Love is war. So the saying goes goes .
That comparison may actually be fitting in connection with something you perhaps haven’t thought of—trauma.
It’s no secret that sexual infidelity can be physically harmful and emotionally crushing. A betrayed partner may feel a whole range of devastating emotions and experiences a bewildering variety of bodily symptoms.
One moment they feel angry and irritated, the next as if living in a daze where nothing matters. They can’t sleep, they can’t eat. It’s as if they’ve gone crazy.
It’s a reaction to the trauma of betrayal.
And it’s a very natural response when one feels unsafe and insecure in a relationship.
In fact, studies have shown that those who have been sexually betrayed by their partner can suffer such devastating emotional turmoil that they display trauma symptoms very similar to those of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Because the magnitude of a sexual betrayal can be enormous. Like an earthquake, this form of cheating shakes the very foundations of trust within a relationship.
The PTSD Symptoms of Sexual Betrayal
Consider some of the aftershocks of that blow.
1. Irritability, Rage, and Despair
The initial anger and rage over the betrayal often give way to frequent and extreme mood swings. From rapid shifts between rage, hurt, sadness, and hopefulness to excessive emotional outbursts and breaking down in tears.
The reactions are usually this intense because it wasn’t just anyone that hurt the victim. They have been betrayed by the person they thought they could count on the most. It’s no wonder that being traumatized in this way causes an enormous range of pain.
2. Avoidance, Feelings of Emptiness, and Emotional Numbness
Emotional numbness often follows rage, irritability, and despair. Everything feels hollow and unappealing. Things the victim formerly enjoyed don’t bring them pleasure anymore.
Feeling empty and yet feeling a flood emotions, they’ll avoid any reminders of the betrayal, trying to forget the terrible pain. And eventually, they may even withdraw from friends and family, isolating themselves to hide from the emotional upheaval that they can’t control.
3. Flashbacks, Nightmares, and Painful Memories
Even after the initial shock has worn off some, they’ll keep re-experiencing the trauma in their mind. Flashbacks, nightmares, and painful recurring memories or thoughts of their partner with someone else or the moment of discovering the betrayal repeat over and over.
The replaying of certain events when their partner may have acted defensively, came home later than expected, shut off their computer quickly, or received a text message from an unknown friend, leads to second-guessing and wondering if those were possibly dishonest actions too.
4. Anxiety, Fear, and Helplessness
With re-experiencing of the trauma comes anxiety, fear, horror, and feelings of utter helplessness. Even years later, something can trigger a victim of betrayal and overwhelm them with feelings connected to the trauma.
Living on high alert, always imagining that the betrayal will repeat itself, causes unbearable stress that can lead to such high anxiety that they need medication. Moreover, feeling helpless in their struggle, daily functioning becomes completely impaired.
5. Hypervigilance, Obsessions, and Lack of Concentration
Due to the anxiety and living on high alert all the time, the betrayed partner becomes hypervigilant. Every situation, every innocent moment or comment is under scrutiny. In order to protect themselves, a betrayal victim may continue to investigate everything, snooping through bills, phone apps, computer files, or browser histories.
Their obsession with the trauma and their suspicions often becomes distracting and depressing. Subsequently, it’s tough to concentrate and bring focus to even the simplest tasks, which sooner or later affects their work performance and family life.
6. Stress Cardiomyopathy and Insomnia
Aside from emotional consequences, sexual betrayal can also have physical symptoms. The stress of being traumatized does more than increase anxiety, it can lead to insomnia and even stress cardiomyopathy, or “broken heart syndrome.”
Symptoms of this condition include sudden chest pains as if they are having a heart attack. This occurs because the surge of stress hormones due to the emotional stress of the trauma can have physical effects on the heart.
Clearly, trauma symptoms can be severe, no matter if they are caused by war or love.
But despite the overwhelming stress, life after sexual betrayal is possible. The similarities with PTSD symptoms actually allows a therapist to use techniques they know work on war veterans and victims of crime.
Understanding why the betrayal happened, what they can learn from it, and how others can help support their healing process are some of the first steps to recovery for the betrayed partner.
Yes, sexual betrayal can lead to PTSD symptoms, but professional and confidential therapy can help you out of the dark storm and back into the light!
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