A common phrase we hear often is that “love is war.” You know it can be a constant battle, that it’s not always going to be easy. Still, you fall in love with someone special, you say the vows to be faithful, and then, out of nowhere, you are blindsided by a cold truth. They were disloyal. Learning that your significant other, your life partner, had an affair is emotionally, physically, and spiritually catastrophic.
It will feel like a bomb went off in the middle of your life, and you will feel burned and damaged beyond belief. Even when you and your spouse try to get back on track and save the relationship, you may experience flashes of dark emotions or worry. So, you wonder, can you have PTSD over infidelity?
You certainly can. We’re going to tell you why it happens and give you some tips to work through it effectively.
What is PTSD?
Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is a mental condition that is, according to the Mayo Clinic, triggered by terrifying events. You can develop PTSD by experiencing or witnessing something traumatic. The symptoms are varied, but most people have flashbacks, anxiety, and thoughts about the event that are uncontrollable and unavoidable.
Symptoms of PTSD:
- Emotional hollowness alternating with retaliation and anger
- Inability to regulate emotions
- Intrusive thoughts that distract you from activities or work
- Inability to calm down (Hyper-vigilance)
- Out-of-body experiences
- Feeling hopeless and broken
- Assigning blame
Can You Have PTSD Over a Partner Cheating?
Professionals sometimes call the PTSD-like symptoms affecting the victims of an affair Post-Infidelity Stress Disorder (PISD). The condition has the same grip on you as PTSD, but one thing was noted to be different. With PISD, those who discovered the infidelity could end up with broken heart syndrome, or cardiomyopathy, which makes you feel like you’re having a heart attack.
There’s no denying that infidelity is devastating. You are probably feeling an overwhelming amount of emotions right now, some you can’t even name. And the last thing you want to deal with is PTSD from the betrayal. However, naming the issue and the struggles you are having is important.
You need to know that these thoughts, insomnia, and anxiety or hyper-vigilance will only make recovering from infidelity more difficult. Talk with friends or family members you can trust. Sometimes, a therapist, such as an infidelity recovery specialist, can help you work through the emotions in a constructive way.
How PTSD Affects Infidelity Recovery
Seek out a support system. Be transparent about what you feel, especially with your partner. If you do that, you can start to overcome the trauma. Until then, knowing how PTSD might affect the recovering relationship is important. You need to be able to anticipate the hurdles before they arrive, so you can navigate them better.
1. Blaming Yourself For the Betrayal
One of the most common indicators of PTSD is blaming yourself for what happened. You might tell yourself that you deserved what happened because you weren’t attentive enough. If only you had been around more often, funnier, wealthier, or more adventurous in bed, your partner might not have done what they did.
That’s not how infidelity works. Infidelity happens for many reasons, but it is never the fault of the betrayed—you. Yes, in your marriage there might have been things you could do better, such as communicating with your spouse, but that is a two-way road.
You cannot help the connections your spouse forms at work or while moving through their day. You can’t control who they become attracted to, sadly. If your partner in life was disloyal and slept with someone else, be it once or twice, knowing full well that it was an active decision on their part.
2. Angry, Intrusive Thoughts
Do you witness the moment you unearthed the betrayal over and over again in your head? Do you obsess over the clues that should have told you sooner? Do you question your worth?
These negative thoughts may be intruding into your life so much that you can’t do anything else. Don’t give them power over you.
Don’t chase the thoughts away. Write them down. Sit with them during yoga. Acknowledge them but also tell yourself that you are not your thoughts. The less power you give those thoughts, the more in control you will be of them when they do arrive again.
3. Being Emotionally Unstable
After the betrayal, you may find yourself riding a roller coaster. One minute, you feel content. The next, tears are pouring down your face because of a memory or something you heard. You might find yourself zoning out for hours at work from depression.
Sometimes, the pain of discovering an affair is so extreme that you lose the ability to deal with the emotions. Your brain becomes disoriented, and you vacillate between happiness and sadness wildly.
Unfortunately, the only way to deal with these out-of-control emotions is to be aware of them. Give yourself time to heal. Don’t make impulsive decisions while your emotions are running rampant. Don’t chide yourself for your volatility. Listen to what you’re feeling, but remind yourself that you’re emotionally scarred right now.
As long as you have awareness and understand all emotions are valid, you can start to pay attention to resolving the pain and grief. Again, talking to a specialist and discussing your emotions with friends or your partner can help you through this tough time.
4. Feeling Defeated
Depression and anxiety are trademark symptoms of PTSD. The hopelessness you feel might be all-consuming. Instead of angry, intrusive thoughts, you feel numb. You feel that love is dead and you will never trust anyone again.
This is the depression talking. When depressed, you will feel like nothing will ever get better.
Getting support, treatment, and giving yourself time to heal will pull you out of the hopelessness. Talking to a therapist and your friends is an excellent way to feel alive again. While you might not believe what they say 100%, it’s important to have a support group who will listen to you and help you through PTSD. Life gets better, and you will survive.
5. Inability to Trust
This one is the issue you will struggle with the most, and you know what? It’s understandable. The person you loved most in this world inflicted excruciating pain upon you. It’s no wonder your sense of trust in others has been affected.
That said, if you and your partner have decided to work through this betrayal, it’s important to rebuild that trust. And if you have opted to split because of this, then seek out other people you can trust. Remember, your friends and family haven’t done the act. You can still have faith in the ones you hold dear. Let them show you that all isn’t lost.
You Can Survive Infidelity
Right now, it might seem like nothing is going to get better. You’re angry, betrayed, and lost. It’s okay. Things can and will get better with time, treatment, and TLC. Recovering from infidelity when you’re also dogged by PTSD is going to be a challenge. Couples Academy can help. Designed by an infidelity recovery specialist, you and your partner can learn how to navigate the road to recovery and trust one another again. Together, you can work through the pain, coming out stronger and more in love than before. Fill out the contact form to learn more.