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What is PISD? About Post Infidelity Stress Disorder and How To Recover

post infidelity stress disorder

Discovering infidelity in a relationship can be profoundly devastating. The emotional fallout is not just a fleeting moment of pain; for many it can spiral into a persistent state of psychological distress. Although not a medical diagnosis, this condition is known as Post Infidelity Stress Disorder (PISD). If you have experienced infidelity, it can be helpful to learn about how other people cope with and move through this often devastating experience.

In this blog we’ll discuss the effects of infidelity on one’s psyche, why infidelity impacts us like it does, how you can begin to recover from infidelity, and how to decide what to do about your relationship.


Understanding Post Infidelity Stress Disorder (PISD)

PISD occurs after one learns about a partner’s infidelity, leading to symptoms that mirror those of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Individuals may experience severe psychological distress, including intrusive thoughts, hyper-vigilance, and a profound sense of betrayal that can disrupt their daily functioning and sense of security. The discovery of a partner’s affair often shatters the foundational trust that the relationship was built upon, leading to intense emotional turmoil and uncertainty about the future. PISD can affect our ability to form a trusting bond with a partner, resulting in difficulty starting and deepening new relationships. For some, this distrust can become a major theme of their relationships even many years after the inciting incident.


How PISD Can Affect You

The effects of PISD can be all-encompassing. Emotionally, it can manifest as sadness, anger, confusion, and a sense of worthlessness. These feelings are often accompanied by physical symptoms such as insomnia, changes in appetite, or physical numbness. Socially, PISD may cause withdrawal from friendships and family, as the individual struggles with whom to trust and how much to share about their personal ordeal. The individual may find themselves expecting to be betrayed or hurt, and this may play out in relationships in a number of ways, most of which are not healthy.


Why It Happens

PISD stems from the traumatic impact of betrayal. Infidelity undermines the basic assumptions that partners hold about their relationship and each other. For many, a partner’s affair contradicts their view of their partner as loyal and the relationship as a source of security and happiness. Many basic beliefs about self, partner, and relationships in general may be suddenly called into question. This profound dissonance between belief and reality is what triggers the stress response typical of PISD. It can take a lot of time and reflection to integrate the new reality in a healthy way, and there’s no guarantee that without the proper guidance this will ever happen.


The Similarities to PTSD

Just like PTSD, PISD involves episodes of re-experiencing the traumatic event (the discovery of infidelity), avoidance of reminders associated with the affair, negative changes in thoughts and mood related to the relationship, and heightened states of arousal (such as being ‘on edge’). These symptoms are not only distressing but can be debilitating, affecting one’s ability to function normally in daily life.


counseling for pisd


Five Things You Can Do to Relieve Symptoms of PISD

  • Seek Supportive Therapy: Engaging with a therapist who specializes in relationship issues or trauma can provide a safe space to express your feelings and begin to process the betrayal. Beliefs about self and relationship can be safely examined and rebuilt with expert guidance. If you choose to go forward with the relationships, relationship or marriage counseling can help repair the damage. Click here to schedule a consultation with our team today.
  • Establish Boundaries: Temporarily or permanently adjusting your boundaries with your partner can provide the space needed to reflect and heal. This might include taking a break from the relationship or defining new rules for interaction.
  • Focus on Self-Care: Prioritizing activities that bolster your physical and mental health can help manage stress and restore well-being. Consider exercise, meditation, or simply dedicating time to a favorite hobby.
  • Reconnect with Your Support Network: Lean on friends and family who you trust can provide emotional support and validation during this challenging time.
  • Journal Your Thoughts and Feelings: Writing down your thoughts can be a therapeutic way to handle overwhelming emotions and clarify your feelings about the relationship and what you want for the future.


Deciding What Steps to Take Regarding Your Relationship

Deciding whether to stay in or leave a relationship after infidelity is a deeply personal decision and one that comes with many considerations:

  • Assess Willingness to Change: Recovery from infidelity involves both partners. It’s crucial to evaluate whether your partner acknowledges the wrongdoing and is willing to make amends.
  • Consider Couple’s Therapy: A professional specializing in couple’s therapy can facilitate a more constructive dialogue about the infidelity and help both partners understand and address underlying issues in the relationship.
  • Evaluate the Relationship’s Foundation: Reflect on the relationship’s strengths and weaknesses. A strong foundation can sometimes be rebuilt with mutual effort and commitment.
  • Listen to Your Intuition: Ultimately, listening to your own needs and feelings is crucial. Trusting your intuition about what’s right for you is essential in making a decision that aligns with your best interests.


Moving Forward From PISD

Recovering from PISD is not just about dealing with the immediate aftermath of infidelity but also about rebuilding your sense of self and, if you choose, reconstructing a relationship on new terms. With compassionate support, personal reflection, and deliberate healing practices, navigating this challenging path can lead to recovery and personal growth. The trained professionals at the Truism Center can help you navigate this difficult experience, with locations in Grand Rapids, Grandville, Troy, and Commerce Township, as well as a virtual office.

Remember, it’s not just about moving past the betrayal, but moving toward a life that feels fulfilling and whole again.



Robb Kornoelje is the owner of The Truism Center, a relationship enthusiast, and the creator of the “30-Day Relationship Challenge.” This 30-day, fully online email course offers gentle guidance to identify behaviors causing trouble, find ease with emotions, and enhance self-awareness. With a focus on stress-free communication, the challenge encourages a stronger connection with others, nurturing compassion, and fostering forgiveness. Join Robb on this journey to improve the fabric of your relationships—one day at a time.