Trauma bonding occurs when someone forms an intense emotional connection with someone else due to experiencing a traumatic event together. This bonding can happen in many relationships, such as romantic, friendship, and familial relationships. Breaking the bond can be difficult, but it is possible with the help of trauma therapy and support from friends and loved ones.
Trauma bonding is a term used to describe the emotional connection that can develop between two people due to one person repeatedly causing harm to the other. Some signs include an intense emotional attachment to the other person, a sense of loyalty or obligation, and a lack of self-worth without the other person. The symptoms also include feelings of anxiety, depression, confusion, sleep problems, and changes in appetite. You find it in abusive relationships, where the victim becomes emotionally dependent on the abuser in the relationship despite the abuse. This article will explore the different types of trauma bonding, the stages, and the signs. It will also discuss its impact on mental health and well-being and how to seek help.
What Is Trauma Bonding?
Trauma bonding is a strong emotional attachment between two people resulting wherein the other constantly causing harm to the other. Many abusive relationships start with a shower of affection and assurances of love. When the abuse begins, you may be caught off guard, and the abuser might apologize and swear not to do it again. It is common in abusive relationships where the victim becomes emotionally dependent on the abuser and remains in the relationship despite the abuse. It can occur in any relationship with a power imbalance, and one person suffers psychological or physical abuse.
Also, it can occur between:
- a child and an abusive adult
- a hostage and kidnapper
- members of a cult and the leader
Again, bonding can occur after people experience a traumatic event together. Often, the basis of the emotional attachment that develops after the trauma is fear and a desire to survive. The victim may feel they cannot leave the relationship because they are afraid of what will happen, or they cannot survive without their abuser. Trauma bonding can make it difficult for victims to break free from the cycle of abuse. They may feel a strong emotional attachment to their abuser and may not cope. Sadly, trauma affection can impact a person’s mental health and well-being.
Types Of Trauma Bonding
There are several different types of trauma bonding in various relationships. Some of the most common types include:
- Stockholm Syndrome – This bonding occurs when a victim of abduction or captivity becomes emotionally attached to their captor. Eventually, a person may develop positive feelings toward his abuser. They may see their captor as a protector and even defend themselves from others.
- Battered Person Syndrome – Here, bonding occurs in abusive relationships where one person is physically, emotionally, or sexually abusive toward the other. The victim may feel a strong emotional attachment to their abuser and be unable to leave the relationship.
- Political Cult Syndrome – This bonding is in political or religious cults where the leader holds complete power over the followers. The followers may become emotionally attached to the leader and believe they are the only ones who can protect them.
- Toxic Family Syndrome – Within families with emotional, physical, or sexual abuse, you can get a toxic family relationship. The victim may become emotionally attached to their abuser and unable to leave the family.
- Bonding in the Workplace – This type of bonding can occur in a workplace where an employee gets emotional or physical abuse by a boss or co-worker. The employee may become emotionally attached to their abuser and unable to leave the job.
- Coercive Control – This is a traumatic relationship when one person exerts control over another through manipulation, intimidation, and other tactics. The abusive cycle becomes a routine, and even if the other person wants to leave, he might come back because it’s familiar and comforting in some way.
In a nutshell, understand what trauma bonding is, seek help if you are in an abusive relationship, and practice self-care. A mental health professional can help you work through your feelings and develop coping strategies to break the cycle of abuse.
7 Stages of Trauma Bonding
Generally, the bonding has seven stages which include:
- Love Bombing Stage – This stage is where the abuser may shower the victim with affection, gifts, and attention, making the victims feel special and loved.
- Tension Building Stage – In this stage, the abuser may become more controlling and demanding. It’s the abuse phase where the abuser may mistreat the victim, either emotionally, physically, or sexually.
- Honeymoon Stage – Here, the abuser is more attentive and affectionate towards the victim. It can create a strong emotional bond between the victim and abuser.
- Incident Stage – This is where a major act of abuse occurs, such as physical or sexual assault. There is a turning point in the relationship, as the victim questions whether the abuser truly cares for them.
- Reconciliation Stage – After the incident, the abuser may apologize and promise to change their behavior. Also, abusers may shower the victim with gifts and affection to repair the relationship.
- Calm or Gaslighting Stage – In this stage, the abuser may show normal, non-abusive behavior. When gaslighting, the abuser creates a false narrative and makes victims question their actions. The victim may believe that the abuser has changed.
- Disruption/Breaking The Bond – To break the trauma bond, the victim may need to seek the help of a mental health professional and cut off contact with the abuser. Breaking the bond can be a challenging and emotional process. But with support, the victim moves on to healthier, more fulfilling relationships.
Unfortunately, the cycle of abuse often repeats itself, with the abuser eventually returning to their abusive behavior. This abuse can create an emotional bond between the victim and abuser, as the victim may feel a sense of loyalty towards the abuser and struggle to leave the relationship. But, this pattern may vary in severity and frequency of the abuse depending on the types of trauma bonding.
What Are Trauma Bonding Signs?
Some trauma bonding signs in a relationship include:
- Experiencing abuse. The victim may be physically, emotionally, or sexually abused by the abuser. Some of these are easier to be recognized than others.
- Alternating behavior. The abuser may alternate between being kind and abusive, causing the victim to become emotionally confused and dependent on the abuser.
- Difficulty leaving the relationship. Abusers don’t always treat the victim poorly. They may apologize and promise to change. Despite experiencing abuse, the victim may feel unable or unwilling to leave the relationship.
- Strong emotional attachment to the abuser. The victim may feel a strong emotional attachment to the abuser and a sense of loyalty or love toward them.
- Low self-esteem. The victim may feel unworthy or undeserving of love and think they are to blame for the abuse. It can lead to low self-esteem and feelings of worthlessness, so they might as well accept the love being shown by their abuser.
- Difficulty trusting others. The victim may have difficulty trusting others and struggle to form healthy relationships outside the abusive one.
If you are experiencing these signs or are in an abusive relationship, seek the help of a mental health professional. A therapist can offer support and guidance in breaking the cycle of abuse and help you develop healthy coping strategies.
Trauma Bonding Symptoms?
The symptoms can vary depending on the individual and the specifics of the abusive relationship. However, some common symptoms may include:
- Emotional attachment to the abuser. Despite experiencing abuse, the victim may feel a strong emotional attachment to the abuser and a sense of loyalty or love toward them.
- Difficulty leaving the relationship. The victim may feel unable to leave the relationship even if it is unhealthy or abusive. They may fear the consequences or believe the abuser is the only person who truly cares for them. The victim might feel incomplete or lost without the abuser and eventually return.
- Low self-esteem. The victim may feel unworthy or undeserving of love and believe they are to blame for the abuse. Low esteem can lead to low self-esteem and feelings of worthlessness.
- Anxiety and depression. The victim may experience anxiety and depression due to the abuse and the emotional confusion caused by the abuser’s alternating behavior.
- Difficulty trusting others. It can be hard for the victim to trust other people and struggle to form healthy relationships outside the abusive one.
- Difficulty functioning in daily life. The psychological effects of trauma relationships can interfere with the victim’s ability to function in life and may cause problems in other relationships.
Impacts Of Trauma Bonding
The impacts of trauma relationships can be significant and long-lasting. It can have a major effect on a person’s mental health and well-being, as well as their physical health. Some of these include:
- Low self-esteem. Abuse can erode a person’s sense of self-worth and self-esteem. Victims may feel worthless, helpless, and incapable of making decisions for themselves. The victim may develop a fear of abandonment or rejection.
- Mental health issues. Trauma affection can bring mental health issues like depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). These conditions can have a serious impact on a person’s quality of life.
- Physical health problems. Also, an abusive relationship can harm a person’s physical health. Chronic stress, for example, can weaken the immune system and make one more vulnerable to illness. It can also interfere with the cellular response in the body, thereby negatively impacting organ health, mood, energy levels, and more.
- Difficulty leaving the relationship. The emotional attachment that the victim develops from a trauma affection can make it hard for a person to leave. They may feel afraid, unsure of how to survive, or guilty for leaving their abuser simply because the cycle is familiar and they don’t know how to live without it.
How To Break The Trauma Bond?
Breaking the cycle can be difficult and may require the help of a mental health professional. Here are some steps that may help break the trauma bond:
- Seek support from loved ones. You need a support system when trying to leave a toxic relationship. This may include friends, family, and a therapist. Having people to talk to and confide in provides emotional support and can help you feel less alone.
- Educate yourself. Understanding what trauma bonding and abusive relationships are to recognize the patterns in your relationship and make it easier to break the bond. Still, reading books, watching documentaries, and seeking out online resources can help you gain insight and knowledge on trauma bonding.
- Keep a journal. Write down things that happened each day to identify patterns and notice problems with behavior that may not have seemed abusive now. Always note what happened and whether your partner said anything afterward to justify it.
- Make a plan. Leaving an abusive relationship can be dangerous, so plan for your safety. It may include finding a safe place to stay, telling trusted friends and family about the abuse, and creating a code word to use in an emergency.
- Seek trauma therapy. Get a mental health professional to support and guide you in breaking the cycle of abuse. Trauma therapy can help your emotions, develop healthy coping strategies, and build self-esteem.
- Take time for self-care, and don’t self-blame. Prioritize your well-being and take time for self-care. It may include exercising, spending time with friends, and engaging in hobbies.
- Cut off contact. It may be necessary to cut off contact with the abuser. It can be tough, but it is good to move on and heal. If you can’t do it on your own, seek the support of a therapist or a domestic violence hotline.
Frequently Asked Questions
It occurs in any relationship when a person experiences a traumatic event from the other. This can be after a one-time event or an ongoing situation, such as domestic abuse.
While it is not necessarily an addiction in the traditional sense, it can feel addictive to the person experiencing it due to the intense emotional connection and feelings of loyalty and obligation.
The bond is healthier over time but requires work and effort from both parties involved. Essentially, trauma therapy can resolve unhealthy patterns in the relationship.
It can happen when two people experience a traumatic event together and form an intense emotional connection. Also, it can occur if an abusive person bonds with the abused with a promise to change, which sometimes becomes a cycle.
A trauma bond is a psychological phenomenon where someone forms an intense emotional connection with someone else due to a traumatic event together. These types of trauma bonding can affect a person’s mental health and well-being. Consequently, it can be hard to break the bonding without therapy and support from loved ones. Therefore, understand the trauma bonding signs and symptoms and seek help when necessary to break the bond and create a healthier, more positive relationship.