Man sitting next to woman with her head in her handsHave you ever been in a relationship that you just cannot seem to leave? Or maybe you have witnessed a friend, a family member, or even a coworker deal with a toxic relationship.

You may have questioned yourself about why you were holding onto an obviously problematic relationship for so long. And if you are on the outside looking in, you may wonder why your friend, family member, or coworker does not leave the situation they are in or why they have even stayed in it for so long.

The answer is trauma bonding. Trauma bonding may seem like a bizarre concept to those who have not lived through it, but it’s rooted in psychological manipulation.

What is a trauma bond and how does one form one?

What is a Trauma Bond?

A trauma bond is “an emotional bond with an individual that arises from a recurring, cyclical pattern of abuse perpetrated by intermittent reinforcement through rewards and punishments.”

Basically, a trauma bond is a connection between an abuser and the individual they abuse. In any situation of abuse, there is a possibility of a trauma bond being formed.

When Can Trauma Bonding Happen?

The most common situations where trauma bonding can happen are the following:

  • Cults
  • Domestic abuse
  • Elder abuse
  • Human trafficking
  • Incest
  • Kidnapping
  • Sexual abuse

To someone looking on the outside in, it might be hard to grasp the concept of a trauma bond. All the situations listed above are terrible situations that you would not imagine someone having a bond or a love for the person abusing them. The bond forms due to attachment, dependence, and how the cycle of abuse works.

When trauma happens, there is likely a need for attachment as a way to survive. That attachment grows to dependency. It ends up being a vicious cycle when the abuser promises to stop the abuse but likely repeats it again in the near future, taking advantage of the other person’s vulnerability.

Trauma bonding can also occur when someone has unresolved childhood trauma. They may repeat similar patterns in adult relationships and have an especially difficult time letting go of those connections.

What are the Signs of Trauma Bonding?

These are the most common signs of trauma bonding:

  • Making excuses for the abuser’s behavior.
  • Minimizing or denying the abuser’s actions.
  • Coping with drugs or alcohol.
  • Feeling numb to the emotional and physical abuse.
  • Normalizing the abuse.
  • Changing yourself and your behavior to avoid making the abuser angry.
  • Lying to friends, family, or loved ones about the abuse or abuser.
  • Does not feel comfortable leaving the abuse.
  • Blaming themselves for the abuse.

How to Break a Trauma Bond

Side view of woman with her hands in prayer positionYou can break a trauma bond with help, and you can find relief and healing along the way. Weakening and breaking a trauma bond can be difficult, especially if you are trying to do it alone. A therapist can help teach you about the patterns of abuse, from how they work to how to recognize them.

Working with a professional therapist can also help you better understand what driving the bond, address any signs and symptoms of your trauma, and work on the skills to help you strengthen your own bond with yourself. A self-care action plan can be crucial as a way to teach you how to set boundaries with others moving forward, how to incorporate positive self-talk while minimizing the negative self-talk, learn the necessary skills to communicate effectively, and learn what factors make a healthy relationship.

If you are ready, I invite you to contact me to schedule a complimentary phone consultation. Trauma is not something to be ashamed of and you deserve a healthy and fulfilling relationship. There is help available for you to overcome this and move forward.

Click here to learn more about therapy for trauma.