Trust Issues in a Relationship? Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments

Let’s be honest, trust issues are the worst. They seem to creep in just when you’re starting to deepen your feelings towards a potential partner and can sabotage everything you are trying to build. If you’re reading this post there is a high likelihood that you’ve experienced trust issues in a relationship. It is common that people have an understanding of where their trust issues originated from, but sometimes it can feel confusing to pinpoint the exact event that caused the feelings of mistrust.

What are trust issues?

Trust issues can be characterized by a fear that another person in a relationship will abandon, manipulate, and/or betray you. Living with the fear causes feelings of mistrust towards others and as a result our mental health can be severely affected. Building trust in a relationship can be a difficult task for some based on their experiences.

What are the signs of trust issues?

Trust issues can present in many different ways for different people, here are some common signs of trust issues:

  • Overthinking the intentions and/or behaviors of others. Instead of accepting what you observe from your interactions with another, your mind causes you to create cognitive distortions concerning their intentions towards you deepening your trust issues.
  • Avoiding commitment. You literally dread the idea of commitment because you are anticipating failure in the relationship. It is easier for you to stay in an uncommitted status, than to take the risk of commitment.
  • Being overly protective. Caring about the people you love is healthy, but being overly protective is an entirely different story. It’s a sign of fear and insecurity that can quickly wear out any partner.
  • Anticipating and/or assuming betrayal. Even when things are going well it is easy to convince yourself that betrayal is inevitable due to your trust. You may have the mentality that it isn’t a matter of if they will betray you, but a matter of when.
  • Difficulty with forgiving. All humans struggle with imperfection, however your inability to forgive can be a sign of your inability to trust others. Repeated offenses by a partner that lead to you experiencing trust issues are means for further exploring the health of the relationship.
  • Codependent behavior in relationship. You may find yourself in a relationship dynamic where each person involved is mentally, emotionally, physically, and/or spiritually reliant on the other. There is someone in the caretaker role, while another is in a needy role. The roles can switch, but the unhealthy cycle continues.
  • You isolate yourself from others. You have a tendency to withdraw from stressful and non-stressful situations. This can cause you to avoid exploring new relationships and/or nurture existing ones allowing your trust issues to keep you from further development.

What is the root cause of trust issues?

Trust issues often are caused when a person experiences abandonment, manipulation, and/or betrayal within a relationship at any point in time in their lives. Experiencing a lack of trust in relationships is difficult, and doesn’t go away overnight. The scars of trust violating experiences can be very deep. Many of these scars that lead to trust issues start in childhood, and can continue to be reinforced in other relationships. The tricky thing is that oftentimes a person is used to being treated in a way that causes them to have trust issues. As a result they continue to stay in relationships with people who exhibit the same patterns that initially hurt them, leading the person to stay in the viscous cycle of mistrust.

Are trust issues considered a mental illness?

On its own, trust issues in a relationship is not a mental illness. With that being said, trust issues can cause a person to develop mental health symptoms that could lead to a mental illness. There are many symptoms that can affect mental health that come from trust issues, such as sadness, worry, and trauma. These can lead to mental health illnesses such as depression, anxiety, attachment disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, and personality disorders. Mental health conditions can be serious, and if you’re experiencing trust issues you should consider speaking with a mental health profession. At Modern Counseling, our individual and relationship therapists work with clients on relationship trust in Charlotte, NC, as well as throughout the state of NC, SC, GA, and FL. We have helped many people with their trust issues, and have a great deal of experience in this area.

What do you do if you have trust issues in a relationship?

  • Do self-discovery to get to the root of your trust issues. Trust issues are often triggered by the situations that have occurred in our past. If you can take the time to explore the situations that fostered your issues with trust, than you may be able to identify signs that you missed that led to the unhealthy dynamic. Working with a mental health therapist, such as the relationship therapists at Modern Counseling can help you identify what could be at the root of your trust issues.
  • Learn how to trust again. There are some people who trust others until they have a reason not to anymore, while there are others who don’t trust another person until they feel that their trust has been earned. There is no right or wrong way to handle this situation. It is important for you to identify what is needed for you to feel trust with another, and ensure you’re not reinforcing unhealthy patterns.
  • Accept that there is a level of risk that comes with trusting again. As mentioned earlier, no human is perfect. This means that both you and I will make mistakes in a relationship that could lead to someone potentially experiencing trust issues. That is the risk that comes with being in any type of relationship. It is important to adopt the mindset that difficulties do not mean that the relationship must end, but they can be opportunities to communicate our needs and/or set boundaries. They can also help you understand what triggers your trust issues.
  • Learn how to be vulnerable. Taking emotional risks after being hurt in the past can be very difficult, especially when there is a continued cycle of trust issues. However, having the ability to express your emotions to another can deepen the relationship. This doesn’t have to happen immediately in the beginning of a relationship, but it is essential to start the trust building process on both ends. Healthy communication and honesty are important in all relationships, and they help to reduce the likelihood of trust issues.
  • Use your current trusting relationships as a guide. As you are considering becoming trusting again, looking at your behaviors in the relationships where you do trust others can be very helpful. If you can list out how you behave with them (and how that may be different from the behaviors you have in relationships where you experience trust issues) you can have a list of ways to begin reinforcing trusting behaviors in new relationships.
  • Don’t give up. You might find that you took a risk to trust, and found yourself either hurting again or going back to old behavioral patterns like distrusting tendencies. Don’t be hard on yourself, this is a learning journey. As mentioned earlier, trust issues can be very difficult to overcome, especially when you’ve been in a pattern of behavior for a long time. When trust issues creep in,  I challenge you to pick yourself up, and start to trust again. There could be great insight that you learn from yourself by being mindful of what occurred in a negative situation, and you can be on the lookout for those potential red flags that caused trust issues in the future. Life is all about the lessons that we learn, and ensuring that we take head to those lessons as we continue to charge forward will help resolve our trust issues.

There is hope for the future!

Dealing with trust issues can be one of the hardest experiences in life, however there is great liberation when we can move past them. Life can be very rewarding when we are able to live without feeling that we are in bondage to our trust issues. That is truly living freely! You can use the knowledge and growth you’ve gained in working through your process and potentially help a loved one who is struggling with their own trust issues. All healthy relationships are built on some level of trust, and there is no better time than now to begin developing healthy relationships.

Still need some help with trust issues?

When you’ve tried to work on relationship trust or resolving your trust issues on your own and you recognize that you’re still struggling it can be helpful to reach out to a mental health professional for therapy for relationship issues. Working in therapy with a professional you will explore the origin of your trust issues, as well as learn the patterns of behavior that you may be stuck in that cause you to continue to experience mistrust. At Modern Counseling, we would recommend an individual therapist or a relationship therapist to assist you with trust issues. We use a Cognitive Behavioral Approach to working with people who experience trust issues. In this process, we explore unhealthy thoughts, cognitive distortions, as well as the relationship in between thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. We help people to identify coping skills to use to replace unhelpful behaviors so that healthy, productive behaviors are being reinforced. This method helps you to relearn how to trust others, hence reducing or potentially eliminating your trust issues. Modern Counseling specializes in relationship counseling in Charlotte, NC or overall mental health counseling in Charlotte, NC, as well as statewide in NC, SC, GA, and FL.