Are you struggling to recover after betrayal or infidelity? It could be post infidelity stress disorder.
Post Infidelity Stress Disorder (PISD), also known as betrayal trauma, is a condition that affects individuals who have experienced infidelity in their relationship. It is characterized by a range of symptoms that can significantly impact an individual's daily life, including their ability to function in their relationships, work, and other important areas of their life.
Common symptoms of Post Infidelity Stress Disorder include:
- Intrusive thoughts and memories
- Trust issues
- Heightened sensitivity
- Avoidance of situations or people that be triggers
- Changes in mood, sleep, and appetite
If you have several of these symptoms, it’s important for you to know that it IS NOT YOUR FAULT.
Affairs are hugely traumatic and if you’ve been betrayed or traumatized before, the affair likely heightened your pre-existing trauma. Post-affair recovery is complicated under the best of circumstances, so if you were betrayed when you were already injured, it is not your fault at all if you’re struggling to heal months or years later. These symptoms can persist for months after infidelity has been disclosed and even after the relationship has ended.
The causes of PISD can vary, but they often stem from the emotional and psychological trauma of betrayal. When a partner cheats, it can shatter the trust and security that are fundamental to a healthy relationship. Betrayal trauma theory suggests that infidelity can trigger a trauma response in the betrayed partner, leading to the development of PTSD-like symptoms. Attachment theory also suggests that the betrayal can damage the attachment bond between partners, leading to feelings of anxiety, distrust, and fear. Societal expectations and stigmas around infidelity can also contribute to the development of PISD, making individuals feel ashamed or guilty for their reaction to the betrayal.
Fortunately, there are many self-help tips for coping with infidelity and overcoming the trauma that can result. If you are experiencing symptoms of PISD, I recommend the following:
- Practice self-care by engaging in activities that bring you joy and relaxation.
- Seek support from friends, family, or a therapist who specializes in treating infidelity and trauma. If you cannot find a couples therapist who also treats trauma, please find an individual specialist in trauma for yourself.
- Practice mindfulness and meditation to help manage intrusive thoughts and emotions.
- Identify and challenge negative thoughts or beliefs about yourself and your worth.
- Set boundaries with your partner to promote safety and trust in the relationship.
- Consider journaling as a way to process your emotions.
- Start learning more about trauma healing through a self-help book of your choice. I have listed my favorites here.
One therapeutic approach that can be particularly helpful for individuals with PISD is somatic healing. This type of therapy focuses on releasing stored emotions and trauma from the body through gentle movement and touch. It can be especially effective for individuals who struggle to express their emotions verbally. You can go to YouTube to explore somatic healing exercises (there are tons!) and connect with somatic healing specialists on Social Media – one of my favorites is Rebecca Stone, LCSW of Brooklyn Somatic Therapy or on TikTok: @beccastone_therapist.
Another approach that has shown promise in treating PISD is Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). This therapy uses eye movements to stimulate the brain's natural healing processes and help clients process traumatic memories. I have an introductory exercise on EMDR here , you can explore YouTube and Social Media for much more about EMDR and DIY EMDR exercises. You can find a practitioner of EMDR in your area on EMDRIA.org, I highly recommend Dr. Teralyn Sell at DrTeralyn.com or on TikTok: @dr_teralyn.
When seeking infidelity counseling or infidelity therapy, it is important to find a therapist who is trained in working with relationship trauma and betrayal. As I mentioned above, if you need help for yourself, it is more important to find someone who specializes in trauma, as opposed to relationship repair. If you also wish to do couples counseling for your relationship, it would be ideal if you could find someone who uses the Gottman method AND is trauma informed. If you cannot find this, find a couples counselor that you like, ask them to review some trauma self-care practices with you (which will remind them of the best care practices too!) and if it is helpful, please share my book – The Courage to Stay: How to Heal From an Affair and Save Your Marriage – with them. You can use my book as a guide during therapy.
Ultimately, healing after infidelity is a journey that requires commitment and effort from both partners. Supporting a loved one through the healing process can be challenging, but it is important to approach the situation with empathy and compassion. This may involve actively listening, expressing understanding, and avoiding judgment or blame. It may also involve being patient and understanding that healing after infidelity takes time. Rebuilding trust and repairing the relationship may be difficult, but with the right support and resources, it is possible to overcome infidelity and create a happier, healthier relationship.
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