7 Stages Of Trauma Bonding: What is Trauma Bonding?

people hugging eachother

Trauma bonding is a phenomenon where a person forms a strong emotional attachment to someone who has repeatedly hurt or abused them. This can happen in any type of relationship, but is often seen in romantic or familial relationships. 

 

The bond is formed through the experience of repeated cycles of abuse and reconciliation, which creates a sense of emotional dependence on the abuser. It can be difficult for the person to walk away from a trauma bond because the bond creates feelings of fear, guilt, and shame, and the person may feel that they are unable to survive without the abuser. Additionally, the abuser may use manipulation and other tactics to keep the person in the relationship

Who is Likely to be Stuck in a Trauma Bonded Relationship?

Anyone can be at risk of becoming trauma bonded in a relationship, but certain individuals may be more susceptible. People who have a history of childhood abuse or neglect, those who have low self-esteem or self-worth, or those who have a history of being in emotionally or physically abusive relationships may be more likely to become trauma bonded.

 

 Additionally, people who have a tendency to be codependent, or have difficulty setting boundaries, may be more likely to become trapped in a trauma bonded relationship. It’s worth noting that people from all walks of life, regardless of their background, education, and socioeconomic status can be affected by trauma bonding.

What Are The 7 Stages of Trauma Bonding?

Love Bombing

Love bombing is a tactic that some individuals use to manipulate and control others in a relationship. It is a form of emotional manipulation in which an abuser showers the person with excessive affection, attention, and flattery in the beginning of the relationship. This can create a strong emotional bond between the abuser and the person, making it harder for the person to leave the relationship when the abuse starts.

Love bombing is often used as a tactic in trauma bonding, as it can create a false sense of security and trust in the relationship. It can also make the person feel like they are special and chosen, making them more likely to overlook the abuser’s negative behavior. As the relationship progresses, the abuser may gradually withdraw the affection and attention, and then start to use verbal, emotional, or physical abuse to control and manipulate the person. This creates a cycle of abuse and reconciliation, which can make it difficult for the person to leave the relationship.



Trust and Dependency

Trust and dependency are key components of trauma bonding. The abuser uses manipulation and deceit to create a false sense of trust in the relationship. They may make promises that they never intend to keep, or use charm and flattery to gain the person’s trust. This false sense of trust can make it difficult for the person to recognize the abuse and make it harder for them to leave the relationship.

Dependency is also a key component of trauma bonding. The abuser creates a sense of emotional dependence on themselves, by making the person feel like they cannot survive without them. This can be achieved through control, manipulation and fear tactics. The abuser may limit the person’s access to family and friends, control their finances, or make them feel guilty and ashamed. As a result, the person may feel like they have no other options and feel trapped in the relationship.

Criticism

Criticism can also be used as a form of emotional abuse, as it can cause the person to feel like they are not good enough and to blame themselves for the abuse. This can make it difficult for the person to leave the relationship, as they may feel guilty, ashamed and responsible for the abuse.

 

The abuser may use criticism to undermine the person’s self-esteem and self-worth, and to make them feel guilty and ashamed. This can make the person more reliant on the abuser for validation and acceptance, and less likely to leave the relationship.

The abuser may use different types of criticism such as verbal abuse, criticism of appearance, criticism of the person’s abilities, or criticism of their behavior.

Gaslighting and Manipulation

Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation in which the abuser makes the person question their own reality, memory and perceptions. The abuser may deny that certain events occurred, make the person doubt their own memories, or accuse them of being crazy or overreacting. 

 

 Manipulation is another tactic that is often used in trauma bonding. The abuser may use manipulation to control and exploit the person, by playing on their emotions, insecurities, and vulnerabilities. The abuser may use guilt, shame, fear, and other tactics to manipulate the person into staying in the relationship. They may also use promises, threats, and other tactics to control the person’s behavior and limit their freedom.

Gaslighting and manipulation can make it difficult for the person to recognize the abuse, and can make it harder for them to leave the relationship. As the person may start to doubt themselves and their own perceptions, they may become more reliant on the abuser for validation, support and protection.

The Fawn Response

The “fawn” response is a coping mechanism that some people use when they are in a traumatic or abusive relationship. It is one of the three “fight, flight, or fawn” response patterns to trauma, along with fight and flight. The “fawn” response is characterized by a person’s tendency to comply with the abuser’s demands, to avoid confrontation, and to suppress their own needs and feelings in order to appease the abuser. 

However, the “fawn” response can also make it difficult for the person to recognize the abuse, and can make it harder for them to leave the relationship. This can create a cycle of abuse and reconciliation, which can make it difficult for the person to leave the relationship.

It’s important to note that the “fawn” response is a coping mechanism and not a choice. People who are in a traumatic or abusive relationship may develop this response as a way to survive.

Loss of Self

When in a trauma bonded relationship, the person may lose sight of their own goals and aspirations, and may become completely focused on the abuser and the relationship. They may also start to believe that they are responsible for the abuse, and that they deserve it. This can make it difficult for the person to recognize the abuse, and can make it harder for them to leave the relationship.

The loss of self in trauma bonding can also result in the person feeling like they are not in control of their own life, and that their only purpose is to serve the abuser. This can make the person feel trapped, and can make it difficult for them to envision a life outside of the relationship.

It’s important to note that the loss of self in trauma bonding is a gradual process and not a choice. People who are in a traumatic or abusive relationship may develop this response as a way to survive, but it’s not healthy in the long run and it’s important to seek help and support to regain a sense of self and to leave the relationship if possible.

stressed man with friends in living room

Addiction to the Trauma Bonding Cycle:

The person may also become addicted to the emotional highs and lows of the relationship. During the reconciliation phase, the abuser may shower the person with affection, attention and promises of change, which can create a sense of euphoria for the person. This can make it difficult for the person to leave the relationship, as they may be addicted to these emotional highs.

Additionally, the person may have developed a learned helplessness, where they believe that they are unable to change the situation and that they are powerless to leave the relationship. They may also believe that they are not capable of finding a better relationship and that they deserve the abuse. This can make it difficult for the person to leave the relationship, as they may feel that they have no other options.

How to Escape a Trauma Bonded Relationship

Escaping a trauma bonded relationship can be difficult, but it is possible with the right support and resources. Here are some steps that may be helpful in leaving a trauma bonded relationship:

  1. Reach out for help: Finding a supportive friend or family member, or a therapist or counselor can provide the necessary support and guidance to help you navigate leaving the relationship.
  2. Create a safety plan: Consider potential risks or dangers and create a plan to ensure your safety when leaving the relationship. This may include finding a safe place to stay, changing your phone number, and contacting local law enforcement for assistance.
  3. Build a support network: Seek out supportive friends, family members, or community organizations that can provide emotional support and practical assistance during and after the process of leaving the relationship.
  4. Learn healthy coping mechanisms: It’s important to learn healthy coping mechanisms to help you manage the emotional and psychological effects of trauma. This may include therapy, meditation, exercise, and mindfulness practices.
  5. Take care of yourself: Leaving a trauma bonded relationship can be emotionally and physically draining, so it’s important to take care of yourself during the process. This may include eating well, getting enough sleep, and engaging in activities that bring you joy and relaxation.
  6. Be prepared for setbacks: It’s important to be prepared for setbacks and to not blame yourself if things don’t go as planned. Remember that healing and recovery take time and that it’s a process.

How We Can Help

Now that you know the signs of a trauma bond, it is important to receive the help you need if you are in one. It may seem impossible, but Eden By Enhance will guide you through the steps of recovery from trauma bonding. It is extremely vital to understand that you are not alone, and there is a way out. Call us today to start the first step.

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