If you had these 8 experiences as a child, you likely struggle with trust issues

Do you find yourself unable to really trust people?

Even though you feel like you want to trust the people close to you – friends, family, partners – does there always seem to be something standing in the way?

If you think for a second, how likely is it that everyone you’ve ever met in your life happens to be untrustworthy? How come there are genuinely trustworthy people out there, but you don’t seem able to meet any of them?

I know it’s a bitter pill to swallow, but when it’s either everyone else in the world who’s wrong or you, it’s very likely you.

And what’s standing in your way, keeping you from trusting people, is your childhood experiences. These form a basis for your understanding of human relationships and can keep you from building trusting relationships into adulthood.

If you had these eight experiences as a child, you likely struggle with trust issues, which show up as extreme independence and a reluctance to show vulnerability. Obviously, this can make it incredibly hard to maintain relationships.

I want to warn you that we’re going to talk about some really tough stuff here, but uncovering these childhood experiences and their effects on your life can help lead you toward healing and change.

1) Physical or sexual abuse

Physical abuse can include being hit, grabbed, strangled, tied up, and other insults to your body.

Sexual abuse is when anyone touches you sexually or makes you do sexual acts that you don’t want to do or don’t understand. 

This kind of abuse is devastating for young children because they are hurt in such a deep way, and it’s almost always by people whom they are meant to be able to trust.

Whether it’s a parent, close relative, or other caregiver perpetrating the abuse, the child’s trust is shattered, and they form the concept that people are inherently untrustworthy. It seems like if someone so close to them can break their trust, then anyone and everyone can. 

If you were harmed as a child in a physical or sexual way, this can leave behind scars so deep they might seem like they’ll never heal. But through counseling and working to heal your inner child, it is possible to overcome such experiences.

2) Emotional abuse

Like physical abuse, emotional abuse can be devastating to a child’s self-concept and ability to trust others.

Emotional abuse can include threats against a child’s well-being, being intentionally scared, being emotionally manipulated, being verbally abused or yelled at, and being told the child is not loved and wanted.

Again, it’s almost always the parents, caregivers, or close family who perpetrate this abuse, and that leaves the child feeling hurt, anxious, and confused about who they can trust.

Children form attachments to their primary caregivers, which are necessary for them to build strong, healthy relationships later in life. But if these crucial people end up being their abusers, that ability becomes seriously damaged.

The children then grow up not being able to differentiate between who they can and can’t trust. 

They lose their ability to trust family, neighbors, and, of course, strangers. And even when they encounter positive experiences that show they can trust people, they find it very hard to change.

3) Witnessing abuse in the home

Abuse doesn’t have to be perpetrated on a child for them to be deeply affected.

If a child witnesses any abuse in the home against a parent or sibling, for example, this can also leave them feeling incredibly insecure and anxious.

The home is supposed to be a place of safety and sanctuary for everyone, so when there is violence, sexual abuse, or emotional abuse in the home, that refuge is lost.

Children are powerless, so they have no place to go and no way to secure their own safety. Many children and teens end up running away from home as a last resort, but that throws them into a world with even more threats.

Others feel a sense of guilt for not being able to protect the other people in the home who are being abused, even though, as a child, they don’t have any ability to do that.

This can lead to anxiety and major self-esteem issues down the road. Combined with the trust issues they develop, this makes it nearly impossible for them to form the healthy relationships they so desperately need in their adult lives.

8 signs your low self esteem can be traced back to your childhood 1 If you had these 8 experiences as a child, you likely struggle with trust issues

4) Physical neglect

Physical neglect is when a child’s physical needs aren’t met due to the fault of their caregiver(s).

A poor mother trying her best to feed her child but not always finding adequate nutrition is not neglectful. 

But a parent who leaves a child without food because they didn’t intend to feed them certainly is.

Neglect can also take the form of leaving an infant to soil themself and stay that way for a long period. It can take the form of not giving children the food and water they need.

In extreme cases, physical neglect can include keeping a child in darkness or in a confined space.

All of these acts are completely destructive to a child’s sense of well-being and their ability to form positive connections with other people.

Often, this neglect is due to mental illness or substance abuse issues on the part of the parents. They essentially don’t take care of their children because they can’t take care of themselves.

When a child is neglected, they grow up feeling anxious because they never know when they’ll next be fed or cared for. They necessarily learn not to trust people because their primary caregivers can’t be trusted to provide them with what they need.

5) Emotional neglect

Emotional neglect is when children are denied the care and attention they need to thrive.

When a baby cries for hours, but no one comes to feed or care for them, that baby learns that their emotions are not important, and this has huge implications into adulthood. Even young children who are left alone for long periods to fend for themselves can be considered neglected.

When no one comforts a child when they are distressed, or if they are punished for crying or showing other signs of distress, they learn that there’s no one they can trust with their emotional expression.

These children often grow up to be adults who never show vulnerability or express their emotions adequately.

6) Exposure to mental illness

Homes with people who have serious mental illnesses can be sources of anxiety for children.

A person with unmanaged conditions like schizophrenia or manic depression can exhibit very erratic and confusing behavior that a child simply can’t process.

Parents with narcissistic personality disorder may be loving one day and spiteful the next.

Caregivers with substance abuse disorders may also act inconsistently.

All of these situations can confuse children and make them unable to know who to trust and when. And these trust issues continue on into their adult lives.

7) Being removed from the home

A child may feel safe and secure in their home without knowing that their parents may not be able to care for them adequately.

Other children may lose their parents to accidents, and that tears them away from what they feel is a safe and secure place.

In both cases, there are serious effects on the children. They feel like they’re taken away from their carers and don’t feel they can trust the people or the system that removed their security. Even if the child was being neglected or abused, they still had an attachment to their parents, and when that is severed, it can be devastating.

Children with no other relatives who can care for them go into the child welfare system, which, though it tries its best, is full of issues. 

These can include predators and abusers misusing the system, foster parents only taking in children for the money, and orphanages that lack adequate security.

Though the system is designed to help children, it often inadvertently exposes them to more hurt and abuse. These children are also frequently uprooted as they move between orphanages and foster homes, and that can lead to even further trust issues.

8) Toxic stress

Toxic stress can be found in war zones and refugee camps where people are desperate, and their physical security is constantly at risk.

Growing up in such conditions can have lasting effects. Children feel constantly insecure and unable to know who they can trust and when.

Even once they end up in safe places, these trust issues continually affect them.

If you had any of these eight experiences as a child, you likely struggle with trust issues, and there’s a very good reason why.

Your adult relationships will continue to suffer because healthy human relationships are all based on mutual trust. So, dealing with the difficult trauma of the root cause of your trust issues is the only way to heal them. 

But know that you can do it for the life you deserve.

Picture of Marcel Deer

Marcel Deer

Marcel is a journalist, gamer, and entrepreneur. When not obsessing over his man cave or the latest tech, he’s failing helplessly at training his obnoxious rescue dog ‘Boogies’.

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