Dealing with betrayal is one of the most painful human experiences a person can have. Discovering that someone we loved and trusted has violated out trust can shake our world to its core.
Betrayal is extremely difficult for even the most secure people and it has the added risk of triggering anxiety disorders, such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD),
Although not all betrayed partners end up with PTSD, many experience significant levels of trauma. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) has found from research that PTSD affects over 7 million Americans.
The majority of people who experience a traumatic event find the symptoms resolve within a few months. However, it usually takes a lot longer for individuals to process the grief over being betrayed. For many of these people, the symptoms of anxiety or PTSD will begin to appear within three months of finding out about the affair.
Recognizing Signs of PTSD
Spouses who have suffered a betrayal by their partner typically show many of the classic sign of PTSD including the following:
- Emotional numbness and an avoidance of people, places and activities that are reminders of the affair.
- Re-experiencing the trauma of the affair through intrusive distressing recollections of the event, flashbacks, and nightmares.
- Increased arousal such as difficulty sleeping and concentrating, feeling jumpy, and being easily irritated and angered.
People who have been betrayed often feel foolish for not seeing what was happening. This can create anxiety over not wanting to be fooled again. They may even become hyper-vigilant, on the constant look out for any indication that their partner is being unfaithful again. This type of hyper-alertness can negatively affect the relationship causing resentment to build between both parties.
Additionally, the betrayed partner may start to distrust other things in their life such as close friends and family. In addition to experiencing anxiety they may become depressed and lose interest in things they used to enjoy.
Other common signs of depression include trouble concentrating, problems sleeping, and feeling hopeless and helpless. They may constantly relive the facts around the betrayal and repeatedly ask their partner for more details about the affair. Unfortunately, once they have more details, the person often feels worse and more anxious.
They may try to avoid situations that remind them of the original incident, and anniversaries of the when they learned about the affair can be painful and difficult. When the person is able to forget about the betrayal, they tend to feel better but that can be short-lived and be be followed by crying jags or feel numb and detached.
Counseling and Therapy Can Help
The relationship suffers ifs the betrayed spouse continually brings their anger, mistrust and fear to their partner. If the partner who had the affair is late getting home from work, the other partner may be upset and expect a complete accounting of where they were.
While couples counseling can help with the problems that anxiety and trauma cause in the relationship, individual counseling is often needed to help the betrayed partner process their grief. Fortunately, individual therapy can help process and release a lot of the painful feelings.