What Is Trust?
Trust, in a social context, has many different definitions, but generally speaking, trust refers to a situation in which the following elements are present:
One person (the trustor) makes the decision to rely upon the actions of another (the trustee) for a situation in the future. When this happens, the trustor gives up control over the actions performed by the trustee, even if the trustor is uncertain of the outcome. The future situation involves the risk or harm to the trustor if the trustee doesn't behave as expected.
Trust is the belief that another person or group of people will do what is expected and is formed fairly early in life, starting with the family. Many psychologists believe that trust begins in infancy, when a child learns that he or she can trust his or her parents to take care of his or her needs when he or she cries.
When trust is successfully formed, there are often feelings of trust, security and optimism. However, if trust is unsuccessfully formed, a child is oriented to feelings of mistrust and insecurity.
Without trust, fear rules. Trust, like most human conditions, occurs not within a black versus white, either/or proposition, but along a spectrum. Most people have feelings of uncertainty about who to trust and how much to trust them, at various points in their lives.
Each day, we make the judgement about who to trust and how much to trust them - depending upon many variables, we may choose to trust one person more than another. These choices and judgements of trustworthiness about who we trust and to what extent, are what keeps us alive and functioning.
What Causes Feelings of Mistrust?
There are a number of things that can cause a person to feel as though trusting others is a bad idea. Situations, especially from childhood can affect us well into our adulthood. Things that can cause us to develop trust issues may include:
- Abuse endured as a child
- Childhood sexual abuse
- Childhood traumas
- Being the victim of bullies
- Rape or sexual assault
- Growing up with a mentally ill parent
- Growing up with an alcoholic or otherwise addicted parent
When a child, grows up to be betrayed time and again by someone he or she is supposed to trust - such as a parent, caregiver, or babysitter, trust issues arise. Many of these issues with mistrust last long into adulthood without resolution, especially if the trauma is reinforced through different situations.
For example, a child who is the victim of a sexual abuse may grow up with a skewed view on relationships and may find him or herself drawn to relationships in which he or she is abused by his or her partner.
While these trust issues can be resolved with time, therapy, and love, they may forever alter the way you see the world.
What Are Some Of The Signs Of Trust Issues?
For many people, life experiences have shaped them to be distrusting of others. Past disappointments and betrayals have set us up to be mistrusting of all other individuals - or about specific situations. That can be okay, or it can be a sign of bigger problems.
Here are some signs of possible trust issues:
- Complete inability to become intimate with another in a romantic or friendship relationship.
- Inability to maintain a friendship due to issues of mistrust.
- Racing thoughts and suspicions that friends or family are out to get you.
- Intense fear during any type of physical intimacy or sexuality.
- Lack of trust interferes with romantic relationship or partnership.
- A series of dramatic and stormy relationships.
- The stead-fast belief - without burden of proof - that other people are malevolent and lying to you.
Mental Illness That Have Hallmarks Of Trust Issues:
While often feeling mistrustful or distrusting of others is simply a matter of past mental or emotional traumas, there are a couple of mental illnesses that have trust issues associated with the symptoms. These include:
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Trust Issues: For a person who was exposed in a traumatic manner to severe danger (or perceived danger), a previously healthy person may begin to have extreme difficulty in trust. People with PTSD frequently play and replay the trauma in their minds over and over, going to incredible lengths to feel "safe," at the cost of social isolation or over-dependence.
Read more about PTSD.
Schizophrenia and Trust Issues: People who have schizophrenia may experience a great deal of paranoia; or an unfounded belief that others are out to get them. Those with schizophrenia may also have delusions; false beliefs often themed with trust issues or hallucinations. Often these hallucinations are auditory voices that are both critical and malevolent.
Read more about Schizophrenia
Paranoid Personality Disorder and Trust Issues: One of the hallmark features of Paranoid Personality Disorders is a pervasive belief that others are malevolent, harming him or her, or exploiting him or her.
Read more about paranoid personality disorder.
What Are The Kinds Of Trust Issues In Relationships?
While having trust betrayed can be devastating at any age, the effects of mistrust can be long-reaching.
The Glass Is Half-Empty (aka The Eeyore Issue): For people who see the glass as perpetually empty and probably full of toxins besides, in their relationships, they become so anxious that they become paranoid, accusatory, and controlling of their partner. Thus, they have successfully performed a self-fulfilling prophesy.
The root cause of this type of trust issue is the belief that you are unworthy of a good relationship; the good things that happen to you are an accident, and will soon evaporate, because, well, you didn't deserve the good stuff anyway.
The Triggering Type: People with the triggering type of trust issue have survived a formerly abusive relationship to go on to another relationship, wherein their partner says or does things that remind them of his or her abuser.
Jealousy - proper jealousy versus improper jealousy. One of the most prevalent trust issues in a relationship improper jealousy (normal jealousy can be natural, normal, and even healthy in relationships). Improper jealousy arises when one partner suspects the other without cause.
Infidelity - one of the most devastating breaches in trust in a romantic relationship is infidelity. Infidelity - emotional or physical - can cause an incredible turmoil in a romantic relationship - the relationship may or may not recover.
Inability To Trust Self - the individual unable to trust him or herself feels as though he or she is a failure, and that he or she is not worth a good relationship, which means he or she sabotages it by being abusive, driving the other person away, while constantly questioning their partner, needing to "know" what is going on in a relationship - where it's heading.
How Do I Get Over My Trust Issues?
Presuming that there are no underlying mental health issues, or any underlying mental health issues are being managed by a treatment team, working on building up trust is something that requires care, time, and patience.
First and foremost, you should speak to a mental health professional about your issues with trust. If your trust issues are so severe that they are affecting your life, it's worth finding someone you can speak with about these issues.
Going forward, you must acknowledge that these trust issues stem from traumatic events that happened in your past. You experienced hurt and traumas at the hands of someone who you put your trust in. That? That sucks. And it's completely normal for you to feel the way you feel.
That's why you're going to have to talk about your feelings with someone who's semi-removed from the situation. This is why a therapist makes such a good impartial third-party - he or she can help you to examine all of those long-standing beliefs in your head that have been twisted and turned throughout the years.
Once you're able to examine the situation, you may be able to see things from a different perspective. Maybe those long-held beliefs can benefit from another perspective, and you may begin to challenge beliefs like, "I am a bad person and I deserved what happened to me," and "I was too stupid to expect that XZY wouldn't betray me."
In the light of day, you can easily see that neither statement is accurate - you did the best you could with the situations you were put in, and furthermore, at a time when people should have been looking out for you, they instead hurt you.
You may feel the urge to keep these secrets inside. It's not uncommon to feel guilt and shame about past traumas. We may feel like freaks, or outsiders, and ignore the victimization as we feel that it was "deserved." It wasn't. No one deserves to have their trust betrayed.
While it's important to talk about trust issues and where they came from, be selective about who you tell about these traumas; so you're not again betrayed by placing your trust in the wrong hands.