Have you ever felt sure that you couldn’t trust someone, even if they had done nothing to cause you to doubt them? Trust issues can cause suspicion, anxiety, and doubt, and can be very damaging to romantic, personal, and professional relationships. Learning to trust again can be difficult but necessary to maintain your emotional wellbeing.
What Are Trust Issues?
Trust is believing in the integrity of others. Building trust means that you feel secure in your interactions and relationships, and are able to be open and vulnerable with others. When people harm you and betray your trust, your feeling of security can be shattered. You start to expect the worst from others and become suspicious and skeptical. This lack of trust, commonly referred to as having trust issues, can be very harmful to your mental health and your relationships with others.1
The Importance of Trust in Romantic Relationships
Trust issues can cause you to have relationship anxiety and can keep you from going deeper in a relationship. It can also be a major issue if you’re checking your partner’s phone without asking or if you’re constantly checking up on them. Building trust in a relationship is key to counting on each other and maintaining longevity.
Why Are Trust Issues Harmful?
Trust issues can affect many areas of your life, including your mental and emotional health and your professional and personal relationships. Trust issues can lead to relationship problems, loneliness, isolation, stress, burnout, and perfectionism. When you don’t trust others, it causes you to obsess about other people’s actions or feel like you have to do everything yourself. It can also lead to developing control issues and perfectionism.
Trust issues can negatively affect the following:2
- Work relationships and productivity
- Romantic relationships
- Relationships with family members
- Relationships with your children
- Your own mental health
13 Signs of Trust Issues
Trust issues can cause you to feel suspicious, to doubt others, and even to isolate yourself. You might have volatile, unstable relationships, pick fights, or accuse others of dishonesty or betrayal. You also might spend a lot of time worrying, wondering, or even obsessing about what others are up to.
Here are 13 potential signs of trust issues:
1. You Focus on the Negative
People in trusting and healthy relationships are more likely to see the positives in each other, whereas people with trust issues are more likely to focus on the negatives. If you often find yourself assuming the worst and noticing people’s weaknesses rather than strengths, that could be a sign of trust issues.3
2. You Feel Like You Have to Do Everything
You have a hard time relying on others to follow through, so you do it all yourself. This leads to perfectionism, stress, and overwork. In the workplace, it can make it difficult for you to work as part of a team, because you don’t feel comfortable delegating or counting on others to do their part.4
3. You Are Suspicious of Friends & Family
You are always preparing yourself for the next betrayal, letdown, or ulterior motive. You don’t believe what people tell you. Your knee-jerk reaction is to assume that they are being dishonest or have broken your trust in some way.
4. You Avoid Intimacy
Intimacy requires vulnerability, and people with trust issues try to avoid feeling vulnerable at all costs. If you have trust issues or a fear of intimacy, you would rather be on your own than risk being hurt.
5. You Hold Grudges
Once someone has broken your trust or let you down, you never forget it. You are not likely to ever forgive or trust that person again.
6. You Pick Fights
When you have trust issues, you are hyper-aware of any little thing that could go wrong in a relationship. You don’t trust your partner, so you bring up issues from their past or find things that bother you and start a fight.
7. You Keep to Yourself
Sharing your inner world with others requires trust. When you have trust issues, you would rather keep things to yourself than risk trusting someone else with the details of your inner life.
8. You Avoid Commitment
You have trouble committing, because committed relationships require trust and vulnerability from everyone involved. When you don’t trust others, you avoid getting into situations that cause you to feel vulnerable, and you develop commitment issues.
9. You Spy on People or Check Their Phones
When you have trust issues, you are always looking for evidence to prove whether someone is being honest with you or not. Since you don’t believe them, you seek out evidence to either set your mind at ease or prove you right.
10. You’re a Loner
You prefer your own company to anyone else’s, because at least when you are by yourself no one else can let you down.
11. You Find Yourself in Relationships With Untrustworthy People
Frustratingly, having your trust broken can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. When you expect a certain thing to happen, in the case of having trust issues, being betrayed, your subconscious mind will seek out those situations.5
12. You Smother People You Care About
When people are in your inner circle, you protect them fiercely because you fear that they will leave you or that something bad will happen to you. This can result in smothering, hovering, or codependent behavior in your relationships.
13. You Have a Fear of Abandonment
You live in constant fear of being abandoned or rejected in all of your relationships. When you get a “please stop by my office” email from your boss, you are sure you are being fired. When you see photos of friends having fun, your first thought is that they left you out on purpose. In romantic relationships, you have constant fear of abandonment lurking under the surface that they are getting ready to break things off.
What Causes Trust Issues?
Possible origins of trust issues include low self-esteem, past betrayals, mental health disorders, adverse childhood experiences or traumatic events. Any time your sense of safety or security is threatened, it can cause trust issues to arise.
Trust issues may be caused by:6
- History of abuse
- Low self-esteem
- History of betrayal in relationships
- Childhood trauma
- Abandonment issues
- Fear of rejection
- A history of being bullied
- Disorders like depression, anxiety, PTSD or adjustment disorders
- Attachment disorders
- Personality disorders like borderline personality disorder
Lack of Trust From Childhood Wounds
Childhood is an especially vulnerable time for trust issues to show up. Children are 100% dependent on their caretakers to keep them alive. When that trust is broken in childhood, it creates the feeling of not being safe, and children learn to feel insecure and that they can only rely on themselves.
Can Having Trust Issues Be a Sign of Mental Illness?
Many people can have issues with trust, but for some, it could indicate a significant mental health concern. Psychological disorders, like attachment disorders, psychoses, and personality disorders involve intense trust issues.6
- Attachment disorders: Reactive attachment disorder (RAD) and disinhibited social engagement disorder (DSED) are linked to childhood trauma and neglect. As an adult, the person may struggle establishing trust, since there was so little as a child.
- Psychoses: Schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders may create a level of paranoia. With this suspicion in place, trusting people or institutions will be challenging.
- Personality disorders: Borderline personality, narcissistic personality, and antisocial personality disorders may center on a lack of trust in others, which affects relationships, employment, and educational success.
If trust issues stem from a mental health condition, addressing the disorder directly should help the trust issues.
How to Get Over Trust Issues
The good news is, you can learn how to overcome trust issues! The best way to start to get over trust issues is by allowing people to earn your trust. Trusting someone too quickly who you just met can backfire, as can doubting someone who has done nothing to cause you to not trust them. The key is to start to take safe emotional risks with people who have not harmed or betrayed you.
Here are 10 tips for how to deal with trust issues:
1. Take Safe Emotional Risks
Let yourself practice trusting in small, safe ways. Take someone at their word. Give them the benefit of the doubt.
2. Allow Yourself Time If Your Trust Was Broken
If your trust has been broken, it’s going to take some time without further betrayal for the person to earn it back. If someone is genuine in wanting to build trust again, they will respect this process.
3. Avoid the Temptation to Snoop or Spy
Snooping or spying can easily become an obsessive behavior that will only make your trust issues worse.
4. Take Your Time Getting to Know New People
Don’t jump into trusting people before you know them. Many people with trust issues tend to trust too quickly, keeping you stuck in the pattern.
5. Communicate With Your Partner
Be careful not to accuse or blame. Instead, communicate clearly how you are feeling and what you need. For example, “When you came home late, I felt worried and insecure. I need you to give me a call next time.”
6. Reflect on the Potential Roots of Your Trust Issues
Spend some time thinking, journaling, or talking to a friend about this pattern in your life and what is within your power to change.
7. Acknowledge Your Trust Issues
Acknowledging your trust issues is a necessary component to getting over it. Rather than blaming others or deflecting the issue, take responsibility for your situation. Acknowledging the issue does not mean that you have to accept or like it. It only means that you understand the presence of an issue, and you are willing to fight it.
8. Know the Relationships between Trust & Control
Sometimes, as trust decreases, the need to control increases. Unfortunately, intense control only lowers trust. Check in with yourself to identify the interaction between trust and control in your relationships. By lowering your need to control, you could find yourself feeling more trusting and trusted.
9. Become Trustworthy Yourself
Many times, trust issues involve pointing the finger at others and being critical of their actions. Are you being trustworthy, though? Without being a trustworthy person yourself, you could find it challenging to trust others.
10. Realize That You Control Your Trust
You may spend time thinking about what the other person should do to build or maintain your trust. In reality, you control your trust issues. If you let your paranoia, doubt, and questioning soar, trust issues will increase. If you can manage these issues, you will find your trust improves, regardless of what the other people do.
How Therapy Can Help With Trust issues
When trust issues interfere with your relationships, impact your ability to function in life, or persist for long periods of time, talking to a licensed professional can help. Consulting an online therapist directory is a great way to find a therapist who meets your needs.
Individual therapy can help you process past betrayals, abuse, and trauma, heal from rejection and abandonment and improve your self-esteem. If you are experiencing any symptoms of possible disorders like depression, anxiety, or PTSD, talking to a licensed therapist is the first step toward relief.
When your trust issues are causing arguments or problems in your relationship with a significant other, or you have difficulty communicating about it, couples therapy could be a helpful option.
Trusting others is hard when you have trust issues and have been hurt or betrayed in the past. It’s understandable that you would feel reluctant to trust others. However, trust is a necessary component to any healthy relationship. Therapy and reaching out to your support network can help.
For Further Reading
- NAMI support groups
- In-depth review of the best online therapy companies
- Learn about codependency