Thu, Jul 29, 2004 - Page 2 News List

Infidelity fuels mood disorders

BETRAYAL Having an extramarital affair may seem fun or necessary at the time, but its legacies include emotional trauma, mood disorders or worse, new research claims

By Wang Hsiao-wen  /  STAFF REPORTER

The number of people suffering depression after exposure to an extramarital affair has increased by 32 percent in two years, a clinical study reported yesterday.

"Apart from the social cost and family disintegration, extramarital affairs also impair individuals psychologically. The devastating experience can lead to depression, anxiety disorders, panic disorders and other psychiatric illnesses," said Yang Tsung-tsai (楊聰財), head of psychiatry at Cardinal Tien Hospital, at a press conference held yesterday.

Yang said that of the 960 patients he had treated since the beginning of the year, 208 were wives or husbands suffering depression induced by marital betrayal.

Yang said the jump in cases had social and clinical implications.

"The growing number of affairs reported in the clinic may suggest that our society is becoming more tolerant of sexual activity outside marriage," Yang said.

Yang cited an opinion poll conducted by a local TV station and subsequently used by the Taipei City Government's Bureau of Social Affairs showing that 4 percent of married interviewees admitted to infidelity.

According to the poll, an estimated 460,000 people in the country are likely to be involved in extramarital affairs. It said that those who had an affair in the first year of marriage accounted for 16.1 percent of all cases.

In Yang's findings, male patients seeking treatment made up only 9 percent of his clients.

He said the main reason behind this imbalance was that far fewer men are willing to seek help to deal with their emotional disarray.

Yang said that some men who failed to seek treatment resorted to alcohol abuse. The worst scenario, however, was that depressed, untreated male patients could commit incest.

Yang cited a case of a male patient who had sexually assaulted his daughter after he had failed to deal with the trauma resulting from his wife's affair.

According to Yang, the man's wife chose to move to another county with her boyfriend because she thought her husband's income as a taxi driver was unsatisfactory.

"With no other available outlet for his resentment and no medical intervention, he vented his anger on his daughter while he was drunk," Yang said.

Having served an eight-year sentence, the man is out of jail and is undergoing a community rehabilitation program and is on a course of medication.

"If depression is not treated in time, the disease could result in aberrant conduct and more tragedy," Yang said.

From a clinical rather than anecdotal point of view, however, the raised public awareness of depression as a common medical condition has also helped to explain the increase in numbers of people seeking treatment.

"As we start to talk more about depression and anxiety dis-orders, there is a new openness in our social setting. More and more depressed patients are willing to knock on the psychiatrist's door," said Lai Te-jen (賴德仁), chairman of psychiatry at the Chung Shan Medical University Hospital.

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