When you live with the consequences of mental health issues, behavioral issues, or trauma, therapy is high on the list of things you can do to help you cope. But one feature of both mental health issues and trauma is trust. Many time, people with mental health issues or behavioral issues feel isolated and like they cannot trust anyone. It’s the same for those who suffer the aftermath of trauma or bullying.
Trust is definitely an issue that is considered and worked on during therapy. It is essential for those who have lots to cope with that they have people they can trust. It can also be a way for those who’ve never trusted before to learn about trust and who, outside of family and therapists, they can trust.
While there is never any guarantee that therapy can help with any issue, the issue of trust is vital for patients seeking therapy for mental health issues, behavioral issues, survivors of trauma, and victims of bullying.
Trusting with Mental Health Issues
When a person is struggling with a mental health issue, the first stop is often their primary care physician. This is a person the patient inherently trusts and is confident will not blab about the patient being “crazy”. That is one of the most common reasons why people don’t seek help for mental health issues – they don’t want to be labeled or seen differently by their families or peers. Following are examples of certain mental health issues that involve trust issues.
Anxiety convinces you your safety is always in jeopardy. It could be a fear of physical danger, fear of emotional abuse, or fear of mental abuse. All of these are consistently present and there is negative self-talk you can never get rid of.
Anxiety keeps you constantly on the lookout for things that will destroy you. It works to undermine any joy or balance you’ve reached. It makes it so you never want to let your guard down. You are afraid to relax because you fear the moment that you do, that’ll be the moment everything goes to hell. You cannot relax; you are constantly alert.
Anxiety is irrational. It never lets you truly feel calm. It is frustrating and difficult to explain anxiety to people who don’t feel it. You are never calm, no matter how safe you are in reality. Anxiety lacks the ability to trust or have faith in people. Anxiety is sure that everything is going to go wrong any minute now. Trust requires faith. “Trusting someone, anyone, means uncertainty and uncertainty to an anxious mind is terrible. When it’s really bad, it can be debilitating.”
Trust issues are actually forms of defense mechanisms, but they aren’t healthy ones. People with depression find ways to avoid the risk of possible failure, particularly when they start to expect let downs from other people – they can’t trust anyone. They allow the past to project to the future – and their faith in the future is limited.
People with depression don’t believe what people tell them. Once someone has lied to you, your trust in them is gone. If you find yourself wanting to fact check everything someone says, that is a sign that you can’t trust. You cannot let your guard down because no one is trustworthy. You become suspicious of people’s motives and often feel betrayed or taken advantage of.
People with depression tend to distance themselves from others, even though they want to have strong friendships and relationships in their lives. Depression creates trust issues and won’t allow you to form emotional or physical intimacy or commitment with others. When you self-isolate, you will get the reputation of being a loner.
So can therapy help with trust issues in these cases? Yes, it can! Some methods for treating trust issues address the underlying causes. This could be used for a mental health issue like anxiety or depression. In therapy, the therapist helps you review any events or people in your past who may have contributed to your current anxiety or depression. Examining those past events and/or relationships will help you see why you are currently having mental health issues.
Sadly, life is full of experiences that can lead someone to believe it’s not safe to trust people. There is no limit to the number of trust destroying experiences that one might encounter. In therapy, you will talk about those experiences and determine what key events or people led you to lose trust. Your therapist may suggest reaching out to certain people and asking them why they betrayed you. Or, your therapist could ask you to revisit the scene of an event to see that the place itself is not a threat.
You may also bring someone to therapy with you to talk about past issues so that you can both begin to rebuild trust. Oftentimes, having the therapist as a mediator is a great way to keep communication flowing and avoid a confrontational experience. Or, if your therapist specializes in it, hypnosis can help you examine an experience in a safe way.
These two, very common mental health issues demonstrate how trust is connected to how we see the world and view other people. It’s quite similar to trust issues when dealing with behavioral issues.
Trusting with Behavioral Issues
Behavioral issues are very difficult to deal with, but not being able to trust others is part of the condition. For those in therapy due to behavioral issues, it’s important to learn about how to have relationships – both with family and friends, as well as outsiders (a term lots of people with behavioral issues use to refer to those outside their main circle of support). Here are two behavioral illnesses that create trouble with trust.
While narcissists tend to come off as feeling superior to everyone, they don’t really feel that way. The root of the disorder is a strict resistance to feeling vulnerable with anyone at any time. In other words, “get them before they get me”.
The narcissist cannot trust others in relationships because the narcissist does not trust others; he or she will never put him or herself in a state of vulnerability. Regardless of the outward display of vanity and self-importance, the narcissist is normally in a constant state of anxiety and hypervigilance.
The narcissist will not acknowledge any weakness lest someone else take advantage of him or her to gain power over him or her. Narcissists overcompensate for feelings of vulnerability or fragility by acting stronger and more powerful than they truly feel. As such, they are simply unable to trust anyone for any reason.
And because psychotherapy requires the patient to be vulnerable, true narcissists could never go to therapy because they wouldn’t be able to cope with the anxiety, unhappiness, and even rage that would appear if they were to expose their authentic selves to the therapist. Some narcissistic individuals may seek therapy and others may not.
Borderline Personality Disorder
Individuals with borderline personality disorder (BPD) have difficulty establishing stable, trusting relationships, and they fear abandonment. They often experience betrayal and misdirected trust in other people. Their heightened sensitivity to “social threats” has led them to judge others as untrustworthy. Studies show people with BPD are far more likely to see people as untrustworthy simply because of the pathology of the illness. Patients with BPD have lower response rates in the prefrontal cortex than those without the illness.
In a sense, their judgment is impaired. They have difficulty seeing anyone as trustworthy because they cannot judge a person accurately. As a result, patients with BPD simply don’t trust anyone.
Does therapy help people with behavioral issues? It can. During psychotherapy, the therapist can help the person retrain the brain, learn to experience empathy, and practice social judgment. The main issue with behavioral disorders is the patient’s unwillingness to be vulnerable. It will take a lot of effort on the part of both the patient and the therapist to reach a place where vulnerability is not linked with fear.
While trust issues are to be expected in mental health and behavioral disorders, those who have suffered a trauma can also find trusting others incredibly difficult.
Trusting after Trauma
Major trauma has deep and long-lasting effects on those who have suffered through it, changing the ways in which they view themselves and others. As researchers are learning, trauma leaves different marks under different circumstances. The consequences are dependent on who someone is, what kind of trauma was experienced, whether or not that trauma was deliberately inflicted, and the aftercare and support available.
“Trauma is sometimes said to create a ‘foreshortened future’: people no longer understand their future as meaningful, and the story is at an end even if physical life continues.” The feelings of hopelessness about the future usually accompany issues with trust. Survivors show lack of trust in other people as well as the world at large, a lack of confidence in themselves and others, and an inability to be open to any kind of future.
Those who’ve experienced trauma often experience tremendous healing with psychotherapy. Many times, world events will traumatize someone without them even knowing that’s what the problem is! After 9/11, many patients sought counseling for depression, anxiety, and trust issues without realizing that was the problem. You don’t have to be part of an event to be affected by it, and therapy is extremely helpful.
For those who have experienced an individual trauma – car accident, sexual assault, loss of a child – therapy is an opportunity to revisit the event in a safe environment. Therapy will allow the survivor the chance to examine the event, one step at a time, and deal with feelings of guilt, anger, and distrust.
Imagine you were mugged. While your initial feelings would be anger and fear, that incident could also cause you to never trust anyone again. You may not trust the ability to take care of yourself or protect yourself. You may begin to avoid walking down the sidewalk because you can’t trust people not to hurt you.
Therapy will offer you the chance to talk about what happened, examine your feelings, and help you realize that trust, while earned, is sometimes something we simply have to do on faith.
Regardless of the type of trauma, the experience leaves the victim feeling isolated and unable to trust the outside world. This is also true of those who’ve suffered at the hands of bullies.
Trusting Amidst Bullying
Bullying is one of the most destructive forms of mental abuse that anyone can deal with. Because bullies isolate and betray their victims, trust issues are guaranteed to develop.
Being targeted by a bully not only results in pain (emotional, physical, or both), it often leads to ostracization from the group—triggering the body’s instinctual reactions of flight, fight, or freeze. When these defense triggers are introduced, some people will self-isolate, shut down emotionally, avoid any kind of conflict, and develop a general mistrust of all people.
Bullying not only causes pain, but it creates a perpetual state of fear and anxiety for the victim. The subject of the bullying will start getting paranoid about who’s lurking behind the next corner, or pull away from their friends. Once a person is bullied, the survival mode kicks in full time. And when a body is in survival mode, it inherently distrusts everyone.
Survivors of bullying definitely benefit from therapy. They will often enter into therapy with questions like “Why me?” or “What did I ever do to anyone?”. Therapy gives them a safe place to deal with not only the immediate ramifications of pain and fear, but also the chance to learn to trust again.
A good therapy session can help a bullying victim understand that bullying is rarely about the victim – it’s about the insecurities of the bully. Bullies intrinsically fear those they are threatened by and will often lash out in a self-protective behavior that translates to bullying. Once a victim understands this, they can work on their self-confidence and identify what it is that attracts bullies to them. This helps them re-establish trust in others, knowing what causes bullying and how they can deal with it.
Regardless of the issues you are facing, finding the ability to trust again is vital to living a happy life. Therapy is one place you can completely trust the person helping you. Therapy can help you find your voice and learn that regardless of what self-talk you are hearing, most people are trustworthy if you give them the chance.