Learn more about what trauma bonding is, why it happens, and how to heal from this unhealthy attachment here.
Many people are involved in abusive relationships with others, such as a significant other, a parent or sibling, or even people they consider “friends.” Despite these unhealthy relationships, people still find it difficult to leave these types of situations, and one reason why this could happen is because of trauma bonding.
Trauma bonding is when an abused person becomes mentally and emotionally connected to and reliant upon their abuser, despite their abuser’s dangerous and unhealthy behavior. It often makes people compelled to stay in their relationship because they feel like they “need” this other person. They may even have many fond and positive memories of their abuser, even when they know it’s not safe or healthy to stay in this type of relationship.1
Trauma bonding is most often found in romantic relationships, but it can also result from abusive behavior from parents as a child or teenager. This type of dynamic often creates feelings of dependency.
The signs of this type of attachment will often differ depending on the type and length of the relationship with the abuser. For example, signs of abusive relationships with a romantic partner are often different from those with a friend or family member. Some common signs that you or a loved one may be in a traumatically bonded relationship include: 2
If you or a loved one start to notice any of these signs, it’s important to reach out for help from domestic abuse centers, therapy offices, or even the police if necessary.
The root causes of trauma bonding are varied and will look different for everyone depending on their specific situation and relationship with their abuser. Trauma bonds can occur over days, weeks, or months, and it often occurs due to narcissistic behavior from the abuser. Narcissists are people who generally only care about themselves and will exhibit signs of manipulation against other people. 3
Some common ways that trauma bonding might happen include:
In many instances, it is not obvious or noticeable to the victim that they are involved in a traumatic and abusive relationship. Abusers are adept at keeping their victims reliant upon them in many ways, which is why it’s important to learn the signs and causes.
Some of the most common causes of this type of abusive behavior are power imbalances, intermittent abuse, and polyvictimization. These may also be exacerbated by hormones as well.
Often, the victim in an abusive relationship is conditioned to see themselves as “weaker” than their abuser. This is intentional by the abuser, as they need the victim to see them as their “savior.” Over time, the victim will see themselves as entirely reliant upon their abuser for their health and well-being.
This type of abuse is what often makes people question if they are in an abusive relationship because the abuse doesn’t “always” happen. Intermittent abuse is often followed by apologies, gifts, or improved behavior, which can confuse the victim and make them think that “it’s not all bad.”
Polyvictimization is when someone has been subjected to many types of abuse, such as emotional abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, family violence, bullying, narcissistic behavior, and many others. This often causes a person to become vulnerable to abuse later on in life as well, especially if they haven’t received therapy or other help to help them realize this kind of behavior is not healthy. 4
In an abusive relationship, there are often many stages. These include: 5
It’s important for a victim to remember that it’s not their fault for being in an abusive relationship. Trauma bonding can happen to anyone, and it’s difficult to break the cycle of abuse, especially when it may be behavior you or a loved one are used to.
Working to heal from trauma is an important step, and recognizing the signs and symptoms can greatly help you as you look to leave an abusive relationship. Healing from abuse, whether it be from a romantic partner, family member, or friend, will look different for everyone.
A few key ways you can start the healing process include:
Your safety is of utmost importance, so please make sure you take these steps as slowly or with as much support as possible.
If you or a loved one notice the signs of trauma bonding in any type of relationship, it is important to reach out for professional help. Ripple Ranch Recovery Center can help you figure out if you’re in an abusive relationship and provide ways to start getting the help you need to heal, especially if you have experienced polyvictimization.
We offer many types of psychotherapy at our treatment center, including cognitive-behavioral therapy, trauma-focused therapy, and family systems therapy. Ripple Ranch Recovery Center focuses on holistic and patient-centered approaches for all our clients. Our compassionate and supportive staff will help create an individualized plan for you or your loved one based on your needs and any co-occurring disorders.
Reach out to Ripple Ranch Recovery today. We will be with you every step of the way during your recovery and can help you overcome any hardships or potential issues you may face.