- Trust is a subjective way of measuring how much we’re able to rely on and believe in the honesty and integrity of others. But when our ability to trust others is compromised, we may develop trust issues.
- Some of the signs of trust issues include avoiding commitment in romantic relationships, avoiding close friendships or social connections, and difficulty forgiving small or misinterpreted slights, among others.
- Trust issues may be caused by adverse childhood experiences, infidelity in adult relationships, gaslighting, or narcissistic abuse from loved ones.
- Overcoming trust issues is best done with the assistance of a behavioral therapist or couples counselor, but individuals can take personal steps to communicate their uncertainty, be mindful of their past trauma, and be willing to take the risk to trust again.
Trust issues are characterized by fear of betrayal, abandonment, or manipulation. And this fear is often triggered as a result of betrayal (such as infidelity), abandonment (think: leaving a child or foregoing a relationship with them), or manipulation (for example, dishonesty or gaslighting).
If you’re reading this, it’s possible that someone you trusted — a partner, a parent, or even a doctor — mistreated you or let you down. And as a result, you struggle to trust others. Or, in other words, you have trust issues.
Many people can pinpoint the event or relationship in question, but others struggle. And most (if not all) struggle to overcome their trust issues. However, it isn’t impossible. If you’re struggling with trust issues, you can work to trust again by following a few steps. But first, let’s start from the beginning: What exactly is trust?
What Is Trust?
Trust is the belief in the reliability and truth of another person. It’s how we subjectively measure the integrity and honesty of others — those who can be counted on to do what is right. However, sometimes we aren’t certain who to trust, how much to trust, and when not to trust.
What Are Trust Issues and What Are the Signs of Trust Issues?
To recap what we said earlier: When someone has trust issues, they have an extremely difficult time trusting others — and often because someone has betrayed their trust in the past. Here are additional signs and symptoms of trust issues:
- They assume betrayal. Those with trust issues assume someone has betrayed their trust even if they have no rightful reasoning.
- They anticipate betrayal. People with trust issues often assume someone will betray them soon enough, despite how honest they have been in the past.
- They’re overly protective. Those with trust issues are usually very protective of their loved ones, out of fear that they will become disloyal.
- They distance themselves from others. People with trust issues decide it’s best to limit their relationships to avoid betrayal or abandonment.
- They avoid commitment. No matter how much they care for someone, people with trust issues refuse to commit.
- They refuse to forgive (even the smallest mistakes). Those with trust issues are quick to make a big deal out of nothing — it’s the end of the world if someone makes the slightest mistake.
- They’re excessively wary of people. People with trust issues are extremely cautious and suspicious of everyone they meet.
- They feel lonely or depressed. Those with trust issues isolate themselves from others and feel lonely or depressed as a result.
What Causes Trust Issues?
Earlier, we said that trust issues are often caused by an act of betrayal, abandonment, or manipulation. But what are the most common examples of these wrongdoings that lead to trust issues?
- Infidelity: Again, infidelity is an example of betrayal that can trigger trust issues. Many people view this as the ultimate form of betrayal. While it’s possible to repair a relationship after infidelity, often the relationship ends and the victim of the infidelity develops trust issues, which impact future relationships.
- Manipulation or mistreatment: If a past partner or loved one manipulated or mistreated you, you’re also at an increased risk for trust issues. Examples include dishonesty, gaslighting, passive-aggressive behavior, and keeping you isolated from others.
- Childhood trauma: Adverse experiences in childhood are also likely to cause trust issues. Examples include abuse or abandonment (by one or more caregivers).
- Other forms of trauma: Trauma later in life can also lead to trust issues. For example, you might struggle to trust healthcare professionals because of a firsthand or secondhand traumatic experience with a previous doctor. Think: Getting misdiagnosed with a serious illness.
- Parental divorce or conflicts: If you have divorced parents, you may also be more likely to develop trust issues, especially in your romantic relationships. On the other hand, if your parents argue(d) a lot and you’ve witnessed an up and down relationship, you might’ve developed trust issues as a result.
Once someone experiences a betrayal, their trust issues may impact their ability to avoid internalizing that experience—they may blame themselves, and feel less confident in the future. This can impact their ability to trust because they may feel “undeserving”, and instead of fostering a healthy connection, a person with trust issues may be constantly on guard, waiting for the other shoe to drop, so to speak.
The Importance of Trust in Romantic Relationships
In most cases, our romantic relationships suffer the most from our trust issues — whether they’ve resulted from betrayal in a former romantic relationship or not. Why? Intimate relationships are based on honesty and openness. The trust that partners have in each other is the glue that binds the relationship, providing a positive emotional connection that’s rooted in affection, love, and loyalty.
A common cause of trust issues is infidelity. If a partner in a relationship has an affair, the deception and betrayal of trust can be more damaging than the actual affair. The lying erodes the belief in the other person, and the reality is that the partner has another aspect of their life that they’ve kept secret. A person who didn’t develop trust as a child will feel especially vulnerable to infidelity and deception by somebody they loved.
Is Having Trust Issues a Mental Illness?
Having trust issues as a singular issue isn’t a mental illness. However, it can be indicative of an actual mental health condition, particularly:
- Anxiety disorders, especially PTSD
- Borderline personality disorder (BPD)
- Paranoid personality disorder (PPD)
- Bipolar disorder I or II
These conditions may cause trust issues in relationships because of the way certain cognitive distortions, irrational beliefs, or mood swings may unrealistically change someone’s perception of reality and interpersonal relationships. What can be particularly damaging, though, is when a person with a mental health condition that causes trust issues is hurt by a loved one’s deception. This can affirm their negative bias and make it even harder to emotionally and socially connect with other people, even if they desire to do so.
What Is a Person Called When They Have Trust Issues?
Pistanthrophobia is the fear of trusting people or forming significant relationships with them. While it’s not a recognized mental health condition in the DSM-5, pistanthrophobia, like other phobias, causes significant mental and emotional distress and usually detracts from the sufferer’s quality of life in a significant way.
Are Trust Issues a Red Flag?
Trust issues can be a sign that someone has experienced a significant amount of trauma — but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t working through their past experiences. Trust issues in a relationship can be hard for both partners to overcome, but with adequate support and communication channels, people with trust issues can have healthy, successful connections with partners — that aren’t ruled by their past.
What Do You Do If You Have Trust Issues In a Relationship?
Dialectal behavior therapy (DBT) is an effective treatment method for people who are noticing continued trust issues in relationships. So for those wondering how to fix trust issues, finding a mental health professional that they can connect with and receive DBT from is the first place to begin. Partners can also benefit from couples or marriage counseling, where they’ll learn new ways to empathize, communicate, and resolve differences and conflicts.
But even before beginning counseling or another form of mental health treatment, there are smaller, personal ways in which someone with trust issues in a relationship can begin to find healing.
How to Get Over or Overcome Trust Issues: 8 Tips
Knowing how to fix trust issues isn’t always simple. If you have trust issues and it’s hindering your ability to build happy, healthy relationships or it’s hindering your life in another way, then it’s time to make a change. Follow these steps if you’re wondering how to fix trust issues and take your relationships to the next level.
1) Accept the risk that comes with learning to trust again.
None of us are perfect — we let people down. Therefore, you must accept the risk that comes with trusting; the reality is that you’re going to be let down at some point or another. But that doesn’t mean your relationship with that person is or should be over. It’s about setting and communicating the right expectations as well as boundaries.
2) Learn how trust works.
Some people trust until they have a reason not to — others don’t trust people until that trust is earned. It’s up to you if and when you choose to trust someone. It’s perfectly okay to wait for someone to earn your trust before deciding you can rely on them. Especially if you’re recovering from past betrayal.
3) Take emotional risks.
At some point, you’ve got to just jump in head-first. Allow yourself to be vulnerable and choose to trust (whether it’s at the beginning of a relationship or after they’ve earned your trust).
4) Get to the root of your trust issues.
Remember, trust issues often stem from a past betrayal. If you aren’t sure why you have trust issues, do some soul-searching. Think about any past experiences that may have caused your trust issues. It’s crucial that you understand why you’re scared and what you’re scared of, so you can move on. If you need help doing this, consider working with a counselor.
5) Communicate honestly and often.
Poor communication is one of the main reasons that marriages and other relationships deteriorate. Do your part, and continue to be honest with the people in your life. Also, talk to them about your hesitancy to trust.
6) Be mindful of your relationships.
Each one of your interactions works to build trust. Start tuning into these interactions and consider why someone (whether it’s your new doctor, partner, or co-worker) might deserve your trust.
7) Consider those you do trust and express your appreciation.
Friends and family members who have always been there are easy to take for granted unless you make a conscious effort to show them your appreciation. When you have a problem, those are the people you can trust to be a support network. In addition, you can learn a lot about who, what, why, and how you trust from these relationships.
8) Try and trust again.
If you fail and resort back to distrusting tendencies, try again. Trust again. Keep putting yourself out there.