What is Betrayal Trauma?

In my previous post I told you that I have betrayal trauma induced post traumatic stress (PTSD), adrenal fatigue, insomnia, depression, and anxiety. Some of you may have read that and said “huh? What in the world is betrayal trauma!?” I know that’s what I thought the first time I heard the term. Understanding is the first step to healing, so this post is all about understanding betrayal trauma and it’s affects on the individual and the relationship.

What is Betrayal Trauma? | muchnessmama.com | When you are betrayad by a spouse or caregiver it can leave deep wounds. Did you know that the symptoms of betrayal trauma are the same as the symptoms of PTSD?

Betrayal Trauma Definition

The term betrayal trauma was first introduced by Jennifer Freyd in 1991 at a presentation at Langley Porter Psychiatric Institute. According to Freyd “Betrayal trauma occurs when the people or institutions on which a person depends for survival significantly violate that person’ s trust or well-being: Childhood physical, emotional, or sexual abuse perpetrated by a caregiver are examples of betrayal trauma.” (link) So as a wife of a sex addict I experienced trauma when I discovered the ways in which my husband was acting out. When this trauma hit it was a HUGE betrayal because it felt like there was more harm that could come from confronting and standing up to it than there was in putting my head down, walking on eggshells, and trying to maintain the peace. For me personally betrayal trauma has also been sustained by my husband’s anger management problems in our early years as well. Double whammy!

The Affects of Betrayal Trauma

Freyd further tells us that when trauma involves a betrayal we are less likely to be aware of what is occurring or recall the details. Why? Because when we confront the perpetrator it threatens an attachment that we feel is necessary to our survival. Those awesome survival instincts can kick in and literally erase our memory or change it to make the betrayal seem like less of a threat.  I felt like I was all these monkeys combined into one! I refused to hear or see the abuse in my marriage and definitely terrified to say anything about the things I did notice.

What is Betrayal Trauma? | muchnessmama.com | wife of a sex addict | spouse of an addict | PTSD Joao Tzanno

When our conscious mind is protecting us, and our subconscious mind is screaming that everything is not ok it can lead to some pretty severe problems. In a recent study it was shown that ~70% of wives of sex addicts could be diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Yep, the same thing that military folk come home with is what traumatized wives deal with. Lucky me, I got both! I will say, however, that my trauma from deployment was VERY minimal to the extent that I didn’t even really realize that it existed for a long time. My betrayal trauma due to addiction has been much more in my face and in control of my life. PTSD comes with a lot of really fun symptoms including:

  • Spontaneous or cued recurrent, involuntary, and intrusive distressing memories of the traumatic events
  • Recurrent distressing dreams in which the content or affect (i.e. feeling) of the dream is related to the events
  • Flashbacks or other dissociative reactions in which the individual feels or acts as if the traumatic events are recurring
  • Intense or prolonged psychological distress at exposure to internal or external cues that symbolize or resemble an aspect of the traumatic events
  • Physiological reactions to reminders of the traumatic events
  • Persistent avoidance of distressing memories, thoughts, or feelings about or closely associated with the traumatic events or of external reminders
  • Inability to remember an important aspect of the traumatic events (not due to head injury, alcohol, or drugs)
  • Persistent and exaggerated negative beliefs or expectations about oneself, others, or the world (e.g., “I am bad,” “No one can be trusted,” “The world is completely dangerous”).
  • Persistent, distorted blame of self or others about the cause or consequences of the traumatic events
  • Persistent fear, horror, anger, guilt, or shame
  • Markedly diminished interest or participation in significant activities
  • Feelings of detachment or estrangement from others
  • Persistent inability to experience positive emotions
  • Irritable or aggressive behavior
  • Reckless or self-destructive behavior
  • Hypervigilance
  • Exaggerated startle response
  • Problems with concentration
  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep or restless sleep

Yeah, that’s a lot. All of these symptoms can also take their toll physically. Adrenal fatigue, thyroid problems, joint and/or muscle pain, headaches, weight gain, and even more often manifest themselves when a person is suffering from trauma. “The Body Keeps The Score” is a great book to read if you are more interested in this topic. It’s WAY too much to cover here.

How To Heal From Betrayal Trauma

Quite frequently all these symptoms are lumped into one happy little diagnosis of anxiety and/or depression. Here pop a pill and be on your merry way! While I’m all for medication if and when you need it really healing trauma requires far more than that.

4 Steps for Betrayal Trauma Recovery | muchnessmama.com | you can heal from betrayal trauma, but it requires a lot fo work. Here are 4 important steps to get you started.

First and formost you need to get out of your isolation! That is why I have ripped the curtain off my life and decided to start sharing here, thankfully with my husband’s full support and even cheerleading. You need to know that YOU ARE NOT ALONE! As I said in my previous post 64% of Christina men admit to at least monthly viewing of pornography. I dont’ think there is a single woman in this world who has not been affected by sex addiction in some way. Whether it’s harassment from schoolmates or coworkers or a deep betrayal of a spouse we’ve all been touched. It is not your fault. You don’t deserve it. You are worthy of love and respect. There are a few different groups out there that you can meet with in person. S-Anon is the partner program to Sexaholics Anonymous. They provide pretty good support, but they follow a codependency model which I believe is very unhealthy, so I would not personally recommend them. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints offers a Spouse and Family Support Group. These meetings are based on some beautiful principles. The leaders, however, are missionaries called by the church. They may or may not have any actual education or experience with trauma. Some meetings can be further re-traumatizing. If your local meeting is not a supportive safe place for you there are many phone meetings to choose from as well. Lifestar and Healing Through Christ are two other groups I am aware of. They both lean towards codependency though, so once again not my highest recommendations. I am also a member of a few different groups on Facebook. Due to the sensitive nature of the topics discussed these groups are secret. If you are interested in learning more about these groups please feel free to contact me. Determined to Rise is also a great resource for connection. I am REALLY looking forward to attending the retreat that they are hosting next month in Utah.

Second, and equally important, is counseling with a qualified therapist. Finding the right therapist can be very difficult. While there are all sorts of certifications you can look for ultimately it all comes down to do they know and understand betrayal trauma. It is also really helpful if they are trained in EMDR and/or neural feedback therapy (more on those in a future post). Both of these help to integrate the mind/body connection and speed up the healing process.  Betrayal Trauma Recovery is an excellent resource for finding a good counselor. They are coaches rather than certified therapists, but they have focused their training on betrayal trauma and most are victims as well. One last note on therapy. NEVER EVER EVER do couples therapy with a man who is still in active addiction. It usually does far more harm than good as it provides a platform for the addict to further abuse you through manipulating and gaslighting both you and the therapist. I would recommend that an addict is working a solid recovery program and attending weekly counseling sessions on their own for at least 3-6 months before you even consider couples therapy. When you do start couples therapy look for a therapist who uses Emotionally Focused Therapy techniques. Addiction is at the root a disease of connection. Learning to reconnect to your own emotions and your spouses in healthy ways is far more important than directly working on any specific marriage issues, especially in the early stages of healing a relationship.

Third, become  a learn it all. No one is ever going to care as much about your healing as you do. Knowledge is power and you need all the power you can get to escape the pit that you find yourself in while dealing with these issues. The first book I would start with is “Your Sexually Addicted Spouse“. If you are dealing with verbal abuse or out of control anger as I was then I would also highly recommend “Why Does He Do That“. For dealing with your own insecurities adn regaining your individuality and muchness anything by Brene Brown is pure gold. I’m currently working through “The Gifts of Imperfection” book via the art journaling class.

Fourth is some solid self-care and self-love work. Self-Care is NOT selfish! You matter. You are important. You can not give to others what you don’t have for yourself. Your capacity to love others, including and even especially your own family, is limited by your ability to love yourself. If you struggle with this I would encourage you to find ten minutes every day where you can just do something you love. Take a walk, do some art, sing in the shower, just do whatever makes you happy. Then look in the mirror and say to yourself “I am a beloved child of God with infinite potential. I am worthy of love. I love you Emily!” Please put your own name in there though. While I do enjoy adoring fans this is about you.

What is Betrayal Trauma | muchnessmama.com | Positive Affirmations | you are beloved | Child of God

Are you or a loved one suffering from Betrayal trauma? What more do you wish you knew about it? I’d love to see you over in my Muchness Mamas group on Facebook where you can discuss this and other topics in a group of supportive and understanding women.


Unslumping Yourself- 8 Tips for Dealing With Anxiety and Depression

The fun of the holidays is over. The family has gone home, the parties have ended, and the good will towards strangers seems to have gone out the window. The weather is less than pleasant, and in some places downright nasty. We’ve been so busy over the last few weeks and complete and total burn-out has occurred. The anxiety and stress and holidays is turning into the depression and loneliness of the rest of winter. The post holiday slump has hit, and it is a crummy place to be. What’s a girl to do? Un-slumping isn’t always easy, but there are definitely things we can do that help.

un-slumping | slump | tips for anxiety and depression | depression remedies

1- Get Up, Dress Up, Show Up

It may sound simple, but one of the biggest things I can do to un-slump myself is just get up at a decent time and get dressed each morning. There seems to be a direct relationship between the amount of time I lay in bed dreading the day and the crap factor of the day’s events. It starts a snowball of trying to catch up with my day instead of getting out ahead of the problems. Kids are whiny and hungry, fights are happening, breakfast is late leading to every other meal and bedtime being late as well. As hard as it is to leave my warm blankets, lying around is a decision I’ll definitely regret come 30 minutes past bedtime when I’m losing my mind trying to get everyone into their pajamas.

OK, so we can see why getting up is a necessary evil, but getting dressed is going a bit too far right? I know it sounds a bit crazy, but I promise you that if you put on real clothes every morning you will see an improvement in your life. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but putting on anything that isn’t pajama pants signals the brain that it’s time to get moving. I feel more put together and ready to take on the day. I don’t bother with a full face of make-up most days, but adding on a quick swipe of mascara makes me feel more awake and ready to face the day. Also if we do have to leave the house then I’m already ready to go and can focus on getting the kids ready. As an added bonus when I’m out and about and know that I’m not a total hot mess I get a lot more mood boosting compliments.

2- Early to Bed

We’ve all heard it “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise!” The truth is that we all have different circadian rhythms and many people just don’t naturally hit the sack early. Unfortunately our kiddos don’t care. They’re going to get up whenever their body tells them no matter what time you went to bed. Adequate sleep is not only going to help with your energy levels, but it is essential for your physical and mental health. The average woman needs 7-9 hours of sleep a day. Once I factor in the nursing baby that means I need to be in bed for 8-10 hours to get that much sleep. I made a commitment to myself that for one week I would get to bed by 10pm each night and I had my alarm set for 7:30. It was amazing the difference in mood I experienced just with that one small change vs. my previous bedtime of around midnight.

3- Get Moving

We’ve all heard it, exercise will help boost moods. Only one problem. Exercise isn’t exactly a lot fo fun and frankly most of us just don’t have time for it unless we’re going to give up sleep. It’s ok, you can still get your body moving without doing a formal exercise program. Take just 5 minutes to get a good full body stretch when you get up in the morning. Do a squat or lunge each time you need to pick up a toy or baby. Pick up your walking pace just a smidge when moving around the house or doing the grocery shopping. Do a little dancing with the kiddos when their movie end credits or show theme song plays. Do calf raises while brushing your teeth and arm exercises while watching TV. Fold laundry standing up instead of sitting down. There are thousands of little ways you can get a bit of extra movement into your day and improve your overall health.

4- Food is Fuel

Hey let’s face it, food is fun. Oftentimes it’s that can of Coke or piece of chocolate that gets me through a rough moment or day. Please don’t get down on yourself if your food choices aren’t always perfect. We’re busy, tired, and flat-out don’t have time to be Martha Stewart in the kitchen! It is important, however, to make sure you are getting adequate nutrition to fight the winter time blues. Focus on getting lean proteins, Omega-3’s, Vitamin D, and antioxidants to specifically battle depression. Check out this Web-MD article for more good anti-depression diet tips.

5- Light It Up

No I’m not telling you to smoke; I’m suggesting to literally add more light to your life. Most Americans are deficient in Vitamin D, which is exacerbated during the winter months when there is less sun and less exposed skin for it to hit. Many people have found great success in using phototherapy lights to improve their Vitamin D levels. Getting outside is important too becuase the fresh air can clear out your mind and invigorate the muscles. Go on a short walk around the neighborhood or even just stand on your front porch for a moment to renew the mind and take a break from the daily grind inside the home.

6- Essential Oils

I’m a big fan of using essential oils as mood boosters. I personally love and use DoTerra brand oils. Wild orange  is an invigorating happy scent and when used in On Guard it can boost immunity as well. Another favorite is Balance when I need to even out my emotions or Serenity when I need to calm a chaotic or anxious mind. I either use them topically on the bottom of my feet or diffuse them for the whole family to enjoy.

unslumping yourself | Dr. Seuss | Oh the places you'll go | post holiday blues | Depression remedies | Avoiding depression | winter blues | treatment for SAD| Seasonal affective disorder

7- Me Time/Social Time

As an introvert it is absolutely necessary that I get a little bit of me time every day. Whether I read a book, play some Candy Crush, or soak in a hot bath I just need to be alone with my thoughts. Easier said than done in a small house with 8 kiddos, but I do my best. If you’re an extrovert you may need to replace me time with social time. Get out of the house, even if it’s just to take your kiddos to the park and say hi to someone. Whether you are introverted or extroverted you may find that your needs flip-flop on some days. Make sure you are in tune with your feelings and get yourself the solitude or interaction that you need.

8- Head to the Doctor

Last, but certainly not least, don’t be afraid to head to the doctor for help. They can test you for any vitamin/mineral deficiencies, thyroid problems, hormonal imbalances, etc. that could be causing you troubles. No matter how hard you try sometimes all the natural things in the world just can’t fix whatever is off kilter in your body. YOU deserve to be happy. Don’t be afraid to admit you may need a little help o make that happen.

As I’m working on un-slumping myself I’d love to hear any other tips and tricks you have for fighting depression and anxiety. Come join our amazing Facebook community to keep the conversation going!

The Muchness Mama | Slay the jabberwock | Rediscover wonderland | self care | self love