Anxiety after an affair is a painful kick in the guts to an already excruciating experience. Whether you were the one having the affair or the one being cheated on, infidelity can bring out the worst in everyone. And unfortunately, anxiety and going through affairs go hand in hand.
Experiencing anxiety after an affair is very common. Whether the affair was emotional or physical, living through this experience on either side of the coin is emotionally draining. Not to mention heartbreaking, exhausting, and a host of other unpleasant adjectives. You may think you are over the indiscretion, but the truth is experiencing anxiety after an affair is very common and may last a while. Here is how post-affair anxiety will affect other aspects of your life.
What anxiety is and how it affects your brain
You’re a strong person, you may reason, you can get through anything. You can conquer anxiety just as soon as you wrap your mind about what happened. This is the hope, but the reality is much more complicated.
Chronic stress and anxiety trigger the stress hormone called cortisol. Cortisol creates mood disorders in your brain and often leads to depression and anxiety. Chronic stress and anxiety take a toll on your physical and mental wellbeing. Anxiety leaves you open to sickness and disease and causes your body to become physically exhausted.
Side effects of anxiety after an affair
Anxiety is difficult to deal with, especially on top of the emotional turmoil you are going through. Anxiety can cause dizziness, headaches, panic attacks, fear, trouble breathing, trouble sleeping, and heart palpitations. Relationship anxiety occurs for the following reasons:
- You or your partner has broken the bond of trust through an affair
- Constant fighting over issues both mundane and serious in nature
- Stress over work or family situations
- Mounting sickness and health concerns
- Negativity and controlling behavior
These are some of the side-effects you may experience because of relationship anxiety.
Anxiety after an affair and clinginess
When you begin to feel anxious about the fate of your relationship, your natural reaction is to cling to what you believe you’re losing. In this case that would be your partner. If you have chosen to stay with your partner after infidelity has occurred, you may feel overly attached to them for fear that they will hurt you again. This leads to a dependent relationship that actually makes you feel less in control. Clinging is also closely associated with losing your independence, jealousy, and insecurities.
Your anxiety response to dealing with an affair may involve two different forms of punishment. First, you may want to punish your partner for hurting you and betraying your trust. This can manifest itself by using hateful speech, sabotaging their social or professional life, or cheating on them out of spite.
Opposite of this, you may want to punish yourself for letting this happen, for not seeing the signs of an affair earlier, or for having the affair. This can manifest itself in self-destructive behavior such as substance abuse, over-eating, and self-sabotage.
Withholding love, sex, and your relationship
When a partner is unfaithful it can make you feel like you have lost all control of your life. One way you may feel you can take the power back is by withholding from your partner. This may mean you are withholding love, trust, sexual intimacies, and information about your life, or you may be withholding continuing your relationship as a form of punishment. Regardless of the way you carry this out, you may feel that by withholding from your partner you will protect yourself from being hurt again.
Emotional emptiness and a withdrawn attitude
Feeling blindsided by the person you love the most can have an extreme psychological effect on your emotional state. This can lead to emotional hollowness, or numbness. Some find the anxiety, emotional emptiness, and shock from infidelity so extreme that some psychologists are even using counseling techniques for patients suffering from PTSD on couples who are going through infidelity in their relationships.
A controlling attitude
When people feel insecure they tend to try and dominate their partner. If you are staying with your partner after an affair it may be your natural inclination to be controlling. This is another part of anxiety. You may demand your partner give you free access to their phone and other devices, you will want to know where they are at all times and may be prone to panic attacks if your needs are not met.
Having full control in your relationship may feel liberating at first, but becomes emotionally exhausting and only helps to breed constant suspicion.
Chronic criticism, psychological threats, the constant use of guilt as a weapon, requiring constant disclosure, and undercutting your partner’s social life may feel justified given the circumstances. And perhaps they are at that moment. But eventually, you have to get back to a place where you can heal your relationship without the constant opinion that your partner is guilty until proven innocent. If you cannot do this you should no longer be in a romantic relationship with this person.
How to get over anxiety after an affair
It’s not a step that you take in one day. Choosing to forgive someone, whether you stay with them or not, is a choice you make every single day. Counselling is highly recommended for couples who stay together after an affair. If you are no longer with the cheating partner, seek private therapy to work through the insecurities and anxiety you have been left with.
It is also a good idea to take up a new hobby, exercise, surround yourself with positive people, and continue looking forward and making new plans for your future. This will help you to look forward with a positive goal in mind.
While anxiety after an affair is normal, it isn’t appreciated. Seeking counselling, especially if you’ve chosen to remain with your partner, is a great option for treatment. Other ways to combat anxiety caused by an affair is to take up exercising, get a support system of friends and family, and do more things that make you happy.