What Is Post Infidelity Stress Disorder?

Medically reviewed by April Justice, LICSW
Updated April 26, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Content warning: Please be advised, the below article might mention trauma-related topics that could be triggering to the reader. Please see our Get Help Now page for more immediate resources.

Note: Post-infidelity stress disorder (PISD) is not an actual mental health condition listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). It is a term developed to explore the unique emotional challenges of those who have experienced a partner's infidelity. The term PISD may be used in this article, but it is not an official diagnostic label. 

When you are in a relationship with someone who chooses to be unfaithful, it can cause lasting effects for many months or years. The road may be challenging even when a person wants to move forward. When infidelity crosses your mental health space, you might experience a challenge nicknamed post-infidelity stress disorder (PISD). 

PISD can make it difficult for a person to enter future relationships and can be a root cause of trust issues. Depending on the person, it may cause anger, resentment, reservation, or reluctance to continue dating someone. Healing from PISD can be vital to finding healthy, fulfilling relationships in the future and maintaining positive mental health.

Therapy can help ease the effects of post infidelity stress disorder

Is post-infidelity stress the same as PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) occurs following a traumatic event in a person's life. It is an ongoing and progressive disease so the symptoms may worsen over time without treatment. 

Post-infidelity stress may have some similarities with PTSD. However, it is not a mental illness like PTSD. While its effects only tend to last about a week to a few months, during this period, a person can experience flashbacks like those experienced among people with PTSD. You may replay the sequence of events that led up to you finding out about your partner's infidelity. You could also relive moments when your partner stayed out late after work or took a mysterious phone call. Some people may experience self-blaming thoughts. 

The impacts of post-infidelity stress

Below are some of the primary impacts of post-infidelity stress that someone may experience. If you experience these symptoms, reaching out to a professional to explore your emotions and thoughts may be helpful. 

Sleep challenges 

It may not be uncommon for someone struggling with PISD to equate mysterious activities to cheating. These assumptions can cause severe emotional blows to the person who is hurting and emotional wounds that can be long-lasting. Another similarity between PTSD and PISD is insomnia or difficulty sleeping. Both situations can make it difficult to settle at night or cause erratic sleep patterns. 

Trust issues

One of the primary and most apparent outcomes of PISD is trust issues. Trust can be one of the most important aspects of a relationship. The emotional stress caused by not trusting your partner can make the relationship seem meaningless. After a person has been cheated on, they may feel betrayed, which may cause them to be hesitant to trust in the future. The pain and turmoil caused by infidelity can be severe.

If you or someone you love is struggling with PISD, patience can be essential to practice when trying to conquer your symptoms. Although it may seem the onset happened quickly, the healing process may take time.

Changes in personality or interests

While coping with the effects of post-infidelity stress, you may lose interest in previously enjoyed interests or activities. In addition, you might notice personality changes due to preoccupation with the adverse events you've experienced. Some people may be distracted by their PISD and subconsciously try to safeguard themselves from getting hurt again. You might also struggle to be social. However, social isolation and other challenges may lead to worsening symptoms. 



After going through a challenging or traumatic event, you might try to avoid the thoughts and feelings resulting from attempting to move through daily life. However, avoidance may do the opposite of helping and could worsen a situation. To cope with what has happened to you, it may help to take steps toward healing proactively. If you have avoided the challenges you are experiencing for some time, you may not know how to move forward. Speaking with a professional and making lifestyle changes can help you develop a plan. 


After you experience a betrayal, you may be more sensitive to the world around you. Sudden movements or loud noises are examples of situations that could be noticeable to you while you are coping with the effects of your situation. However, hyperarousal could also refer to overthinking situations, not trusting people you've known for a while, or having emotional reactions that don't match the situation. You might also experience symptoms like irritability, aggressiveness, or difficulty concentrating. 

Therapy can help ease the effects of post infidelity stress disorder

Support options 

After learning that your significant other has been unfaithful, you may benefit from time to recover and decide how to proceed. If you're seeking guidance and encouragement during this time, connecting with a licensed therapist may be helpful.

Some people may be sensitive after experiencing infidelity and may not trust leaving home to go to an in-person therapist. In these cases, an online platform like BetterHelp may match you with a therapist trained to support people experiencing life challenges like infidelity. With an online platform, you can receive support from home at a time that works for you. 

Studies show that electronically delivered therapy is as effective as traditional face-to-face counseling and offers additional perks. One study conducted by Brigham Young University researchers found that technology-based therapy provides benefits like low cost, no travel time, no waitlists, and trackable progress.


Talking about sensitive topics like infidelity can be challenging, and staying quiet about what has hurt you can be tempting. However, these feelings can be challenging to move past independently. You may benefit from professional support to meet your goals, which is not shameful. Consider contacting a therapist online or in your area to start receiving support.
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