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Signs of Trust Issues

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on November 17, 2020

Trust is the reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something. Trust is essential to the development of healthy, secure, and satisfying relationships. Although there has been significant research on the subject, relatively little is known about how and why interpersonal trust develops, how it’s maintained, and how it unravels when betrayed.

Any relationship depends on trust in order to exist. However, sometimes that trust isn’t as genuine or as honest as it should be. If one or both partners questions the other’s activities, words, or actions, a lack of trust can form. This leads to problems called trust issues.

What Are Trust Issues?

Individuals with lower levels of trust — or trust issues — tend to monitor and occasionally test their partner’s degree of support and responsiveness in their relationship. When a relationship lacks trust, it allows for the potential development of harmful thoughts, actions, or emotions, such as negative attributions, suspicion, and jealousy. Over time, this can lead to bigger problems, such as emotional or physical abuse.

Trust issues can also be linked with:

Signs of Trust Issues

Here are some of the signs and symptoms to watch out for:

Don’t Believe What Other People Say

Individuals with trust issues have a tendency to “fact check” what others tell them. Even if there's no reason to doubt the honesty of their partner, friend, or even colleague, they don’t take what they say as truth unless they confirm it themselves.

Always Expect the Worst

If someone expects their loved ones to betray them — even if the people in question never have before — they may have trust issues. A lack of trust may lead to suspicion of other people’s motives and behavior. 

Keep People at a Distance

Someone with trust issues may not be eager to open up or get close to others, even if they long for deep and meaningful relationships. They may have trouble letting themselves go, being vulnerable, and/or being physically intimate. 

Jealous Behaviors

Romantic jealousy is considered a complex combination of thoughts (i.e., cognitive jealousy), emotions (i.e., emotional jealousy), and behaviors (i.e., behavioral jealousy) that result from a perceived threat to one’s romantic relationship.

Cognitive jealousy represents a person’s rational or irrational thoughts, worries, and suspicions concerning a partner’s faithfulness, whereas emotional jealousy refers to a person’s feelings of upset in response to a jealousy-evoking situation. Behavioral jealousy involves detective/protective measures a person may take, such as going through their partner’s belongings or looking through their text messages or emails.

Research examining an individual’s motives for engaging in “snooping” behavior also found trust to be an important factor. Specifically, individuals who perceived that their partners disclosed less personally relevant information to them were more likely to engage in snooping behavior, especially when they reported lower levels of trust.

Together, these findings indicate that distrust is an important determinant in experiencing and expressing jealousy. This study aims to further refine this association by examining trust and jealousy in the context of attachment theory.

Dealing With Trust Issues

If you or your loved one is showing signs of trust issues, you’re not alone — and there are ways to build trust, which may help strengthen romantic, platonic, and familial relationships and improve your sense of well-being.

Some ways to address trust issues include:

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help people get to the root of their trust issues. CBT is a type of talk therapy. Its practitioners believe that thoughts influence behavior. In CBT, a person talks to a health professional about his or her problems.

A therapist using CBT might help someone with trust issues learn new ways of thinking to combat their negative feelings, help people separate past problems from future fears, and gain confidence to rebuild trust in existing relationships.

Rebuilding Trust

There are four general factors to enhancing trust in a close relationship:

  • Honesty and integrity
  • Nondefensiveness
  • Understanding
  • Direct communication

If your friend, partner, or loved one has trust issues, strive to be more honest and transparent in all your personal interactions, learn to be less defensive in communicating with them, accept and appreciate the differences between you and them, and be straightforward in asking for what you want from your relationship. In doing so, you’ll both feel more open to loving and being loved — and trusting one another.

WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES:

American Psychological Association: “Jealousy: Theory, research, and clinical strategies.”

Current Directions in Psychological Science: “Psychological Foundations of Trust.”

Depression Alliance: Trust Issues: “What They Are and How To Deal With Them.”

GoodTherapy: “Get Help for Trust Issues.”

GoodTherapy: “Trust Issues.”

Journal of Personality and Social Psychology: “Trust in Close Relationships.”

Mayo Clinic: “Cognitive behavioral therapy.”

Merriam-Webster Dictionary: “trust.”

Partner Abuse: “The Price of Distrust: Trust, Anxious Attachment, Jealousy, and Partner Abuse.”

Personal Relationships: “Why do close partners snoop? Predictors of intrusive behavior in newlywed couples.”

PsychAlive: “Trust Issues: Why Is It So Hard for Some People to Trust?”

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