms of trauma being stored in the body are muscle tension, tightness, IBS, anxiousness, depression, TMJ, fibromyalgia, headaches, restlessness, or exhaustion.

The Grief Stages of Betrayal

Therapies Commonly Used for Healing from Betrayal Trauma

  • Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing [EMDR]

  • Internal Family System [IFS]

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy [CBT]

  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy [DBT]

  • Experiential Therapies for Trauma Healing

  • Mindfulness

  • Marital/Couples Thearpy

  • Partners Recovery Group



  • Mending a Shattered Heart: A guide for Partners of Sex Addicts, by: Stefanie Carnes

  • Facing Heartbreak: Steps to Recovery for Partners of Sex Addicts, by: Stefanie Carnes and Mari A. Lee

  • Intimate Treason: Healing the Trauma for Partners of Sex Addicts, by: Claudia Black

  • Your Sexually Addicted Spouse, by: Barbara Steffens and Marsha Means

  • Love You, Hate the Porn: Healing a Relationship by Virtual Infidelity, by: Mark Chamberlin

  • Treating Trauma from Sexual Betrayal: The Essential Tools for Healing, by: Kevin Skinner

bottom of page