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Relationship Trauma Symptoms: Physical and Emotional Insights

Woman sitting in a room looking depressed with her hand on her face

Discovering your partner’s sex addiction shattered your world. Now you’re trying to put the pieces back together, but you can’t seem to shake these feelings of anxiety, grief, and distress. 

Relationship trauma can cause physical and emotional symptoms long after you discover your partner has an intimacy disorder, like a sex or pornography addiction. 

These persisting feelings can be confusing and leave you feeling betrayed and lacking control in your life. It will likely take professional and relationship trauma treatment to help overcome these emotions and move forward with your life. 

At Begin Again Institute, we are experts in helping partners heal from the impact of sex and pornography addictions. The first step is understanding relationship trauma symptoms to determine whether you’re experiencing them.

Defining Relationship Trauma

Relationship trauma, or post-traumatic relationship syndrome (PTRS), develops when you experience severe distress in an intimate relationship due to stressful or traumatic events. It happens when someone lies to you, violates your trust, or you realize something you trusted about your relationship is untrue. 

This betrayal can leave emotional scars that you carry with you. It can damage your self-esteem and affect your ability to have healthy relationships in the future. 

Relationship trauma can occur at any point in the partnership. While discovering a sex or pornography addiction is likely the traumatic stressor, that doesn’t mean you’d immediately have relationship trauma symptoms. They could come on later after you think you’ve processed the betrayal.

You may be experiencing relationship trauma if:

  • You’re unable to move past the traumatic happening.
  • You struggle to connect romantically.
  • You blame yourself for your partner’s actions.

An added layer of this trauma occurs when you rely on the betrayer for something essential, such as safety or financial support. It can be more difficult to leave the relationship if you feel you don’t have options outside of this person. 

If you’ve experienced relationship trauma, you’re likely to feel the effects for a while. You may hesitate to trust others or be unwilling to rely on your partner for support. 

Relationship trauma takes time to heal and often requires professional intervention. It’s beneficial to enlist the help of a mental health professional who specializes in relationship trauma and can help you work through the betrayal. 

Emotional Symptoms of Relationship Trauma

When you experience trauma in a relationship, it can result in emotional symptoms. These symptoms are the result of you discovering that what you thought was true wasn’t, harming your ability to trust yourself and your instincts.

Emotional symptoms include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Avoidance
  • Flashbacks
  • Emotional numbness
  • Feelings of sadness
  • Anger
  • Trust issues
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Skewed perception
  • Low self-esteem
  • Easily startled
  • Excessive guilt
  • Intrusive thoughts
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Disconnecting socially

These uncontrollable feelings often put you in a vulnerable state. 

“The emotional effects of betrayal at this level can be strong, severe, and long-lasting if not treated,” noted Sako Barbarian, Primary Therapist at Begin Again Institute.  

Physical Symptoms of Relationship Trauma

Relationship trauma doesn’t only cause emotional concerns. It manifests in physical symptoms that can affect your everyday life.

Physical symptoms include: 

  • Insomnia
  • Changes in appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Difficulty with intimacy 

These symptoms, coupled with the emotional ones, can make you feel like a stranger to the person you once were. 

“You put a great deal of trust in one person. When that trust is broken, it shatters your sense of self and what you thought you knew about that person and your life together,” stated Matt Wenger, Clinical Director at Begin Again Institute.

The Connection Between Relationship Trauma and Sex and Pornography Addiction

The connection between relationship trauma and sex and pornography addiction is circular. The person with the addiction has unresolved trauma, and they end up traumatizing others.

Sex addiction is typically the result of unresolved trauma. It’s the person’s brain’s survival instinct kicking in and going on the defense. They feel desperate for an escape and seek out a dopamine hit to feel better. Over time, their brain becomes conditioned to this coping mechanism. 

These automatic reactions are formed early and are often linked to adverse developmental experiences, such as child sexual abuse, emotional neglect, or witnessing addiction. 

Sex or porn addiction can offer pleasure, stress relief, or numb the mind for a brief period. When a person experiences the dopamine hit from watching pornography or having sex, they’re incentivized to return for more. 

While this coping method may start innocently enough, it can devolve into a compulsive need that takes over their life. They may have used porn or sex as stress relief, but it has moved past decompressing and into a debilitating addiction. 

An unfortunate outcome of this addiction is that the traumatized person trying to cope often traumatizes other people through their actions. Sex addiction doesn’t just affect the person experiencing it. It can also affect loved ones. You can experience trauma, especially if your partner’s addiction resulted in them engaging in an affair, secretly watching porn, or lying to or gaslighting you.

In short, sex and porn addiction can lead to relationship trauma. At Begin Again Institute, we recognize that you may have shouldered the weight of betrayal and deserve to address and heal from the traumas you’ve endured.

Coping with Relationship Trauma Symptoms

If you’re coping with relationship trauma symptoms, it’s vital to remember that it’s not your fault that you’re in this situation. However, it’s still essential for you to work toward your own emotional well-being. 

Ways to cope with relationship trauma symptoms include:

  • Recognize and Accept Your Feelings. Whatever feelings you have about the current state of your relationship and what you’ve been through are acceptable. It’s OK to be angry, confused, sad, and to wish this hadn’t happened to you. Acknowledging and accepting your feelings instead of belittling yourself for having them can help you start processing what you’ve been through.
  • Lean on Your Support System. Telling others what happened is probably the last thing you want to do, but you shouldn’t have to go through this alone. Lean on trusted others who you know will support you without judgment.
  • Practice Self-Care. You’ve experienced trauma, which makes it even more important to focus on caring for yourself. That means getting plenty of sleep, eating well, and doing things that make you happy.
  • Educate Yourself. Knowledge really is power. The more you understand about sex and pornography addiction, betrayal, and relationship trauma, the better you’ll understand yourself and your feelings.
  • Practice Healthy Coping. You may want to do whatever you can to feel better, but establishing unhealthy coping mechanisms, like drinking excessive amounts of alcohol, will only make things worse. Instead, practice healthy coping strategies like journaling, meditation, or deep breathing exercises. These practices will help more than you might imagine.
  • Set Boundaries. You are responsible for your healing, which also means deciding what you are and aren’t willing to do. Set boundaries for yourself, including those around what you’re willing to do with or for your partner until he gets the help he needs. Enforce those boundaries to protect your well-being.

Remember that you don’t have to heal or stop relationship trauma symptoms on your own. Seeking help from a mental health professional who understands betrayal trauma resulting from sex or pornography addictions can give you the support you need.

Healing and Recovery for You and Your Partner

There is no instant cure for sex addiction or immediate healing for relationship trauma. Begin Again Institute focuses on healing from the root of the addiction, so it’s not just a Band-Aid, but a long-term solution. 

We offer a 14-Day Men’s Intensive that allows men to disconnect from daily life to prioritize stopping destructive sexual behaviors. Our program focuses on education, trauma-informed therapy, and practical takeaways. Recovery should be feasible for any schedule or lifestyle. This intensive is an opportunity to receive professional care discreetly and efficiently. 

For those looking for faith-based recovery options, our Boulder Recovery 14-Day Christian Men’s Intensive offers that option.

While your partner participates in one of our intensives, we help you heal from relationship trauma. Our free, virtual Partner Support Program is available to anyone whose spouse is enrolled in one of our intensives. During the program, you receive:

  • Daily support and check-ins with the program facilitator
  • Education and care from a betrayal trauma specialist
  • Participation in a transformative “partner damage letter” session with your spouse
  • Private group sessions with other program participants

Through six virtual sessions, led by an expert facilitator, you’ll learn:

  • Self-regulation techniques
  • Stress management
  • How to heal from betrayal
  • Self-care strategies
  • Tools for setting healthy boundaries

Through the program, you’ll receive the support you need to establish the next steps in your relationship.

Although it takes time, discipline, and compassion from both parties, your relationship can recover from sex or pornography addiction. But regardless of how your partner chooses to move forward, you must heal yourself.

“When an addict finally decides to seek treatment and pursue recovery, this often opens the door for deep healing for both members of the relationship,” Matt noted. “But even if that never occurs, know that being in a close relationship with an addict is traumatic, and you deserve help and support.”

Rebuild from the Root

Relationship trauma is confusing and distressing. You feel emotionally and physically unwell because of relationship trauma symptoms, and you may not even make the connection between how you feel and what happened to you.

Begin Again Institute helps men experiencing sex and porn addiction heal themselves, reconnect with their partners, and establish healthy relationship practices. Our Partner Support Program empowers you to advocate for your needs and get the healing you deserve. If you are seeking specialized trauma care, contact us today. Our team of experts is ready to offer you the support and treatment you need.

  • Category: Relationships
  • By Begin Again Institute
  • February 28, 2024

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