Couples Academy

What Happens When Infidelity And Mental Illness Collide?

What Happens When Infidelity And Mental Illness Collide

Infidelity will have long-term effects on your relationship. For those who suffer from a mental illness, the effects can be even more devastating than usual. To discover the person you loved and counted on was having an affair behind your back is earth-shattering. Now, what happens if you suffer from depression, anxiety, PTSD, or some other mental illness? Unfortunately, there are some mental illnesses that also drive people to cheat on their partners repeatedly.

When infidelity and mental illness collide, the sparks fly.

What Is Mental Illness?

A mental illness is defined by the American Psychiatric Association as “a health condition involving changes in emotion, thinking, or behavior (or a combination of these),” as well as distress and/or problems with functioning in social, family, or work-related activities. There are many conditions that are recognized as mental illnesses.

Some of the following conditions are far more common than others, but all of them can influence the health of a relationship:

  • Anxiety disorders: including generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, phobias, and panic disorder. Symptoms include anxiety, panic, as well as increased heart rate, sweating, and brain fog.
  • Mood disorders: the most common is bipolar disorder and various forms of depression.
  • Eating disorders: anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, excessive and obsessive exercising, as well as binge eating is included in this category.
  • Impulse control and addiction: those with impulse control problems may suffer from pyromania, kleptomania, and gambling addiction, but this also applies to drug and alcohol addiction.
  • Psychotic disorders: Schizophrenia is one example.
  • Personality disorders: there are many forms of personality disorders, but most who have them have wildly different types of thinking from normal society. Sometimes their beliefs are so rigid that they cannot function. Examples include paranoid personality disorder, obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, and antisocial personality disorder.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): a condition developed after experiencing a traumatic event. Often, those who are betrayed by a spouse who cheats on them or has an affair will develop PTSD symptoms.
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD): those with this condition have obsessive thoughts that cause them to have rigid routines and rituals.


Less common mental illnesses include:

  • Dissociative disorders: include depersonalization disorder and dissociative identity disorder.
  • Stress response syndrome: like PTSD, this occurs after a traumatic event or experience, causing symptoms to develop as a result.
  • Somatic symptom disorders: when someone experiences a disproportionate amount of stress or pain associated with a physical symptom; doctors often cannot find a medical cause for the symptoms.
  • Sexual and gender disorders: sexual dysfunction and paraphilias are in this category.
  • Factitious disorders: an individual knowingly puts on physical or emotional symptoms to be treated as someone in need of assistance.
  • Tic disorders: including Tourette’s syndrome.


How Mental Illness Can Lead To An Affair?

As you can see, there are tons of conditions out there that can affect a person mentally and physically. Depression, anxiety, and other mental disorders can drive a person to behave irrationally. For example, depression drives down your self-esteem, driving you to feel worse about your current situation. You may feel that you are not worthy of what you have, and so you conclude that there is nothing really left to lose. That is when you end up sleeping with a coworker after inviting them out for a few drinks.

Unfortunately, this does nothing to save your relationship. For the person with depression, their actions only serve to validate the way they feel about themselves—that they are worthless.

Mental illness can also lead to a total lack of self-control. Sex and drug addictions, paraphilia, psychotic disorders, and others can drive people to do outrageous things. Even insomnia can diminish your willpower, after all. A momentary lapse in judgment can lead to a laundry list of consequences, especially when you do not stop yourself from wandering into another person’s bed.

In short, mental illness can lead to an affair—and lead to infidelity again and again.

How Mental Illness Can Lead To An Affair?

Can Infidelity Cause Mental Illness To Worsen?

Mental illness will not only drive people to commit infidelity, but it can also worsen the aftermath of an affair. Research has found that finding out about infidelity can cause symptoms, not unlike post-traumatic stress disorder. If you were betrayed, you may find yourself paranoid about every text your spouse receives. Flashbacks, obsessions, and nightmares about the betrayal are a few of the other symptoms.

Furthermore, a study in 2017 found that should you hold yourself responsible for your partner’s unjustifiable actions, you are far more likely to develop poor coping habits, including alcohol abuse, disordered eating, and self-mutilation.

Partner this newfound trauma with a mental illness that already exists. Sometimes the anxiety and fear of being betrayed and lied to for a second or third time can worsen your condition.


Getting Over Infidelity With Mental Illness

Whether you did the damage or you are the one who was hurt by your partner’s affair, healing after infidelity when you have a mental illness is going to be challenging. Your lives are going to change, and you have to accommodate for the pain and trauma. Recovering from an affair is difficult enough without mental illness exacerbating the stress.

That is why it is recommended for couples recovering from an affair to visit a couples therapist or infidelity recovery, specialist. Therapy provides a safe environment, where you can safely process your emotions. You get the time you need to look at what is happening, so you can tackle what has to be done with much more confidence.


Get The Guidance You Both Need

When infidelity and mental illness collide, nothing good can come of it. Not unless you are both committed to keeping the relationship going strong and to learning from your mistakes! Couples Academy understands that infidelity is one of the hardest challenges you will ever face, which is why we have a full process to help you bounce back. Learn to communicate your needs and rebuild trust together. Give us a call or fill out the contact form to learn more.