Have you recently (or not so recently) discovered that your partner is having an affair and are looking to understand how surviving infidelity PTSD is possible?
Many people are surprised that infidelity can cause PTSD but it is true. Discovering infidelity causes significant trauma, trauma akin to physical or emotional abuse, death of a child or parent or some other life changing occurrence.
Furthermore, the trauma that results from discovering infidelity can also bring up unresolved issues from past trauma, mixing with your present situation, to make the PTSD even worse.
It is very important that, if you are struggling with PTSD, you seek professional help. Unresolved trauma can rear it’s head over and over again. In the meantime, I am going to share with you the signs of PTSD and give you some recommendations about how surviving infidelity PTSD is possible.
#1 – Self-blame.
For many people who suffer from emotional and physical trauma, self-blame is very common and a huge indicator of PTSD.
Do you blame yourself that you partner strayed? Do you think that if you had only been nicer or funnier or skinnier or had more sex with them that they wouldn’t have cheated on you?
Do you chide yourself for being so clueless that you didn’t see the signs, that you missed the fact that your partner was stepping out on you?
Let me tell you, your partner’s infidelity is NOT YOUR FAULT.
Infidelity happens for many reasons but it doesn’t happen because of things that you didn’t do. More often than not, infidelity is something that happens not because someone seeks it out but because two people meet and there is an attraction that proves irresistible.
Blame is a double-edged sword but if anyone must be blamed it’s those who couldn’t resist, who proved weak in the face of temptation and who lied to you over and over.
I know it’s hard but work hard to not blame yourself because you are not to blame.
#2 – Unstable emotions and disorientation.
Do you find yourself struggling with a wide range of emotions?
Do you find yourself crying one minute, raging another, way too happy and then back to the tears? Do you find yourself sitting in the car looking out the window only to realize that an hour has passed?
People who struggle with PTSD struggle with unstable emotions and disorientation. The pain that has been caused to them is so extreme that it renders their emotions uncontrollable. Because of the power of these emotions, our brain is overwhelmed and disorientation is the result.
Time will help with emotions that are out of control – they are strongest right after the pain is caused but they dissipate as time goes on. Often times, without help, they don’t go away completely but they can, at the very least, be managed. And when managed, the disorientation will be resolved.
For now, have awareness that the wide range of emotions that you are struggling with are completely natural. Chiding yourself for feeling them, for not staying calm, for being angry with life and at the same so very sad will only make the emotions worse. Accepting them as a part of the healing process will allow them to help you do that – heal.
#3 – Intrusive Thoughts.
Do you find yourself obsessing over and over with the images of your partner committing infidelity? Do you regularly chide yourself for missing the signs? Do you question your self-worth and wonder if you are worthy of love? Do you spend more time in your head than you do in the now, living your life?
Unfortunately, our powerful brain – the thing that distinguishes us from every other animal in the world – can also be our worst enemy. Our brain loves to run negative tapes over and over, tapes that serve to reinforce all of the bad thoughts that we have about ourselves, our loved one and our lives.
These negative thoughts don’t serve us in any way and can actually make healing more difficult.
There are ways to deal with these intrusive thoughts. The first it to start having awareness that the thoughts are just that, intrusive and not necessarily productive. Next, accept that the thoughts are not serving you but that they should not be chased away. Let these thoughts float through your head and don’t try to analyze them or give them any power. And then let them go.
It’s also important to remember that the thoughts will probably come back and that you will have to practice this awareness over and over. Ultimately, with time, those intrusive thoughts will dissipate.
Another useful tool for reducing the power of intrusive thought is by doing something that will occupy your brain. Yoga and meditation are excellent tools for managing intrusive thoughts but reading, TV and sleep also work. Whatever you can do to give yourself a break from those thoughts, even for a little while, will help you manage them and reduce their effect on you.
#4 – Trust issues.
Many people who are trying to understand surviving infidelity PTSD find that they have developed significant trust issues.
When the person who we love the most, on whom we have put all of our hopes and dreams, who we trust more than anyone else, betrays us then our place in the world is profoundly affected. Instead of believing in the best in people we are instead left believing that people are ultimately evil and that trusting ourselves and our emotions to anyone will only cause us pain.
It is important, when your partner has been unfaithful, that you spend as much time as possible with those who love you and those you can trust. One person has betrayed your trust, not everyone, and being reminded of that regularly will help restore your faith in people.
With time, and help, you will learn that trusting people is possible and that even that person who betrayed your trust might be worthy of it again.
#5 – Hopelessness.
Are you struggling with the belief that nothing will ever be the same again? That happiness will be forever out of reach, that you will never love again and that life can not possibly go on?
It is important that you understand the nature of hopelessness around PTSD. A key part of PTSD is depression and, when we are depressed, the belief that anything will ever be okay again is inconceivable. When we are depressed we are simply incapable of believing that life will get better.
But, let me promise you that, with time and treatment, the feeling of depression and hopelessness will fade. Life does go on, you will love again and that happiness will once again be yours.
Again, spending time with people who love you is an excellent way to manage the hopelessness. You might not believe them in the moment but having people remind you that you will get through this and that life will go on is an essential part of the healing process.
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 occurence in the face of infidelity will help you process them and help you heal.
And time is the ultimate healer. I know it’s 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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I am a NYC based Certified Life Coach and mental health advocate. My writing has been published on The Huffington Post, Prevention, Psych Central, Pop Sugar, MSN and The Good Man Project, among others. I work with all kinds of people to help them go from depressed and overwhelmed to confident and happy in their relationships and in their world.