History Of Prior Trauma
When people experience a life-threatening event earlier in life, they create defenses that allow them to survive those traumas. Those defenses can be either be barricades to future pain or unconscious seduction to recreate what is familiar.
If a relationship partner has been harmed by threats of loss or harm in the past, he or she will have a stronger and more persistent trauma response to a partners current betrayal. Dependent on how much they appear similar to what is happening in the present, they will mesh with the current pain and make recovery that much harder.
Avoidance Doesnt Help But Unfaithful Partners Can
Ignoring the pain and hoping time will heal will not do the job. When the unfaithful partner, in particular, takes an active role in their spouses healing they become the warrior for their relationship. What happens then?
More healing happens and less trauma residue remains. When moving through the stages of healing and trust-building together, remorse exists and is expressed in the open. Real repair happens. The couple rebuilds trust. Then, PTSD symptoms begin to dissipate.
Are there cases when PTSD is more stubborn despite a couples efforts to heal?
The honest answer is yes.
Still, this isnt all bad news. At that point, you only need the help of a trauma specialist. Again, in Episode #68, you are welcome to listen to my interview with Yael. She is adept at helping hurt partners reduce their trauma symptoms.
Can Infidelity Cause Ptsd
The person who was cheated may meet the criteria for PTSD and experience trauma-related symptoms such as rage, humiliation, intrusive images, preoccupation, emotional numbing, heightened anxiety to triggers, erratic behavior and sudden mood swings, and difficulty with sleep and concentration.2
Reliving and being triggered by the event can bring on overwhelming worries and fears.2 Anxiety related to post-infidelity trauma is also chronic and persistent.3 In some cases, a persons natural psychological defenses end up being overwhelmed, leaving them unable to function in a healthy manner.3
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Strategy : Understand Betrayal Trauma Triggers
Triggers are sounds, sights, smells, sensations that remind you of the traumatic event. Betrayal trauma triggers can take many forms depending on your unique history.
Betrayal trauma can be triggered when youre reminded of the initial situation of betrayal: what was said and done, how you felt, and so on. Some common reminders of the trauma might include the people involved, certain places or times of year, and seeing someone who reminds you of the perpetrator.
People often react to reminders of betrayal somewhat unconsciously or without awareness. You may suddenly feel angry, defensive, or anxious without fully knowing why.
Whatever the case, knowing what betrayal trauma triggers are likely to affect you can help you manage your emotions more effectively.
Whats The Bottom Line
Relationship abuse can cause lingering trauma, but you dont have to live with these effects forever. With time and support, you can heal and recover.
Connecting with a trained therapist can help you process the abuse, recreate a sense of safety, and begin to thrive, instead of just survive.
Explore resources for abuse support and recovery:
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Relation To Attachment Theory
Though experts originally applied the concept of betrayal trauma to children betrayed by caregivers, it became clear that this type of trauma could also happen in other relationships.
Lets take a step back to the basics of attachment theory attachment comes before betrayal, after all.
Your earliest childhood relationships are so significant because they lay the groundwork for later relationships. When these bonds are strong and secure, they pave the way toward secure attachments in adulthood.
Insecure bonds, on the other hand, often lead to shaky or troubled relationships.
A parent bringing a child into the world has a responsibility to protect and care for that child. This responsibility forms an unspoken agreement between parent and child. The child looks to the parent to prioritize their well-being, and they typically trust their parents entirely until the parent lets them down.
These relationships also rest on agreements the boundaries defining the relationship. Partners in a monogamous relationship, for example, generally have some shared understanding of what defines cheating and agree to trust each other not to cheat.
A partner who cheats betrays the terms of that understanding.
What Does Relationship Ptsd Mean Exactly
You probably know its possible to develop lingering symptoms of fear and distress after a single traumatic event. When flashbacks, avoidance, and other symptoms persist after the trauma has ended, mental health professionals may diagnose PTSD.
An abusive relationship is trauma of a different kind. Leaving the relationship can put a stop to repeated emotional, physical, or sexual abuse, but it may not necessarily free you from their effects.
In an effort to better recognize and address this specific type of trauma, experts have introduced the concept of post-traumatic relationship syndrome .
People who experience physical, sexual, or emotional abuse in an intimate relationship may have a very different response to trauma than people who experience other traumatic events.
Instead of blocking out and avoiding your memories of the abuse or numbing yourself to them, you might continue to revisit them, experiencing them again and again.
The pain of this retraumatization can get in the way of healing, moving forward, and eventually building safe, healthy relationships with future partners.
Traumatic stress after an abusive relationship can look a little different from typical PTSD.
A diagnosis of PTSD requires symptoms in
- arousal and reactivity
- cognition and mood
PTRS doesnt involve the same avoidance that characterizes PTSD.
PTRS differs from PTSD in a few other key ways:
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Psychological Effects Of Betrayal
There are several psychological effects of betrayal, anxiety being the first. Betrayal is like an attack on a persons mind, which can go from bad to worse in no time. Expect a roller-coaster of emotions if this has happened to anyone you know.
Skepticism in relationships, trust issues and unwillingness to socialize or becoming too social are just a few more examples.
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Surviving infidelity PTSD is not only possible but probable with time, treatment, and awareness.
Again, getting professional treatment for your PTSD is essential. Talk to your primary care physician right away and they can help you access the treatment that you need.
Having awareness of your PTSD symptoms, the self-blame, the uncontrollable emotions, the intrusive thoughts, the trust issues, and the hopelessness will help you manage them.
Understanding and accepting that they are a natural occurrence in the face of infidelity will help you process them and help you heal.
And time is the ultimate healer. I know its hard to believe it now but, as time goes on, you will feel better.
Life will be worth living again. The pain might not be gone but it will be less and it will be manageable.
For now, keep your head up, believe that the future is there, accept where you are right now, and get some help.
You will get through this, I promise.
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Intrusive Thoughts Get In The Way
These are the negative thoughts usually connected to infidelity, the affair partner, the betraying partner, or the hurt partner themselves.
These thoughts can come at any time. There is very little warning. These thoughts result in negative emotions that can spiral downward fast. This creates ongoing suffering and distorted beliefs about oneself or others. These might be beliefs that I am not enough, or No one can be trusted.
Flashbacks Can Use Your Imagination Against You
When I speak to my clients in the aftermath of infidelity, most talk about flashbacks. You might think that flashbacks only happen to those who saw the traumatic liaisons. Not so.
If you have flashbacks of your partner having sex with another in their work office, you arent alone. These mental images can be vivid and are not limited to what a hurt partner saw or heard. Thus, Ive seen hurt partners with infidelity PTSD who experience flashbacks of imagined situations.
So, just because you didnt see them together is immaterial. The images can intrude on your peace of mind as though you were in the room.
Still, its important to recognize that seeing real messages, pictures, videos, does have a higher chance of causing flashbacks.
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It Is Common To Experience Classic Ptsd Symptoms Such As:
- Unstable emotions
- A feeling of hopelessness
- Emotional numbness
Also, similar to post-traumatic stress disorder, you might experience intrusive thoughts, vivid flashbacks or nightmares, as it might seem impossible to stop reliving their betrayal. You also could question whether you are to blame or if you could have stopped them from cheating.
While you might initially endure feelings of rage and despair following the discovery that a spouse has been unfaithful, you might soon experience feelings of numbness and once pleasurable hobbies might no longer be enjoyable. It is, therefore, common to struggle with some of the symptoms a person living with post-traumatic stress disorder might feel after witnessing or experiencing abuse, physical violence, military combat, or an injury.
Similar to PTSD, you might struggle with various sleep disturbances following a spouses infidelity. For example, it is common for people to struggle with insomnia or poor sleeping patterns. As a result, you might struggle with concentration issues that could affect your family life and performance at work.
Life After an Affair
While you might be filled with a variety of emotions after the discovery that your unfaithful partner has been cheating, it might be helpful to know there is a life for you after an affair. Many therapists now regularly turn to PTSD treatments to help people to move on from infidelity.
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What Is A Traumatic Event
Traumatic events may include a natural disaster, serious accident, terrorist act, war or combat, rape, or being threatened with death, sexual violence, or serious injury. The traumatic experience could also be secondhand, such as learning about the death of a close family member or result from repeated exposure to horrible details of the trauma, such as a social worker’s exposure to child abuse cases.
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How Common Is Ptsd
Although most people feel much better within a month or two after a trauma, some people do develop PTSD orother problems like depression or substance use problems.
Did you know?
- About 9.2% of Canadians will have PTSD in their lifetime.
- Women develop PTSD more often than men.
- Certain types of trauma, such as those related to combat and rape, can cause higher rates.
What Is Infidelity Ptsd
Although its not an actual diagnosis, many people report feeling post-infidelity stress disorder . If you experience relationship betrayal in the form of infidelity, you view this as a form of attack and experience interpersonal trauma with potentially devastating and lasting effects.1 You may also experience nightmares and self-doubt, have trouble trusting, and withdraw from social interactions.
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Problems Related To Ptsd
Some other problems are more common for people with PTSD. These include:
- alcohol and substance use problems
- problems in relationships, work, school, or other important activities
- physical symptoms
- increased risk of medical problems
Did you know?
- More than half of men with PTSD have alcohol problems.
- Nearly half of women with PTSD also suffer from depression.
Understanding The Effects Of Military Ptsd On Marriage
It is estimated that 30% of combat veterans will experience PTSD at some point during their lives, which can lead to a number of different symptoms, including addiction, numbing, avoidance, anxiety, and reliving traumas. These symptoms can create problems in a marriage, affecting communication, intimacy, and trust. Under these circumstances, a spouse can feel unconnected to their partner, experiencing feelings of isolation and frustration at being unable to help.
Stress in the marriage can further be exacerbated by a loss of earnings if a veteran is unable to work due to disability or long-term illness as a result of their deployment. If this is the case, your VA disability rating should be 100%, which will entitle you to full compensation. Be sure to check your VA disability ratings closely, as the amount of compensation youre entitled to could take considerable pressure off your relationship.
If your PTSD symptoms include angry outbursts, these too can have a negative effect on your marriage. Your spouse may feel on edge, and your trauma can have a knock-on effect on their mental health. This isnt your fault, but its important to be aware of it, as this will help the two of you navigate the problems in your marriage.
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Can Infidelity Cause Mental Illness
Infidelity can cause symptoms similar to post-traumatic stress from the relationship breach that were not previously present before an affair. Some common symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares, and obsessions about the event.
You may also experience hyperarousal and become reactive at any perceived threat to yourself or your relationship. As a result, you can have disruptive sleeping and eating patterns.
Double Betrayal: When The Infidelity Is With A Known Party
Besides the experiences of humiliation and anguish, an even more destructive heartbreak occurs when the third member of the triangle is a close and trusted friend or a family member.
When the betrayed partner discovers that two deeply trusted people could collectively collude behind his or her back is almost unfathomable. In these cases, there are often others who know what is going on causing even more potential loss of relationships when the affair emerges. Those who have remained silent may then pull away for fear of being seen as accomplices.
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Begin Recovering From Infidelity Ptsd In Florida
Thank you for reading and considering the info from this post. If you would like support in rekindling your relationship, feel free to learn more about my infidelity recovery program. My Miami, FL-based counseling practice would love to walk alongside you as you strengthen your relationship. To start couples therapy, please follow these steps:
Work On Making New Patterns In Your Relationship
An important part of affair recovery is becoming reattuned to each other. Even if your relationship wasnt unhappy before this betrayal, everyone could use some help learning how to communicate and resolve conflict in relationships. Reattunement can also include the partner who had the affair learning their partners new triggers and how to manage them. This part of the process helps rebuild trust and increases the sense of connection in the relationship.
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What Is Post Infidelity Stress Disorder
So, what exactly is Post Infidelity Stress Disorder ? It is not an actual diagnosis, however, post-discovery of an affair, the reactions often parallel those of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder . In PTSD, one of the required criteria is that the person is exposed to death, the threat of death, threatened serious injury or actual/threatened sexual trauma through a number of different means. In an affair, while the threat may not have been to ones physical life, it certainly was an attack and threat against the emotional wellbeing of the individual leading to a loss of emotional safety and security. The person that you trusted the most and expected to protect and care for you was the person that hurt you, leaving you in a state of incomprehension and, as a result, likely leading to a number of reactions. The reactions that can occur as a result of that realization can often feel so overwhelming that one can either feel stuck and not knowing how to proceed, or so reactive that the decisions being made can be damaging to the self, others, and potentially your relationship if youre hoping to reconcile.
When Ptsd And Intimacy Collide: What Really Happens
Difficulties with posttraumatic stress disorder and intimacy are common, regardless of the nature of the trauma leading to PTSD. A quick search of the Internet will return dozens of links to websites regarding PTSD and intimacy and the challenges PTSD presents in maintaining intimate relationships. There is a flood of information regarding trust issues, poor communication, closeness, violence, sexual dysfunction, and more. However, in my case, all the facts and statistics do is cause my eyes to glaze over without really getting to the point. In an intimate relationship, partners usually come to understand each other’s behaviors. What really happens in a relationship when PTSD and intimacy collide?
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Let Your Partner Atone
One of the first steps in affair recovery is called Atonement. This is when the partner who had the affair genuinely and empathetically expresses remorse in a way that the betrayed partner can accept. This doesnt mean just saying Im sorry, over and over again. This needs to be a deep, heartfelt apology where they acknowledge the harm theyve done and attempt to repair it. Their actions should line up with their words, so if theyre simply apologizing with words and not changing their behavior, they might not be ready to make amends sincerely.
Acknowledge Normal Vs Optimal Responses To Infidelity
Keep in mind that although these reactions to infidelity are not optimal for your health and well-being, they are normal. However, in our society, they are only appropriate for a short while.
To recover from an affair, its essential to find healthier ways to cope with the situation long-term.
More often than not, traumas effect does not get resolved but deeply buried. Random and everyday events can trigger traumatic reactions.
Remember, the human nervous system cant distinguish one danger from another. Threats are lumped into one big life-threatening category, triggering an extreme emotional response. Thats because your body attempts to protect itself with a physical response, fighting off a perceived perpetrator. You experience these triggers at any time causing a preoccupation of the problem.
Soon, you may become stuck in a negative and reactive cycle of insecurity, rage, and suspicion, which will take a toll on your physical and emotional health. Not to mention the impact it will have on your loved ones and your productivity.
You may have felt like your response to your partners actions werent normal or your feelings are over the line. Some partners have even reported feeling like they were going crazy while trying to recover from an affair.
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