its 11 effects on mental health

The reasons for infidelity are many. Relationship experts say it’s because the problem goes beyond personalities, traits, or whether there are any deficits in the relationship. But whatever the cause, the end result is always dissatisfaction, pain, and more problems to deal with; and although its effects can vary widely from person to person, some of its psychological consequences can be severe and long-lasting.

In its simplest definition, infidelity in a relationship involves one of the parties involved breaking trust. This act weakens commitments, pacts and personal desires, as well as intimacy in the couple. This is considered a sad personal event that can sometimes cause great emotional damage, so many people don’t know how to act after learning of an affair. Also, negative feelings and stress can cause people to mishandle this moment and not be able to process it properly.

In this article we will explain the consequences that can arise from infidelities in relation to their impact on mental health.

Does having been cheated leave any scars?

First of all, one should not generalize. There are no simple answers to complex emotional events, such as infidelity in this case. In other words, we are all different and we have our particular way of reacting to things. This means that each person can deal with infidelity in a different way.

However, there are reasons why a partner’s betrayal can negatively affect our mental health. Although this primarily results in a lack of trust in the other member of the couple, también puede break confianza con uno mismo or other members outside the relationship.

Infidelity is tantamount to betrayal. But this betrayal is psychologically more serious, because it is supposed to come from someone we love and who loves us. Therefore, it also breaks with some of our deepest values ​​and beliefs. It is a break with our reality that we are not always able to process.

What are the possible effects of infidelity on mental health?

The consequences of infidelity on mental health are different. From a behavioral perspective, effects can be divided into cognitive, behavioral, and emotional effects. In this article we have added a fourth category related to the different traumas that can occur after a betrayal in love.

1. Cognitive effects

Cognitive effects are the set of consequences on the way people perceive and organize their environment. Also changes in how we understand, but also process new information we receive. Among the most frequent cognitive changes, we can highlight:

1.1. ruminations

People dealing with infidelity often find it difficult to concentrate and function normally in daily life. However, They can’t get what happened out of their head and go over it or try to find a reason. Moreover, some people, even after having forgiven an infidelity, are unable to erase it and continue to ruminate on what happened. Their emotions may spiral out of control as they reflect on what happened.

1.2. to block

One of the consequences that are described after infidelity is blockage, it is also one of the frequent causes for which couples go to therapy. The situation is as follows: the person who has experienced infidelity wants to forgive his partner, but something prevents him from doing so. This impasse is known as emotional blockage, since the couple is in a state of “stand by” and the relationship cannot move forward.

2. Behavioral effects

After experiencing infidelity in the couple, different reactions can occur. Dealing with this situation in a relationship usually leads to anger and sometimes aggression from the other party. Some people decide to break up immediately when they find out about the infidelity. These seek to avoid the pain of betrayal that accompanies contact with the other. Although this type of extreme reaction does not always occur, behavioral changes usually occur after the infidelity, including:

2.1. mood swings

Frequent mood swings are common to many people; however, they can be important when someone is suffering from infidelity, as people are emotionally affected. These mood swings they can go from feeling intense sadness to furious anger at the other person.

2.2. Hypervigilance

Hypervigilance is a behavioral reaction aimed at verifying that the relationship is over. This this leads not only to greater vigilance, but also to aggressive communication and obsessive questioning about what happened. Some behavioral symptoms include asking frequent questions about the affair, which ultimately shows more aggressiveness in communication.

2.3. jealous

The appearance of jealousy is another of the behavioral manifestations that appear. After finding out that our partner has been unfaithful to us, people may feel a huge lack of security in uno mismo. Jealousy is one of the many signs that appear when someone feels insecure, which ultimately indicates a lack of trust in the relationship. They are not only a feeling of discomfort, they also lead to the display of certain harmful behaviors: towards the couple and towards oneself.

2.4. social isolation

In the case of some relationships – especially if they have been very intense or long-lasting – the emotional reaction can extend to the environment of which the unfaithful person is a part. If it is true that mistrust is directed above all at the other, also it is likely that these feelings extend to the environment of which the cheating person is a part: your friends, your family or your place of work. Consequently, this can produce strong social isolation, since many of these bonds can be shared.

3. Emotional effects

Negative emotions tend to decrease both physical and mental health. Fear, anxiety, anger, and depression are common emotional responses to infidelity, characterized by high physiological arousal. Although these feelings occur more frequently in the person who is cheating, the cheating person may also show sadness associated with the loss of a loved one or the status the relationship has afforded them.

3.1. low self-esteem

Cheating can affect a person’s self-assessment. People facing infidelity may believe that their qualities are worse than those of the lover. Ultimately, this can lead to the manifestation of feelings of inferiority and low self-esteem.

3.2. Anguish

Anxiety – in the case of infidelities – can arise as a result of two main factors. On the one hand, we generally experience a feeling of emptiness which leaves the loss of the other and especially of life in common. On the other hand, that of the loss of beliefs, the latter is linked to the thought that infidelity is happening or will happen in all future relationships.

3.3. insomnia

One of the most typical manifestations when we experience negative events is insomnia, it is very dangerous and must be controlled.

When trying to sleep, people who have been through a breakup tend to think about it more. The lack of hours of sleep installs us in a kind of vicious circle. The less we sleep, the less we are able to manage our reactions and thoughts, and these ruminating thoughts keep us from falling asleep.

4. Trauma

Many authors consider that the emotional reactions that occur in the victim of infidelity are similar to those that appear in certain disorders. Two traumas are described which can occur after a betrayal in love.

4.1. Post-Infidelity Stress Disorder

Post-Infidelity Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a specific type of anxiety disorder that can be triggered by discovering that someone in our intimate environment has been unfaithful to us.

A recent study estimates that between a quarter and half of people who have been betrayed by their partner develop symptoms of post-cheating stress disorder, which is accompanied by symptoms of depression and anxiety.

4.2. Trauma of betrayal

Psychological researcher Jennifer Freyd introduced the term “betrayal trauma” in 1991. It refers to a specific type of psychological trauma caused by loss of essential social ties. The damage is caused by a rupture of a bond of attachment, as between a father and his son, or in case of infidelity, between romantic partners. The loss of attachment does not imply the breaking of the relationship. The trauma of betrayal has lasting effects on a person’s life that can even rival the effects of physical abuse.


As we have seen, a betrayal of trust can inflict different damages. Sometimes these become significant emotional wounds. Betrayal in a romantic relationship can continue to cause pain and confusion even months after the breakup.

People who develop this type of trauma remain in the couple relationship in exchange for guaranteeing their own safety. For example, someone who does not have sufficient economic resources may remain in a relationship – after an affair – for fear of not being able to maintain themselves without the other person. This fear of possible loss and the consequences of acknowledging the betrayal can lead the betrayed person to bury the trauma.

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