Infidelity Can Lead to Psychosomatic Symptoms and Sexual Dysfunction

Infidelity Can Lead to Psychosomatic Symptoms and Sexual Dysfunction
Infidelity Can Lead to Psychosomatic Symptoms and Sexual Dysfunction

Cheating on a partner can cause intense emotional turmoil, such as guilt, anxiety, and stress, which may lead to various physical and sexual symptoms. Laurence Levine, M.D., a urology professor at RUSH University in Chicago, has encountered many men experiencing sexual dysfunctions, such as erectile issues and penile numbness, which often stemmed from their infidelity.

These symptoms, while distressing, often had no medical basis and were linked to psychological factors.

Dr. Levine discovered that these men had often engaged in sexual indiscretions, ranging from sex and kissing to emotional connections with someone outside their relationship. Their symptoms typically began after these encounters, despite medical tests revealing no underlying issues.

This phenomenon, described as “spousal revenge syndrome” in a 2016 case study in The Canadian Journal of Urology, involved men presenting with symptoms of sexually transmitted diseases or chronic prostatitis despite negative test results, triggered by extramarital sexual encounters.

Spousal revenge syndrome, though not extensively studied, is likely related to somatic symptom disorders, where psychological distress manifests as physical symptoms without a medical cause.

Infidelity Can Lead to Psychosomatic Symptoms and Sexual Dysfunction
Infidelity Can Lead to Psychosomatic Symptoms and Sexual Dysfunction

Patients often resist the idea that their sexual problems are psychologically driven, but mental health issues can indeed produce physiological symptoms. Dr. Levine emphasizes the brain’s powerful influence over bodily functions, which can lead to real symptoms despite the absence of physical ailments.

Spousal revenge syndrome isn’t a formally recognized condition and is not listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. The term suggests psychosomatic symptoms linked to cheating, where anxiety and fear of getting caught cause physical pain or other symptoms.

This anxiety can arise from worrying about sexually transmitted diseases or unintended pregnancies, even when tests are negative.

A somatic symptom disorder involves excessive thoughts and emotions about physical symptoms without a medical explanation, significantly impacting daily life. People with this disorder often seek multiple medical opinions and feel frustrated by the lack of a diagnosis.

However, experiencing physical discomfort after cheating doesn’t automatically indicate an SSD diagnosis, as it depends on the intensity and impact of these thoughts and feelings.

When evaluating patients with pelvic pain or sexual health issues, Dr. Levine conducts thorough medical assessments, including urinalysis, blood tests, and physical exams.

If medical tests come back normal, he confronts patients with the possibility that their guilt and anxiety are causing their symptoms. For ongoing distress, he refers them to therapists for further psychological support.

Treating somatic symptom disorders might involve various therapeutic approaches, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, mindfulness-based therapy, and medications. Individual therapy can help men address the stress or guilt from infidelity, and couples therapy can be beneficial for those choosing to work on their relationship post-infidelity. This therapy focuses on rebuilding trust, communication, and forgiveness.

Dr. Levine advises anyone experiencing distressing symptoms to seek medical evaluation while also considering psychological factors.

Trusting the legitimacy of medical testing and acknowledging the mind’s powerful influence is crucial. Psychological issues can significantly affect physical health, and addressing them can lead to relief and improved well-being.

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