Can Being Cheated On Physically Impact Your Brain?

For victims of infidelity, a broken heart is an understatement. After all, being cheated on can take a lasting toll on your well-being, both physically and mentally. As sexologist Rob Weiss told Brides, "Damaged relationships don't heal overnight. Moreover, damaged relationships don't heal simply because one party wants them to." Well, if only there was a way to prove with facts all the havoc that the cheating party inflicted on our lives instead of a simple "You broke my heart!" accusation.

As it turns out, we can, and we can look to none other than Khloé Kardashian for the answer. In an episode of Hulu's "The Kardashians," Kardashian underwent a $3,500 brain scan after being cheated on by Tristan Thompson, and the results indicated that she was experiencing an unresolved trauma (via TMZ). Following the scan, the star admitted that there were several traumatic incidents that'd happened in her life that caused her emotional anxieties, including a car crash when she was 16, her father's death when she was 19, and the time she found out her partner had cheated on her while she was pregnant. That brain scans can pick up on things like anxiety and other emotion-rooted processes may be surprising to many, but the science doesn't lie.

Being cheated on can physically impact your brain

Love can produce dopamine and make you feel happy, which is addictive to the brain, according to PsychCentral. Likewise, a feeling of rejection brought on by infidelity can alter brain chemistry in a manner akin to withdrawal in substance use disorders. Our brains release more oxytocin and dopamine when we are happily in love, and infidelity can obstruct the neural connections that lead to this release. Trauma alters both the structure and chemistry of the brain, which might start to have an impact on daily activities. The amygdala, hippocampus, and prefrontal cortex appear to be the areas of the brain most affected by trauma. The amygdala is the integrative center for emotional behaviors. The hippocampal region plays a major role in consolidating memories. Meanwhile, the prefrontal cortex is responsible for cognitive control functions like thought and reasoning.

And it's possible to pick up a post-traumatic change in the brain. Per trauma therapist Justina M. Floyd (via POPSUGAR), "An MRI can show regions of the brain being atrophied (shrunken) or enlarged, which would indicate unresolved trauma." This is especially true if you live in an environment where your traumatic experience is continuously brought to mind, like the case of Khloé. Trauma can, however, also be cured because our brains can be neuroplastic and change as new events arise, she adds. It might be a long road, but it's possible.

Other side effects of partner infidelity

Trauma is a common side effect of being cheated on, per PsychCentral, but there are other side effects of partner infidelity. For example, when your trust is broken by a partner, the actual chemistry of your brain may change, so experiencing anxiety and depression is common (via Choosing Therapy). Unfortunately, this anxiety and depression can lead to other, more physical effects. Talking to Bustle about the side effects of being cheated on, Dr. Michele Barton, the director of clinical health at Psychology Life Well, explained that the anxiety stemming from partner infidelity can lead to "migraines, stomachaches, IBS, nausea, loss of appetite, or overeating."

Being cheated on can also sadly lower your self-esteem. While being cheated on doesn't mean someone is less-than or not good enough, it can often feel that way. It leaves room for a person to over-analyze every detail of themselves. What's more, Healthline adds that low self-esteem often causes "self-isolation and poor quality of life." These factors can be a slippery slope to other harmful behaviors. At the end of the day, it's important to take care of yourself both mentally and physically after being cheated on to avoid these prolonged effects.

How to recover from cheating-related trauma

In order to move on from being cheated on, you yourself must want to be healed. One way to put your mind in the right perspective, per Ashley Hudson Therapy, is to set realistic expectations. Rather than putting up a strong front, allow emotions to war through you and have a good cry if you want to. Reminders of your past with the cheating party can easily stoke your resentment, so consider stepping away from social media when the pain is still raw. If you choose to end your relationship with the cheating partner, shut off all communication and focus all of your energy on your healing. If you choose to be together with the cheater, you should ensure that there is sufficient remorse on their part.

Being cheated on is typically a lonely experience since we don't want the world to know and critique our vulnerabilities. However, seeking assistance is a crucial step in any healing process, particularly after an affair when we may be tempted to lose our sense of self. You can engage a therapist for professional help or open up to your close friends and family about your experience. "Dealing with an infidelity alone is extremely difficult and can lead to more pain in the future," family counselor Melissa Divaris Thompson told Well + Good. Rather than lingering on the past, look to the future and consider the good that's in store for you.