Relearning Critical Thinking And To Think Skeptically – For Scam Victims After A Relationship Scam

Trauma is known to cause Cognitive Impairment and Brain Fog after the Scam Ends. Relearning Critical Thinking and Skepticism again are vital skills Scam Victims Need!

Scam Victim Recovery Psychology

•  Tim McGuinness, Ph.D. – Anthropologist, Scientist, Director of the Society of Citizens Against Relationship Scams Inc.

About This Article

Rebuilding critical thinking skills after becoming a victim of a relationship scam is essential to restoring a sense of control and trust in oneself. Scam victims often experience profound emotional trauma and cognitive impairment due to the manipulation tactics used by scammers.

Recognizing the impact of trauma on cognition is the first step toward recovery. Victims can use self-assessment tools, engage in mindfulness practices, and seek professional support to identify cognitive distortions and improve decision-making abilities.

Rebuilding skepticism and learning to question assumptions are crucial for protecting against future exploitation. By practicing self-compassion, prioritizing self-care, and seeking support from trusted individuals, victims can gradually regain their confidence and move forward with resilience.

It’s important to acknowledge that healing takes time and patience, but with dedication and support, scam victims can restore their critical thinking faculties and reclaim their lives.

Relearning Critical Thinking And To Think Skeptically For Scam Victims After A Relationship Scam - 2024

Restoring Critical Thinking After Becoming a Scam Victim to Relationship Scams – How to Recognize Impairment and Return to Full Cognition!

One of the first things that goes away for scam victims is critical thinking, both during the scam because of the manipulation but also after the scam because of trauma.

Becoming a scam victim of a relationship scam can be a devastating experience, leaving individuals grappling with shattered trust and a sense of betrayal (betrayal trauma.)

Always remember that these crimes are perpetrated by skilled manipulators with the goal of stealing their victim’s money.

These crimes erode not only the financial stability of scam victims but also their confidence in their own judgment and ability to discern truth from deception. The trauma that results from this can have a profound impact on each victim’s thinking (cognition), how they make decisions, and how they respond to new information. Their doubt in their decision-making is justified because their mind or brain usually has been impaired by the experience – both through the manipulation and the trauma that followed.

However, recovery is possible and happens over time – with proper professional support, and rebuilding skeptical and critical thinking faculties is a very important step towards regaining control and moving forward with resilience.

Understanding the Impact

Relationship scams exploit emotions and vulnerabilities, distort and disrupt cognition, and allow the emotionally reactive parts of the brain to have full control. Often scam victims report that they find themselves questioning their own judgment both during the scam and afterward. Especially afterward, feeling ashamed of being deceived, and experiencing profound emotional trauma. In the aftermath of the crime, rebuilding trust in oneself and others becomes a difficult task, as the lines between genuine reality and manipulation blur.

Psychological trauma can profoundly impact cognition and critical thinking in several ways:

  • Impaired Attention and Concentration: Trauma can disrupt attentional processes, making it difficult to focus on tasks or information. Individuals may experience distractibility (they are easily distracted,) hypervigilance, or difficulty maintaining attention, which can impair their ability to process information effectively and make sound judgments.
  • Memory Disturbances: Trauma can lead to memory disturbances, including both intrusive memories and difficulty in memory recall. Individuals often experience intrusive thoughts related to the traumatic event, which can interfere with concentration and cognitive processing. Additionally, trauma can impair the encoding and retrieval of new information, leading to gaps or distortions in memory.
  • Executive Functioning Deficits: Executive functions, such as planning, problem-solving, decision-making, and impulse control, can be significantly impacted by trauma. Individuals may struggle to organize their thoughts, set realistic goals, and initiate and sustain goal-directed behavior. Impulsivity, risk-taking, and difficulty regulating emotions often also occur, further impairing critical thinking abilities.
  • Negative Cognitive Appraisals: Trauma can lead to negative cognitive appraisals of oneself, others, and the world – these are known as cognitive distortions. These distorted beliefs can include feelings of worthlessness, guilt, or self-blame, as well as beliefs about the inherent danger or unpredictability of the world. However, they can also be about others that might have been previously trusted (such as family members and friends,) or about virtually anything. These cognitive distortions can undermine confidence, self-esteem, and decision-making abilities.
  • Hypervigilance and Threat Perception: Trauma survivors develop a heightened sense of threat perception and hypervigilance, constantly scanning their environment for signs of danger, but usually without being aware of it. This state of hyperarousal can lead to overestimation of risk, misinterpretation of ambiguous cues, and difficulty distinguishing between real threats and perceived danger (triggers,) all of which can impair critical thinking. It can also lead to unrealistic optimism and unrealistic positivity.
  • Emotional Dysregulation: Trauma often results in dysregulation of emotions, including intense or fluctuating emotions, emotional numbness, or emotional outbursts. These emotional disturbances can interfere with cognitive processing, making it difficult to think clearly, problem-solve, or make decisions objectively. However, it can also result in much more subtle emotions such as frustration, annoyance, impatience, jealousy, or their opposites, giddiness, sexual arousal, and unwarranted attachment.
  • Avoidance Behaviors: In an effort to cope with trauma-related distress, individuals may engage in avoidance behaviors, such as avoiding reminders of the traumatic event, social withdrawal, or substance use. These avoidance strategies can limit exposure to new information, opportunities for learning, and engagement in activities that require critical thinking skills.

Psychological trauma can have unpredictable but serious effects on cognition and critical thinking, impairing attention, memory, executive functioning, cognitive appraisals, threat perception, emotional regulation, and problem-solving abilities. Recognizing these cognitive impairments is essential for providing appropriate support and interventions to trauma survivors to promote cognitive functioning and recovery.

Recognizing the Need for Recovery

Recovering from a relationship scam requires acknowledging the emotional toll it has taken and recognizing the need for healing. It is essential to confront feelings of shame and self-blame, understanding that becoming a victim of manipulation does not diminish one’s worth or intelligence. By accepting the reality of the situation and seeking support from trusted friends, family, or professionals, individuals can begin the journey toward rebuilding their lives.

Especially hard is acknowledging to themselves and others that they were under the control of the criminals and that they were so manipulated that they did what the criminals asked, many times without a second thought. This is hard to accept that they could lose such control. However, for most scam victims, that is exactly what happened – making it hard for them to accept and forgive themselves. Always remember that it was not their fault!

Recovering from a relationship scam involves relearning to trust oneself and one’s instincts. This process begins by re-establishing critical thinking and a healthy skepticism towards many things, such as the establishment of boundaries, information from unreliable sources, new relationships of any kind, and potential red flags they may now see. Victims should empower themselves by understanding what manipulation is, what it does, and how their own brain may have worked against them. With knowledge about common tactics used by manipulators and abusers, such as love bombing, gaslighting, and financial exploitation.

Scam victims also need to learn about trauma and its effects. Trauma can seriously affect a scam victim’s ability to think clearly and logically for many months after the scam ends, Influencing their decisions and actions, in many cases quite seriously as decision-making becomes more emotionally based and reactive without the ability to think things through as thoroughly as they once could.

How Can You Know If You Are Impaired?

Individuals who have experienced serious psychological trauma can assess their own cognitive functioning and critical thinking for impairment through self-awareness, reflection, and observation of their cognitive processes. Journaling helps to record this day after day.

That is easy to say, but if they are impaired they will also evaluate themselves while having impairment – meaning garbage in/garbage out. An impaired mind cannot easily judge its own impairment. However, there are tools and techniques that can help with this.

One way to test if someone is impaired is to try to do a complicated task. If they experience impatience or frustration or the inability to continue with the task this could be overwhelming their brain due to cognitive dissonance, cognitive distortions, or impairment, both can be manifestations of trauma. Remember, these are generally not permanent.

Self-Assessment Tools

Use self-assessment tools or questionnaires designed to measure cognitive functioning and critical thinking skills. Look for validated tests that assess cognitive distortions, executive functioning, problem-solving abilities, memory, and decision-making skills. Completing these assessments can provide valuable insights into areas of strength and areas for improvement that might show impairment.

Remember, the impairment that typically comes after a scam from the emotional dysregulation from trauma improves on its own, especially with support. This impairment is typically not permanent, but if someone is concerned about that they should always speak with a trauma professional.

Tools & Tests. Note that SCARS has no affiliation with the following:

These are for both Alzheimer’s sufferers but also help test general cognition testing.

Puzzles such as jigsaw, crosswords, and sudoku are also excellent ways to gauge cognition. But remember, the impairment is emotionally related, so when someone is calm it may not show up!

Rebuilding Skeptical Thinking

Recovering critical thinking skills and cultivating a healthy degree of skepticism after becoming the victim of a relationship scam can be a challenging but achievable process.

When emotional distress, particularly, impairs thinking and decision-making, it’s essential to take steps to improve cognitive functioning and prevent emotional or reactive decisions. Here are some strategies to help improve cognition and decision-making in such situations.

Just remember that some cognition challenges just take time to go away!

Here are some steps that scam victims can take to restore their critical thinking and skepticism:

  • Education and Awareness: First, scam victims should educate themselves about both the manipulation techniques used against them and also about the effect that psychological trauma has on the mind, from cognitive dissonance to impairment to increased reliance on cognitive biases. Learning itself will become more difficult following the scam, so scam victims may need to read and reread more than they would have in the past to fully comprehend what they are trying to learn. Knowing that there is impairment is the first step to working around it.
  • Emotional Regulation Techniques: Practice techniques to manage and regulate emotions, such as deep breathing, mindfulness meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, or visualization. These techniques can help calm the mind and reduce emotional reactivity, allowing for clearer thinking and more rational decision-making.
  • Pause and Reflect: When faced with a decision, victims should take time to pause and reflect before responding. Anything from 4 to 24 hours is best. Avoid making impulsive or reactive decisions in the heat of the moment. Instead, give themself time to step back, let their amygdala deactivate and the logical part of their brain regain control, then assess the decision or situation more objectively, and consider the potential consequences of different courses of action. If emotions try to take control again, they should practice mindfulness breathing to calm their mind again. Some problems just cannot be solved immediately and should be put off for days or even weeks.
  • Seek Perspective: Reach out to trusted friends, family members, or professionals they trust for support and perspective. Discussing their thoughts and feelings with others can provide valuable insights and help them gain a more balanced perspective on the situation. Just hearing themself describe the decision or problem will often help. Listen carefully to advice and write it down, trauma can cause memory challenges.
  • Use Decision-Making Tools: Utilize decision-making tools and frameworks, such as pros and cons lists, decision trees, or cost-benefit analyses, to evaluate options systematically and objectively. Breaking down the decision into smaller components can make it easier to assess the situation rationally and identify the best course of action. But remember, if the victim’s decision-making is impaired then their use of the tools will be too. Always give enough time.
  • Consider Future Consequences: When making decisions, consider the potential short-term and long-term consequences of each option. They should ask themself how each choice aligns with their values, goals, and priorities, and consider how it may impact their well-being and future outcomes. This is true, not just for financial decisions, but also for emotional ones.
  • Focus on Solutions: Instead of dwelling on problems or negative emotions, focus on finding practical solutions and taking constructive action. Identify specific steps you can take to address the underlying issues or improve the situation, and take proactive measures to implement those solutions. Try to find solutions that they can test and then either accept or back away from. If the decision has serious consequences, even if the solution looks practical, it may be far better to let time go by to gain a better perspective.
  • Understand that Your Thinking is Biased: With the trauma that comes from their reaction to the crime, comes impaired decision-making, and that includes more reliance on cognitive biases. Understanding this, and being as mindful as possible allows them to look at your decision-making with clearer eyes.
  • Challenge Assumptions: Scam victims should actively challenge their assumptions and beliefs, especially those that may contribute to their critical thinking. Encouraging oneself to question and critically evaluate information can help individuals develop a more rational and analytical mindset.
  • Verify Information: Before making decisions or taking action, victims should verify information from multiple credible sources. Fact-checking and seeking validation can help individuals avoid falling prey to emotional and reactive decision-making and empower critical thinking.
  • Watch for Emotional Thinking: Almost everything a scam victim will do after the scam ends will be based on emotional reactions for several months, and potentially more, until they learn how to manage their trauma. Each victim needs to look at their feelings when decisions come up or new information is presented to see what they are feeling or how they are reacting. Look especially for negative reactions, such as fear, annoyance or anger, distrust, rejection, and disbelief. These are very likely the reactions of being triggered. Though in all fairness these are not bad reactions when the information is worthy of those reactions. The challenge is to know when it is one or the other.

By taking proactive steps to rebuild critical thinking skills and cultivate skepticism, scam victims can empower themselves to protect against emotional and reactive decisions, and also against future exploitation. These steps can help scam victims regain a sense of control over their lives and rebuild trust in themselves.

Understanding the Absence of Evidence – Skeptical Thinking

The concepts of “absence of evidence” and “evidence of absence” are often discussed in the context of reasoning and argumentation, particularly in fields such as science, philosophy, and logic. These can be very challenging for someone who has suffered a recent significant psychological trauma.

  • Absence of Evidence: This refers to a situation where there is a lack of evidence to support a particular claim or hypothesis. In other words, there is no available evidence that proves or disproves the existence of something. However, the absence of evidence does not necessarily imply evidence against the claim. It simply means that there is insufficient information available to draw a conclusion. For example, if someone claims that unicorns exist but there is no scientific evidence (fossil records, biological samples, etc.) to support this claim, we would say that there is an absence of evidence for the existence of unicorns. This does not definitively prove that unicorns do not exist; it simply means that there is no empirical evidence to support the claim.
  • Evidence of Absence: This concept suggests that the presence of evidence indicating the absence of something strengthens the case against its existence. Unlike absence of evidence, evidence of absence provides support for the conclusion that something does not exist. For instance, if a thorough search of a specific area fails to uncover any traces of a particular species of animal (such as a Unicorn,) despite extensive efforts to find it, this absence of any evidence of the animal’s presence can be considered evidence of its absence from that area. The more comprehensive the search and the more advanced the detection methods used, the stronger the evidence becomes.

The absence of evidence indicates a lack of available information to support a claim, while evidence of absence suggests that the available evidence supports the conclusion that something does not exist. Both concepts play important roles in logical reasoning and critical thinking, particularly in evaluating claims and hypotheses.

They are also important to understand when trying to avoid being victimized in the future.

Advice for Anyone who has been through Trauma

  • Practicing Self-Compassion: Central to the recovery process is practicing self-compassion and kindness towards oneself. Victims of relationship scams often blame themselves for being deceived, but it is essential to remember that they are not to blame for the actions of manipulative criminals. By cultivating self-compassion and treating oneself with the same empathy and understanding as they would a friend in a similar situation, individuals can begin to heal from the trauma and rebuild their confidence.
  • Practice Mindfulness: Engaging in mindfulness practices such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, or yoga can help individuals cultivate self-awareness and become more attuned to their thoughts and emotions. Mindfulness can also aid in developing a more balanced perspective and reduce impulsivity.
  • Practice Self-Care: Prioritize self-care activities that promote overall well-being, such as getting enough sleep, eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, and engaging in activities that bring joy and fulfillment. Taking care of their physical and emotional health can improve cognitive function and decision-making abilities.
  • Moving Forward with Resilience: Recovering from a relationship scam is a journey of self-discovery and growth. It requires courage, patience, and resilience to confront the pain of betrayal and emerge stronger on the other side. By embracing the lessons learned from the experience and using it as an opportunity for personal growth, individuals can rebuild their lives with newfound wisdom and a deeper understanding of themselves.
  • Build Support Networks: Surrounding oneself with supportive friends, family members, or support groups can provide encouragement, validation, and perspective during the recovery process. Sharing experiences with others who have gone through similar ordeals can also create a sense of community and understanding.
  • Take Time to Heal: Recovery from a relationship scam takes time, and it’s important for victims to be patient and compassionate with themselves. Healing is a gradual process, and individuals may experience setbacks or challenges along the way. Practicing self-care, engaging in enjoyable activities, and focusing on personal growth can support the healing journey.
  • Set Boundaries: They need to establish clear boundaries to protect themselves from situations or individuals that exacerbate emotional distress or impair decision-making. Learn to say no to requests or demands that are not in their best interest, and prioritize their own needs and well-being.
  • Seek Professional Help: If emotional distress significantly impacts their ability to think clearly or make decisions, consider seeking professional help from a therapist, counselor, or mental health professional. Therapy can provide valuable support, guidance, and strategies for managing emotions and improving decision-making skills.

By implementing these strategies and prioritizing mindfulness, self-care, and emotional regulation, scam victims can improve their decision-making abilities and reduce the likelihood of making emotional or reactive decisions, even in times of distress.


Recovering from a relationship scam is a challenging process that requires time, patience, and support. By acknowledging the emotional toll of the experience, seeking professional guidance, and cultivating self-compassion, individuals can begin to rebuild their critical and skeptical thinking faculties and regain control over their lives. With resilience and determination, it is possible to emerge from this crime and reclaim one’s sense of trust and self-assurance.

Important Information for New Scam Victims

Statement About Victim Blaming

Some of our articles discuss various aspects of victims. This is both about better understanding victims (the science of victimology) and their behaviors and psychology. This helps us to educate victims/survivors about why these crimes happened and to not blame themselves, better develop recovery programs, and to help victims avoid scams in the future. At times this may sound like blaming the victim, but it does not blame scam victims, we are simply explaining the hows and whys of the experience victims have.

These articles, about the Psychology of Scams or Victim Psychology – meaning that all humans have psychological or cognitive characteristics in common that can either be exploited or work against us – help us all to understand the unique challenges victims face before, during, and after scams, fraud, or cybercrimes. These sometimes talk about some of the vulnerabilities the scammers exploit. Victims rarely have control of them or are even aware of them, until something like a scam happens and then they can learn how their mind works and how to overcome these mechanisms.

Articles like these help victims and others understand these processes and how to help prevent them from being exploited again or to help them recover more easily by understanding their post-scam behaviors. Learn more about the Psychology of Scams at

SCARS Resources:

Psychology Disclaimer:

All articles about psychology and the human brain on this website are for information & education only

The information provided in this and other SCARS articles are intended for educational and self-help purposes only and should not be construed as a substitute for professional therapy or counseling.

Note about Mindfulness: Mindfulness practices have the potential to create psychological distress for some individuals. Please consult a mental health professional or experienced meditation instructor for guidance should you encounter difficulties.

While any self-help techniques outlined herein may be beneficial for scam victims seeking to recover from their experience and move towards recovery, it is important to consult with a qualified mental health professional before initiating any course of action. Each individual’s experience and needs are unique, and what works for one person may not be suitable for another.

Additionally, any approach may not be appropriate for individuals with certain pre-existing mental health conditions or trauma histories. It is advisable to seek guidance from a licensed therapist or counselor who can provide personalized support, guidance, and treatment tailored to your specific needs.

If you are experiencing significant distress or emotional difficulties related to a scam or other traumatic event, please consult your doctor or mental health provider for appropriate care and support.

If you are in crisis, feeling desperate, or in despair please call 988 or your local crisis hotline.


We are not here to prove our work scientifically. Other scientists have already done that. We adapt real science to our subject whether it is psychology, neuroscience, criminology, victimology, etc. We both review the available research and established science in creating our work, as well as extrapolate on the significance for the victims of these crimes. If you disagree with us, we invite proof to the contrary – that is, after all the scientific method. Everything we explore is based on readily available science and knowledge. Our audience almost exclusively is the public, specifically crime victims, and not interested in citations, which is why we do not always provide them. We do our best to convert very complex topics into understandable language. We invite everyone to explore and investigate the topic we write about. We encourage you to do your own research and not simply take what anyone says as absolute truth.

PLEASE NOTE: Psychology Clarification

The following specific modalities within the practice of psychology are restricted to psychologists appropriately trained in the use of such modalities:

  • Diagnosis: The diagnosis of mental, emotional, or brain disorders and related behaviors.
  • Psychoanalysis: Psychoanalysis is a type of therapy that focuses on helping individuals to understand and resolve unconscious conflicts.
  • Hypnosis: Hypnosis is a state of trance in which individuals are more susceptible to suggestion. It can be used to treat a variety of conditions, including anxiety, depression, and pain.
  • Biofeedback: Biofeedback is a type of therapy that teaches individuals to control their bodily functions, such as heart rate and blood pressure. It can be used to treat a variety of conditions, including stress, anxiety, and pain.
  • Behavioral analysis: Behavioral analysis is a type of therapy that focuses on changing individuals’ behaviors. It is often used to treat conditions such as autism and ADHD.
    Neuropsychology: Neuropsychology is a type of psychology that focuses on the relationship between the brain and behavior. It is often used to assess and treat cognitive impairments caused by brain injuries or diseases.

SCARS and the members of the SCARS Team do not engage in any of the above modalities in relationship to scam victims. SCARS is not a mental healthcare provider and recognizes the importance of professionalism and separation between its work and that of the licensed practice of psychology.

SCARS is an educational provider of generalized self-help information that individuals can use for their own benefit to achieve their own goals related to emotional trauma. SCARS recommends that all scam victims see professional counselors or therapists to help them determine the suitability of any specific information or practices that may help them.

SCARS cannot diagnose or treat any individuals, nor can it state the effectiveness of any educational information that it may provide, regardless of its experience in interacting with traumatized scam victims over time. All information that SCARS provides is purely for general educational purposes to help scam victims become aware of and better understand the topics and to be able to dialog with their counselors or therapists.

It is important that all readers understand these distinctions and that they apply the information that SCARS may publish at their own risk, and should do so only after consulting a licensed psychologist or mental healthcare provider.


The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of the Society of Citizens Against Rleationship Scams Inc. The author is solely responsible for the content of their work. SCARS is protected under the Communications Decency Act (CDA) section 230 from liability.







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