Post Infidelity Stress Disorder (PISD), a term coined by Ortman in 2005, is becoming increasingly recognised as more people seek help after experiencing infidelity. This blog discusses the experiences and symptoms of both the betrayed and unfaithful partners. It also shows how therapy can help them navigate these difficult times, providing insights into the path towards healing and personal growth.
The Betrayed Partner’s Experience of Infidelity:
Emotional Impact and Symptoms
Experiencing infidelity can be a highly traumatic event, which leaves the betrayed partner grappling with a whirlwind of emotions and challenges.
Emotional turmoil: Infidelity can trigger a mix of shock, anxiety, confusion, disbelief, and denial, making it difficult to process the situation.
Intrusive thoughts and sleep issues: Betrayed partners may experience persistent, unwanted thoughts and have trouble sleeping as a result of the infidelity.
Intense emotions: Hurt, loneliness, rage, hatred, shame, doubt, and helplessness often follow the initial shock of betrayal, further complicating the healing process.
Damaged self-esteem and self-confidence: The experience of infidelity can significantly affect the betrayed partner’s self-worth, undermining their sense of self-esteem and self-confidence.
Coping Strategies and Consequences in Post Infidelity Stress Disorder
The betrayed person often faces numerous challenges when coping with infidelity, which can result in various outcomes and complications.
Disclosure dilemma: Deciding whether to disclose the infidelity or keep it a secret can be particularly difficult, especially when children are involved.
Evolving emotions: Over time, initial feelings may deepen into a profound sense of loss and depression, further complicating the healing process.
Shattered trust and safety: Rebuilding trust and safety after betrayal can be a slow and arduous journey, requiring significant effort and patience.
Unhealthy coping mechanisms: Some individuals may resort to denial, alcohol, drugs, or medication to manage the painful emotions, potentially leading to destructive patterns.
The Unfaithful Partner’s Experience of Infidelity:
Emotional Struggles and Seeking Help
The unfaithful partner can face their own set of challenges in the aftermath of infidelity, which may manifest in various ways.
Emotional distress: Overwhelm, anxiety, and guilt may plague the unfaithful partner, as they grapple with the consequences of their actions.
Fear of exposure: Hiding secrets and lying can lead to a constant fear of being discovered, with some even wishing to be found out.
Impaired concentration and performance: Doubt, confusion, shame, and self-loathing can negatively impact the unfaithful partner’s focus and effectiveness in different areas of life.
How Therapy Helps: Processing Emotions and Encouraging Growth
Therapy can help both partners process the complex emotions that accompany infidelity. For the betrayed, therapy can help them regain a sense of reality and trust in their intuition.
For the unfaithful, professional help can enable the unfaithful partner to understand their attachment style, potentially uncovering factors that contributed to their behaviour, and encourage them to take responsibility for their actions.
Working through the crisis can lead to growth, whether the couple decides to stay together or separate.
Recovery and Healing from Post Infidelity Stress Disorder
It is important to note that some couples may seek therapy too late, when the damage to the relationship is irreparable. But by addressing the emotional impact, coping strategies, and encouraging self-reflection, individuals can emerge stronger and more resilient, ready to move forward in their lives.
Navigating the emotional turmoil of Post Infidelity Stress Disorder can be challenging. With the right support and therapeutic guidance, both betrayed and unfaithful partners can find a path towards healing, understanding, and growth.
Don’t let post-infidelity stress disorder continue to impact your life and relationships – take the first step towards healing and growth by booking a therapy session with Dr Maria Vella or read about other expert relationship therapists at Harley Therapy – Psychotherapy & Counselling.