Do you expect people to disappoint you? Do you anticipate betrayal, even when someone has never disappointed you or let you down before? Do you avoid commitment?
If you find it difficult to trust people or believe that your friends or romantic partners will leave or betray you? Well, you may be dealing with trust issues. If so, know that you’re not alone. Many people have problems with trusting others. It’s common but nonetheless exhausting and isolating.
Trust is the foundation for any good relationship, whether that’s with a romantic partner, a family member, a friend, or a coworker.
Without trust, relationships can become a source of anxiety, fear, and paranoia. People who stay in a relationship with a person they don’t trust are likely to undergo a lot of unnecessary stress and worry.
In this article, we’ll explore the nature of trust issues. If you’re struggling with trust issues today, rest assured you’re already on the right path to overcoming them just by reading this article. Psychoeducation is the foundation for healing from our personal difficulties.
What are trust issues?
Some people find it hard to trust anyone at all. In contrast, others might experience mild mistrust of those close to them every once in a while. Either way, trust issues are a lot to deal with.
They can come in the form of intrusive thoughts and visions of betrayal, paranoia, and projection of our deepest fears onto those we love.
They might manifest as avoidant behaviors, where we neglect or break up with someone for no reason other than we fear that they’ll do the same to us, so we do it first to protect ourselves.
In extreme cases, trust issues can deteriorate our psychological well-being and make us feel anxious, stressed, depressed, or deeply lonely.
Trust issues can reduce your quality of life, but they don’t have to. If you’re struggling with trust issues or are curious about what trust issues are because you believe a friend or partner is struggling, this article is for you.
Below, we’ll take an in-depth look at what trust issues are, what causes them, how to recognize them, and how you can overcome them so that you can start to have better, stronger, more trusting, and vulnerable relationships with those you love.
Common signs of trust issues
If you believe that you or someone you know finds it difficult to trust, believe, and be vulnerable with other people, consider the following telling signs of trust issues.
Once you recognize the signs, you can begin the practical steps we’ve outlined later in this article to help you overcome them. Common signs of trust issues include:
1. A fear of commitment
If you have trust issues, you might go to great lengths to avoid commitment. You might love spending time with your boyfriend or girlfriend, but the idea of commitment feels scary because it means making yourself vulnerable.
It means letting your guard down and committing to connect emotionally with another person for a long period of time. It can be scary because you can’t seem to ignore the possibility that they could betray you or that you will get heavily emotionally attached to the person, but their feelings will fade, despite what they tell you now.
A fear of commitment is a telling sign that a person finds it difficult to trust. It’s not unreasonable to be a little cautious or suspicious of a long-term commitment, especially if you already have doubts about the relationship or you believe the other person isn’t trustworthy.
Trust issues or not, you should always make sure you’re in touch with your most authentic feelings about someone before committing to being with them for the long term.
Having a long-term partner is an excellent idea and may serve to reduce loneliness and feelings of isolation in the future. Still, if you end up unhappy and wishing you had the foresight when you first committed, you might end up feeling quite lonely anyway.
2. Assuming that people have an agenda
It can be challenging for people with trust issues to take compliments, kind gestures, and even affection from others. Part of the reluctance, or inability, to trust is that you may believe others are out to hurt you.
You might feel paranoid that even though they are friendly and kind to you on the surface, they have some ulterior motive and will use you for their personal gain. Assuming that others are out to get you is exhausting. It can take a toll on the relationship, as well as your overall health.
3. Isolation and withdrawal from others
If you fear commitment and assume that others have ulterior motives, you might pull away from the people around you. People with trust issues tend to put up defensive walls, including physical and emotional distance, at even the slightest hint of suspicion or betrayal, even if that’s just a thought.
Distancing yourself from others serves a survival function. You don’t want to be betrayed, so you don’t give others the chance to betray you. It works for that purpose but ultimately creates feelings of loneliness and isolation and makes it hard to form bonds with others.
Loneliness and isolation can harm your mental and physical health. On the other hand, connections and close bonds with others can have the opposite effect.
4. Trusting people too quickly (or without enough evidence)
People with trust issues might be reluctant to trust someone, or they might give away all of their trust too soon. Sometimes, trust issues make us place too much trust too soon in someone who we, on a deep level, will eventually betray our trust. It might seem far-fetched, but trust issues can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
We understand that our trust issues might be irrational, but we don’t want to believe that we’re irrational or that we’re ‘going crazy.’ Hence, we subconsciously create situations in which we are likely to be betrayed. The experience of being betrayed will hurt, but it also confirms our suspicions and makes us feel ‘right,’ and therefore less ‘crazy.’
5. Mistakes are perceived as a betrayal
Nobody is perfect. All of us make mistakes from time to time, even when it comes to those we love. We might show up late to dinner, forget an important day of the year, or get a bit too angry at someone who doesn’t deserve it.
Mistakes are part of being human, and they can be forgiven and forgotten as long as we are aware of when we have done wrong and make amends.
If you have trust issues, you might be reluctant to forgive someone for their mistakes. If someone is late to dinner, you might believe that they were doing something behind your back. If someone gets overly angry with you in a moment of heated emotion, you might believe that they hate you.
Since people with trust issues already believe that they will be betrayed or let down, they might see genuine mistakes as breaches of trust. This can get in the way of having a healthy relationship because mistakes are part of being human, and good relationships allow space for partners to make mistakes from time to time.
6. Feeling lonely or isolated
Your inability to trust people may make you feel lonely within yourself or isolated from the world around you. If you notice that you lack close company because you don’t want to let anyone get too close to you, you may very well be struggling with trust issues.
What can cause trust issues?
There’s a difference between being suspicious or cautious around new relationships and having trust issues. If you were hurt or betrayed in past relationships, then it’s normal to be a bit protective of your heart this time around.
You might be reluctant to dive into a new relationship as quickly or wholeheartedly as before because you don’t want to experience the emotional pain of giving your heart away too early.
Are trust issues a mental health disorder?
Having trust issues does not mean that you have a mental health disorder. However, some psychological conditions may make it difficult to trust others, such as anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, or borderline personality disorder.
Trust issues may stem from relational trauma, which is a psychological health concern. Relational trauma, also referred to as attachment trauma, impacts our worldview and our ability to trust others in all types of relationships.
The relationship between attachment and trust issues
If you have trust issues, you might find it hard to trust someone despite previous betrayal or even when they have proven time and time again to be trustworthy. Your lack of trust may stem from deep-rooted beliefs about yourself and the nature of the world around you, which may have developed following adverse experiences in childhood.
Our early childhood years are some of the formative years of life. How we learn to relate to ourselves and others in these vulnerable years shapes how to relate to ourselves and others in our adult lives.
Our earliest relationship, the relationship that informs all of our adult relationships, is the one we have with our primary caregiver, usually our mother. We turned to our caregivers to soothe us, love us, and give us care and affection from the day we were born. We relied on them to ease our distress and make us feel safe and secure.
If our caregivers were able to respond to our needs effectively – comforting and supporting us during moments of distress and being attuned consistent with their level of care – we learned that we were cared for and that we could trust the world to meet our needs.
This type of relationship with the caregiver creates what is known as secure attachment. Secure attachment is the basis for being able to trust and be vulnerable with others as we get older.
However, if our caregivers were unable to meet our needs effectively – we weren’t comforted and supported with consistent care, but instead neglected or had our needs met sometimes but not others – we likely learned to distrust the world around us.
We learned that we couldn’t guarantee that our needs would be met. This creates what is known as an insecure attachment style. Insecure attachment is the basis for fear and mistrust in our adult relationships.
Understanding insecure attachment
There are two categories of insecure attachment: anxious and avoidant. Both can manifest as an inability to trust in our adult relationships but in different ways.
Those who are anxiously attached might obsess or cling to their significant other because they fear that they will leave them and their departure will overwhelm the person’s ability to cope.
As such, the anxiously attached person will try to keep their significant other as close as possible and may even organize their life around that of their partner to avoid distance and separation.
On the other hand, people who are avoidantly attached might resist getting too close to their partner for the same reason. They fear that the other person will eventually leave or betray them and that they wouldn’t be able to cope if that happened, so they avoid closeness altogether. Such a person might even intentionally sabotage their relationships to prevent being hurt in the future.
If you develop an insecure attachment style, you’re likely to experience a compromised sense of self, low self-esteem, and difficulty trusting others. You may feel that you will never be able to rely on others for emotional security and that, as a result, you’ll struggle to find true happiness.
How to overcome trust issues in your relationship
Recognizing that you have trust issues is the first step toward overcoming them. Trust issues stem from deeply held beliefs about the nature of ourselves, others, and the world around us. As such, overcoming them requires conscious effort and a willingness to explore our deepest fears, feelings, and beliefs.
Self-exploration can be daunting but is an essential part of the healing process. Later, we’ll offer some self-help tips to help you let go of trust issues and cultivate healthy, positive relationships, but first, let’s take a look at one of the safest and most effective ways to deal with your trust issues – therapy.
Therapy for trust issues
An attuned and compassionate therapist can help you address the root causes of your trust issues. They can help you process the pain of a past relationship in which a boyfriend or girlfriend hurt or betrayed you by encouraging you to explore and release your related feelings and emotions.
A trained therapist can also help you heal the wounds of your childhood. In individual psychotherapy, you can work one-on-one with a therapist to uncover your negative core beliefs – beliefs you learned before you had the cognitive ability to think objectively about what you were being taught.
You may also benefit from seeing a couples therapist. You and your partner can choose to see a therapist if you’re both struggling to trust each other but still want the relationship to work. Alternatively, a supportive partner without trust issues may also be willing to enter therapy sessions to help you process and deal with your mistrust.
Ultimately, therapy can help you overcome your past hurt and pain and help you develop the tools and personal skills necessary to trust people again.
Self-help for trust issues
Stop monitoring your partner
If you struggle with trust issues, you might be tempted to stalk your partner’s social media, snoop through their phone, or eavesdrop on their phone calls. This is an invasion of privacy, and you’ll likely feel guilty afterwards. Further, if you already suspect that they’re unfaithful, you’re likely to interpret what you find with a biased perspective.
Communicate with your partner about what you’re going through. It’s not their responsibility to constantly reassure you or fix your issues for you, but they may be willing to listen with a compassionate ear and even offer some advice.
Still, remember that they are human, so they’re sensitive too. You can lean on them if you need to vent, but if you need to speak about heavy experiences or need some genuine help, it may be better to turn to a therapist.
Nobody is perfect. All of us make mistakes from time to time, and that includes you too. Just because someone has made a mistake, that doesn’t mean you need to fall into the trap of thinking that the world is out to get you. Learn to accept that sometimes your trust will be broken. The more you can accept it, the sooner you will discover that broken trust doesn’t have to ruin your life.