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The Oxford English Dictionary defines trust as a “firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.” Trust is generally viewed as one of the foundational pillars of any authentic, healthy relationship. It can take years to develop trust in a relationship, and only moments for it to be destroyed. A tendency to distrust others can lead to a slew of unwanted consequences (e.g., exacerbate depression, loneliness, antisocial behaviors, etc.). Trust issues are largely characterized by fears of abandonment, betrayal, and manipulation. There are different frequently exhibited signs with which an individual struggling with trust issues may present, including the following examples, provided by Good Therapy:

  • Lack of intimacy or friendships
  • The mistrust that interferes with a relationship
  • Dramatic and turbulent relationships
  • Suspicion or anxiety about friends and family 
  • Terror during physical intimacy
  • The belief that others are deceptive or malevolent without evidence

Unresolved trust issues can cause problems in romantic relationships as well as non-romantic relationships and can interfere with one’s ability to cultivate and maintain future healthy relationships. 

Where Do Trust Issues Come From?

There is no single root cause that universally and accurately encompasses why chronic distrust, colloquially known as trust issues, develops. Rather, in most situations, the cause of trust issues is often due to a confluence of contributing factors. Trust issues can develop because of past or present experiences. Common causes of trust issues could be attributed to:

  • Childhood experiences: research has found that people who have endured a troubled childhood are more likely to develop trust issues later in life. For some individual’s the development of trust issues may be attributed to exposure to the following examples at a young age:
    • A parent making false promises to a child 
    • A friend failing to follow through on their words 
    • Caregivers with poor parenting skills
    • Abuse (e.g., emotional, physical, sexual, psychological, etc.)
    • Parental neglect
    • Parents with psychiatric conditions
    • Parental anger issues
  • Toxic relationships: unhealthy elements of relationships that could ignite trust issues may include:
    • Jealousy
    • Possessiveness 
    • Unreasonable rigidity 
    • Emotional infidelity 
    • Physical/ sexual infidelity
    • Relational game playing 
    • Lack of reliability and/ or dependability 
    • Lack of emotional support 
    • Lack of financial compatibility 
    • Lack of mutually supportive goals
  • Traumatic incidents: the effects of trauma can interfere with an individual’s ability to let their guard down and trust others. A traumatized individual (e.g., a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, extreme bullying, etc.) often feels unsafe in society and may begin to anticipate potential danger in all relationships, which can cause confusion regarding whom to trust and emitting vulnerability. 

Psychology Today explains that some individuals’ trust issues could partly be a matter of personality, as people that are naturally less agreeable tend to be more prone to distrusting others. However, it is important to note that people are not born with trust issues. Trust issues gradually develop as a cumulative impact of the various negative experiences one encounters in his or her life, beginning in childhood.  

Disclaimer: 

The information above is provided for the use of informational purposes only. The above content is not to be substituted for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment, as in no way is it intended as an attempt to practice medicine, give specific medical advice, including, without limitation, advice concerning the topic of mental health. As such, please do not use any material provided above to disregard professional advice or delay seeking treatment.