Now that’s a topic to explore! Let’s start with a definition.
Trust – the act of placing confidence in someone or something else – is a fundamental human experience, necessary for society to function and for any person to be relatively happy. Without it, fear rules. Trust is not an either/or proposition, but a matter of degree and certain life experiences can impact a person’s ability to trust others.
Common signs and symptoms in persons with trust issues
Everyone has uncertainty about whom to trust, how much to trust, when not to trust, and so forth at one time or another. In fact, every day we make choices about whom and how much to trust, and sometimes we are more willing to trust than at other times. That’s a good thing; a total lack of mistrust would indicate a serious psychological problem. Judgments about when and whom to trust help keep us safe and alive! Signs that a person may be excessively mistrustful include:
- A total lack of intimacy or friendships due to mistrust
- Mistrust that interferes with one’s primary relationship
- Several intensely dramatic and stormy relationships in a row or at once
- Racing thoughts of suspicion or anxiety about friends and family
- Terror during physical intimacy
Belief that others are deceptive and malevolent, without real evidence
When mistrust seems to play a dominant role in a person’s life, past disappointments or betrayals may be at the root of the issue. Mistrust is a valid and reasoned response to feeling betrayed or abandoned, but a person’s life can be adversely affected when feelings of mistrust are pervasive, resulting in anxiety, anger, or self-doubt – but you can learn to trust again.
Where do trust issues come from?
Often, issues with trust arise based on experiences and interactions in the early phases of life, primarily childhood. A person who did not receive adequate nurturing, affection, and acceptance or who was abused, violated, or mistreated as a child will often find difficulty in establishing trust as an adult. Likewise, adolescent experiences of either social rejection or acceptance may shape a person’s ability to trust those around him or her. For instance, if someone is mocked, teased, or treated as an outcast by his or her peers during the teenage years, this will influence later relationships. Being betrayed or belittled by others impacts self-esteem, which also plays a significant role in a person’s capacity to trust. Basically, those who experience low self-esteem will be less likely to put their trust in those around them than those who are more self-assured.
As an adult, traumatic life events such as an accident, illness, theft of or damage to personal property, or loss of a loved one may lead to issues with trusting others and feeling safe and secure. Being physically violated or attacked, as in the case of rape or assault, is likely to dramatically impact a person’s trust in the goodness of others. Veterans of military combat may also experience difficulty trusting others following the stresses of wartime violence. And within a committed relationship, being cheated on or left for another will often lead to the development of trust issues. Posttraumatic stress, which results from a person’s exposure to severe danger or perceived danger, can lead a previously healthy person to experience tremendous difficulty with trust. People with post traumatic stress disorder symptoms may experience and re-experience the trauma in their minds, along with the associated anxiety, and often go to great lengths to create a feeling of safety, sometimes isolating themselves from others or becoming overly dependent.
What can you do to deal with your trust issues?
Download and read our PTSD e-book and/or download our Dynamic Discovery e-book and its companion workbook. We have had great success in helping clients work through their trust issues… and many other issues as well. Treatment for PTSD begins the moment you take that first step.