Trust is the act of placing confidence in someone or something else. It is a fundamental human experience. Trust is necessary for society to function. It can play a large role in happiness. Without it, fear rules. Trust is not an either/or proposition, but a matter of degree. Some life experiences can impact a person's ability to trust others.
Everyone has uncertainty about whom to trust and how much. It is not always clear when trust is appropriate. People make choices about whom and how much to trust every day. We are more willing to trust at some times than others. That is a good thing. A total lack of mistrust would be a serious problem. But judgments about when and whom to trust help keep us safe and alive.
Signs a person may be excessively mistrustful include:
- Lack of intimacy or friendships
- Mistrust that interferes with a relationship
- Dramatic and stormy relationships
- Suspicion or anxiety about friends and family
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- Terror during physical intimacy
- Belief that others are deceptive or malevolent without evidence
Sometimes mistrust plays a dominant role in a person's life. Past disappointment or betrayal may be at the root of the issue. Mistrust is a valid response to feeling betrayed or abandoned. But pervasive feelings of mistrust can negatively impact a person's life. This can result in anxiety, anger, or self-doubt. Fortunately, people can relearn trust. Working with a therapist can aid this process.
Trust issues often come from early life experiences and interactions. These experiences often take place in childhood. Some people do not get enough care and acceptance as children. Others are abused, violated, or mistreated. These things may lead to difficulty trusting as an adult.
Social rejection in one's teens may shape their ability to trust. Some teens are bullied or treated as outcasts by peers. This can influence later relationships. Being betrayed or belittled by others impacts self-esteem. Self-esteem also plays a large role in a person’s capacity to trust. People with low self-esteem may be less likely to trust others. Those with higher self-esteem may be more self-assured.
Traumatic life events may also cause issues with trust and safety for adults. These life events could include:
- Theft or damage to personal property
- Loss of loved one
- Being cheated on or left for another person
Being physically violated or attacked can also impact a person's trust in others. This happens in many cases of rape or assault. Veterans of military combat may also have difficulty with trust. This is often due to stresses of wartime violence.
Posttraumatic stress (PTSD) comes from exposure to severe or perceived danger. It can lead people to experience great difficulty with trust. People may experience and re-experience the trauma in their minds. Anxiety often accompanies this trauma. People with PTSD can go to great lengths to create a feeling of safety. They may isolate themselves from others or become overly dependent.
Under the medical model, trust issues can be linked with:
- Adjustment disorders
- Fear of abandonment
- Attachment issues
- Posttraumatic stress
People diagnosed with schizophrenia and related conditions may experience paranoia. This is the unfounded but rigid belief that others are trying to harm oneself. Schizophrenia may also cause delusions and hallucinations. Delusions are false beliefs, often with themes of mistrust. Hallucinations are usually imagined voices that may be critical or malevolent. This condition is today thought to be best treated with a combination of medications and intensive therapy.
If you experience trust issues, you are not alone. People who seek help for trust issues are often able to regain a sense of trust in others. This may improve their relationships and overall sense of well-being.
- Zak, A. M., Gold, J. A., Ryckman, R. M., & Lenney, E. (1998). Assessments of trust in intimate relationships and the self-perception process. The Journal of Social Psychology, 138(2), 217-228. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/199792384?accountid=1229