5 Detrimental Effects of Betrayal on The Brain

Have you ever thought that how dangerous betrayal can be? Can the betrayed partner experience serious problems? What are the effects of betrayal 1on the brain, and how severe are these effects on the brain?

But the first question is, what exactly is betrayal trauma, or is betrayal only associated with relationships?

What is betrayal trauma, you ask? Everyone has experienced betrayal at least once in their life. A person feels betrayed when his trust is broken or his expectations aren’t fulfilled. When a person is cheated, he can be severely affected. The pain caused due to such a situation is similar to physical pain and thus can be counted in the effects of betrayal on the brain. Sometimes a person is affected so deeply that he requires therapy to get over this betrayal trauma.

1. Types of Betrayal

Betrayal is not only associated with relationships!

Anyone can experience betrayal, even the child who is abused either mentally, physically, or emotionally by the caretaker or a guardian he blindly trusts on. Though partner betrayal is the one that strikes our mind when we think of betrayal, it isn’t true. There are other forms of betrayal 2too.

Therefore, before discussing the possible effects of betrayal on the brain, we should first understand the various categories of betrayal trauma.

1.1) Family Betrayal

Well, it is hard to believe, but many people have been betrayed by their own family members, and therefore it is toughest to overcome this type of betrayal trauma.3

Imagine how you would feel being cheated by your own family when family should be your biggest support system. It isn’t easy to imagine any such thing, but yes such things happen too. Examples of familial betrayal include a partner’s betrayal, emotional or physical abuse by the trustworthy person, childhood trauma developed sexual abuse by the partner, or a trustworthy such as one of the good friends. Childhood trauma is also associated with family betrayal.

1.2) Institutional Betrayal

This form of betrayal is experienced when a person is either mentally or physically betrayed by the people of the institution he/she works. Emotional betrayal by co-workers is also an example of betrayal at the institution.

2. Effects of Betrayal on The Brain

According to the betrayal trauma theory, when a person experiences betrayal, be it a partner’s betrayal or betrayal from a trustworthy, he starts developing a feeling of insecurity or danger. It is easy for the person who has betrayed to move on, but when it comes to the betrayed person, he goes through a lot of things that have a significant impact on his/her mental health. Betrayal leaves very deep scars on people.

Following are the few effects of betrayal on the brain that a person might face

2.1) Trust Issues

Trust, once broken, takes forever to repair. Whenever a person encounters betrayal trauma, it is hard to trust anyone again. Therefore he stops sharing his feelings with anyone due to the emotional dysregulation 4he has developed. It has been observed that a person who has experienced betrayal trauma is afraid to trust others and thinks thousand times before he trusts anyone again.

2.2) Development of Depression and Anxiety Disorders

According to the counselors, most people who come for treatment are those who have experienced betrayal trauma. Betrayal affects a person’s mental health, and he is at risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder.5 Betrayal trauma impacts a person negatively and can lead to the development of several other disorders, consciously or unconsciously, which can affect him in later life. He is at risk of developing anthropophobia 6(fear of people), and social anxiety disorders.

effects of betrayal
By Holger Langmaier // Pixabay // Copyright 2022

Also, read the following article on the 4 best vitamins for depression.

2.3) Person Prefers to Stay Alone

This is among the various effects of betrayal on the brain7. When a victim goes through a series of betrayals, whenever he comes close to some other person, his brain considers it as a kind of danger, and therefore it is hard for him to go close to anyone. As a result, the person loses interest in any kind of relationship and prefers to stay alone.

effects of betrayal
By Abbat // Pixabay // Copyright 2022

2.4) Loss of Self-Esteem

This is one of the effects of betrayal on the brain. Usually, when a person is betrayed, he is unable to accept and looks out for reasons for the betrayal. In such cases, the betrayed partner develops intrusive thoughts and starts doubting himself. He starts doubting himself and questions his ability. Through this, he tries to cover up his partner’s faults and attain peace.

2.5) Overthinking

This is the major effect of betrayal trauma on a person’s brain. The betrayed partner usually ends up thinking too much. He tries to figure out why he was betrayed. Overthinking further leads to other side effects, such as irregular sleep patterns, insomnia, loss of appetite, lack of concentration, and many more.

effects of betrayal
By Ekaterina Bolostova // Pexels // Copyright 2022

3. How to Overcome Betrayal Trauma

3.1) Why Is It Necessary?

When a person starts overthinking, he starts developing a negative approach toward things. There are chances he might try to harm himself when he is unable to control his feelings. Therefore, one must be aware of the coping mechanisms to prevent any mishap in the future. To live your life normally and to get over the traumatic events, one must try to heal himself from past incidences and start his life again with a positive approach.

Here are a few ways to overcome betrayal trauma that you might find helpful in your journey of overcoming betrayal

3.1.1) Expressing Your Feelings

Dealing with betrayal isn’t easy. There are a lot of things that a person feels during the same process. Feelings and emotions which are unexpressed have a lot of impact on us. When we try to hide our feelings, then they affect us directly or indirectly. It is really hard to trust someone once you are betrayed, so you don’t need to share your feelings with a person. Instead, maintain a journal and pen down your feelings in that journal. You will feel much better and light once your feelings are out of your mind.

3.1.2) Meeting a Counselor

Meeting a counselor isn’t associated only with mental health issues; sometimes, when a person feels emotionally vulnerable, he can meet a counselor. The counselors work on enhancing the betrayed partners’ coping skills and help them get over their insecurities and the feeling of shame and guilt that the person develops. The counselors help the betrayed partners to rebuild their self-compassion, focus on themselves, overcome stress and develop strategies to fasten the healing process.

effects of betrayal
By Karolina Grabowska// Pexels // Copyright 2022

3.1.3) Accept the Situation and Try to Move On

Sometimes people don’t want to accept that they are betrayed by their partner or trustworthy. This is referred to as betrayal blindness. This is a harmful condition as the person tries to return to the same person repeatedly despite being hurt and betrayed multiple times.

To avoid this situation, the victim must accept that he has been betrayed and cuts off all his ties with the person who has betrayed him. Once he accepts his situation, the healing process is easy. According to mental health professionals, betrayal has significant effects on the brain; therefore, there is no particular treatment to heal from betrayal trauma instantaneously.

It all depends on the coping mechanisms, a person’s willingness to overcome the traumatic events 8and to move on and start afresh.


In today’s fast-moving world, experiencing betrayal trauma is very common and a kind of emotional abuse.  One must respect their relationships but what has become more important is to become rich whether they have to backstab even the person who trusts him blindly.

This thinking of people has led to a society full of insensitive and selfish people. If you are amongst those who have been betrayed, don’t feel low, and stop doubting yourself. Good things take time; therefore, to properly heal from betrayal trauma, you need to be a little patient. You can restart your life again; all you need is a positive approach toward life9.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How Long Does Betrayal Usually Have an Impact?

The duration of the impacts of betrayal might vary depending on the victim and the degree of the betrayal. While some people may be able to recover quite quickly, others may experience long-term repercussions. Therapy, self-care routines, and social support from family and friends can all have an impact on the healing process.

2. Can Betrayal’s Negative Repercussions Be Resolved?

Yes, given time and effort, the repercussions of betrayal can be erased. It might require a combination of tactics, such as consulting a therapist, engaging in self-care, enlisting the aid of loved ones, and creating fresh coping techniques. It’s critical to be kind to yourself and accept your recovery.

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  2. Smith, Carly Parnitzke, and Jennifer J. Freyd. “Institutional betrayal.” American Psychologist 69.6 (2014): 575. ↩︎
  3. Freyd, Jennifer J., Bridget Klest, and Carolyn B. Allard. “Betrayal trauma: Relationship to physical health, psychological distress, and a written disclosure intervention.” Journal of trauma & dissociation 6.3 (2005): 83-104. ↩︎
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  5. Sekowski, Marcin, et al. “Risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder in severe COVID-19 survivors, their families and frontline healthcare workers: what should mental health specialists prepare for?.” Frontiers in Psychiatry 12 (2021): 562899. ↩︎
  6. Robbins, Paul, and Sarah A. Moore. “Ecological anxiety disorder: diagnosing the politics of the Anthropocene.” cultural geographies 20.1 (2013): 3-19. ↩︎
  7. Reimann, Martin, et al. “Insights into the experience of brand betrayal: From what people say and what the brain reveals.” Journal of the Association for Consumer Research 3.2 (2018): 240-254. ↩︎
  8. Harber, Kent D., James W. Pennebaker, and S. Christianson. “Overcoming traumatic memories.” The handbook of emotion and memory: Research and theory (1992): 359-387. ↩︎
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Yashika Mahajan

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