A few years ago, Dr. Jennifer Schneider, Dr. Charles Samenow, and I conducted a study of betrayed partners of sex addicts to learn more about the ways in which sexual addiction damages not only their relationships but their emotions. Unsurprisingly, almost every person in our survey said their addicted partner’s behavior impacted them in numerous negative ways – loss of self-esteem, stress, anxiety, depression, inability to trust, reduced ability to enjoy sex and romance, etc.
Other research has reached similar conclusions. For instance, one study of women married to sexually addicted men found that, upon learning of their husband’s serial infidelity, many of these women experienced acute stress and anxiety symptoms characteristic of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Typically, this manifested in one or more of the following ways:
- Emotional instability, including frequent mood shifts, over-the-top emotional reactions, tearfulness, rage, etc., sometimes followed by feelings of intense love and a desire to “make it work.”
- Hypervigilant behaviors (detective work), such as checking phone and credit card bills, wallets, computers, phone apps, texts, and the like for evidence of continued infidelity.
- Anxiety, depression, loss of self-esteem, and other mood-related symptoms.
- Being easily triggered into mistrust of the cheating partner; common triggers included the cheater coming home five minutes late, turning off the computer too quickly, looking “too long” at an attractive person, etc.
- Going on the attack by “lawyering up,” spending money to punish the addict, telling the kids age-inappropriate information about what the addict did, etc.
- Sleeplessness, inability to wake up, and/or nightmares.
- Difficulty focusing on day-to-day events, such as picking the kids up from school, work projects, maintaining a home, etc.
- Overcompensating by trying to lose weight, dressing provocatively, etc.
- Obsessing about the betrayal and struggling to stay “in the moment.”
- Avoiding thinking about or discussing the betrayal.
- Emotionally escapist use of alcohol, drugs, food, spending, gambling, etc.
This does not necessarily mean that betrayed partners of sex/porn addicts should be diagnosed and treated for PTSD; it simply means that, for a time, they tend to manifest various symptoms of PTSD. This is understandable, too. Maybe even expected. As survivors of chronic betrayal trauma, it is perfectly natural for a cheated-on partner to respond with rage, anger, fear, and other strong emotions.
Help is Available
Sex addiction is a puzzle that no one solves without support, direction, and accountability. Seeking Integrity Treatment Centers can provide this. So please, if your partner is struggling with sexual addiction, let us help. For information about residential treatment, contact us via email or phone us at (747) 234-HEAL (4325).