September 3 2019

Betrayal Trauma: How Infidelity Relates to PTSD

Kevin Skinner, PhD, LMFT, CSAT, EMDR-C

When a spouse finds out about the betrayal—from hiding behaviors or an affair—they conclude that they are not safe. Their trauma begins to show in the form of PTSD. Now, how do we see this?

 

What are the symptoms of PTSD?

 

Criteria A: Threat to Life. This may not mean that they worry about being killed. The research shows that over 60% of the participants were afraid of contracting an STD—well that is one form of a threat to life.

Criteria B: Reliving the Experience. This could be replaying in their dreams or when reminded through certain places, situations, or people.

Criteria C: Avoidance. These women will start avoiding people, places, and situations because they can’t count on feeling safe like they used to.

Criteria D: Negative Mood. This includes thinking “Well if I was good enough, then this wouldn’t have happened,” or, “There must be something wrong with me.”

Criteria E: Stressed Mind. They’re anxious, and their mind won’t slow down.

 

 

What are the long-term effects of dissociation?

 

Dissociation—separating yourself from your body to stop feeling—can happen if the pain becomes too much. Practices like mindfulness and yoga are effective when addressing trauma. Mindfulness and/or yoga help us reconnect with our bodies and calm constant stress and fear. When stress and fear exist for too long, adrenaline and cortisol are continuously going through the body. As a result, this overtaxes the body and weakens the immune system, making them vulnerable to sickness, cancer, and other conditions.

 

 

How does society typically respond to those with betrayal trauma?

 

To those who fail to understand how betrayal trauma works, these individuals frankly seem angry and somewhat crazy. Their instinct is to tell them, “Just get over it. Just move on.” Unfortunately, society doesn’t understand that these spouses are in fight mode, they are trying to protect themselves, and they are genuinely suffering.

Invitation:

  • Consider practices like mindfulness and yoga to address symptoms of trauma.
  • If you know someone dealing with betrayal trauma: resist the urge to tell them to “get over it.” Consider listening to what their experience is really like.

 

 

About the Author

Dr. Kevin Skinner is the co-founder and Clinical Director of Bloom, an online company for women working to heal from the trauma of infidelity and betrayal. As a licensed marriage and family therapist, he's been helping individuals and families for over 18 years. He's authored the best-selling books “Treating Pornography Addiction”, and "Treating Trauma From Sexual Betrayal." As a member of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapists, he's worked with and trained other clinicians as a supervisor and presenter. He has created online assessments for more than 250,000 individuals that center on relationship intimacy, betrayal trauma and pornography and sex addiction. These assessments serve as a helpful guide to developing the best treatment for people who want to work toward recovery.