Although post-infidelity stress disorder is not an actual diagnosis, we are all aware of how mentally destructive it is to find out we’ve been cheated. Mental health professionals have likened the condition to post-traumatic stress disorder, considering the parallelism in psychological, emotional, and physical symptoms. We have discussed this in a separate post, with a few tips on dealing with it. But we decided to help afflicted readers better by providing more coping strategies and discussing each in detail. Read on for a guide to healing from post-infidelity stress disorder.
Guide to Healing from Post-Infidelity Stress Disorder
If you’re experiencing these symptoms, you have come to the right place. Here are healing strategies.
Process your feelings by journaling.
After betrayal, it’s important to have a place to release all your true feelings—the good, the bad, the ugly. Writing provides you an opportunity to be uncensored in your thoughts and feelings. It allows further self-exploration, providing you opportunities to gain insights and clarification. It can help you keep track of unanswered questions and structure your thoughts to better prepare yourself when communicating with your partner.
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More than that, writing your feelings down helps you keep track of your progress toward acceptance. You may be discouraged if healing from post-infidelity stress disorder takes too long or if you have bad days. Don’t get discouraged if things seem fine for a month then you have a setback and it seems like you’re back to square one. Take each day as it comes. Prepare as necessary, but also remind yourself that you can only do what you can do. Reread your journal and look how far you’ve come.
You probably feel unsafe internally and externally after your partner ruined your trust. Internally, you feel difficult emotions. You can’t prevent your heart from hurting when all these flashbacks play across your mind. Externally, you can’t control or predict anything that will happen to you. This is a very trying stage of recovery. So at this time you’ll also want to avoid making important decisions until you’ve reestablished that sense of safety. You’ll also want to take time to grieve for as long as is necessary.
Work on establishing safety in every part of your life so you do not continue to be traumatized over and over again. You can begin by identifying what you need to do to feel safe by writing down your response to each trigger: “In order for me to feel safe again, I’ll need to . . .”
Schedule your worries.
We know this sounds weird, but hear us out. Set a specific time each day for an allotted amount of time of no longer than an hour to worry, obsess, and revisit frustrating images. If thoughts creep up during the day, gently remind yourself that you’re saving them for “worry time.” This actually helps intrusive thoughts from taking over your whole day. Try to be consistent with this schedule. You’ll soon realize that over time, your worry time decreases in length and in intensity.
Face your fears healthily.
Overeating, alcohol or drug abuse, overworking, or shopping may help you in the short term, but your feelings will still remain under the surface, waiting for triggers. This will only stall your recovery.
Instead of escaping the intrusive flashback, remind yourself of what it is and that the experience will pass. Practice deep diaphragmatic breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, exercising, treating physical illnesses, eating balanced meals, getting massages, and meditating to calm yourself down.
Seek professional help.
If you find the symptoms of post-infidelity stress disorder interfering with your ability to meet your daily responsibilities in life, it may be time to seek outside help. A therapist or counselor who specializes in helping you with PTSD can help you get more support and techniques to begin healing from post-infidelity stress disorder. A counselor can help you realize you’re not “crazy”—that you’re having normal responses to abnormal events. A counselor can also help you better understand how your feelings may be affecting your own thoughts and behavior as they can provide you with an unbiased perspective. Healing from post-infidelity stress disorder will certainly be painful. But a professional can help you learn useful tools that will make the process more manageable.
If you are working toward reconciliation with your partner, marriage counseling is also an option that should not be disregarded.
Make a decision about the relationship.
Additional infidelity discoveries are re-traumatizing. They will set you way back in your recovery progress. So it is important to determine whether the infidelity was an isolated incident or a well-established behavior pattern, and whether the unfaithful partner is willing to seek help and change or not (here are signs). Protecting you and your marriage means all lines of communication with those who are a threat to your relationship must be shut down permanently, not temporarily. If your partner wants to be let into your heart again, they need to earn that right through actions.
You may be fixated on the fear of being hurt again, especially if you let yourself be vulnerable. After all, traumatized people in this situation pull back and emotionally disengage. Indeed, avoidance is a hallmark of trauma. It’s one factor for considering when psychiatrists diagnose patients with PTSD. Summon the courage and energy to communicate clear boundaries about behaviors you won’t tolerate. If the cheating continues, you will have to end the relationship.
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